There may be nothing as surreal to a parent as their child telling them that they are not the gender that they were assigned at birth. Imagine what it must be like for a parent to hear their 5, 10, 15 or 20 year old son or daughter, tell them that they are not really a boy or a girl? That God made a mistake and put them in the wrong body?
And how do you go from that emotional space of hearing that your child’s gender is all wrong for them, to talking about your child’s future baby making possibilities? It feels out of this world to go from supporting your child’s gender transition with all of its complexities, to having the wherewithal to understand and take on safe guarding some possible desire for a future family for that same child.
Future-Proofing | Family Building Education for Your Child's Gender Transition
Like the Nike advertisement says you; “Just do it” because this conversation is as important as all of the rest of a child’s transition, and often it’s the parent who becomes the guide.
The truth is, that children are speaking out about gender and transitioning far earlier than any generation of transgender people that have come before them. Sometimes children as young as four or five years old are speaking out about feeling that they are not the gender that they were assigned. With transgender individuals being seen in the media, it has become safer for young people to question and speak up.
As a transgender man, activist, educator and coach to families with children transitioning and doing so at earlier ages, I’m committed to bringing up the issues of family planning even though it may seem like childbearing is the least of the issues on that child’s plate. The future comes more quickly than they realize and one day having a baby may be a tremendous desire for their child.
Yes, I understand that parents of transgender children are navigating a huge transition with many adjustments in their family structure as it is. Parents aren’t thinking about being grandparents someday and the child is definitely not thinking about ever wanting a child of their own..
Preserve The Option for Biologically-Related Family Building
But it’s important to know that decisions made now during a child’s transition may affect their ability to have a baby when they’re ready to create a family. Most people don’t know that starting hormones to assist in transition will eventually prevent the child from having viable sperm or eggs. There will be a point where they won’t have the option any longer. As a 50 year old transgender man who would have liked to have had the option of biological children, I understand how important it is to have this conversation early on.
This is both personal and professional. I often speak with families about my own experience and disappointment of not having the option of having a biological child. And how since I never felt like my body was meant to carry a child, I completely took it out of the equation. Of course with assisted reproductive technologies there are many options that could have helped me have a biological child if only I had known about them. How I wish I would have had someone to help me plan ahead; and that’s what parents can do with their transgender children today.
I can tell you from firsthand experience that if someone had sat with me and explained how I might feel differently one day about having a family, I would have stored my eggs in a heartbeat. From my experience, it’s so much better to have and preserve options than to have regret of not having done so. No one is making anyone commit to having children; it’s about giving young people the option that they can have that choice later in their life.
It’s also vital for everyone to understand hormone therapy and what will happen to their reproductive organs through this process.
Seeking The Right Transgender Family Planning Resources
Most parents of trans children do not have the luxury of working with a family coach who has lived life as a transgender person. They will mainly rely upon doctors, therapists and other medical professionals to provide them with what is often presented as “_all_” of the information that they will need about their child’s future.
Depending on the family’s resources and where they live, there may not be many medical professionals that have much or any experience with treating trans patients. It is difficult to find doctors who understand even the basics, such as the importance of pronouns to a trans person, much less someone who is thinking about the complex nature of their patient’s future family planning. Addressing the option of storing sperm or eggs before starting hormone therapy is just as important as any other information regarding the impact the hormones will have on the body.
In reality, future family planning should be a part of all transgender teen health care. And yet there are no current standards for this to be included in transgender health care at all. Being properly informed of one’s options for family planning is a right.
Considering that most families of a trans child are in crisis management mode, trying to navigate daily life the best that they can, it is understandable that they don’t consider this, right. Sadly it’s usually only later, when a desire for a family emerges that they realize this option was never given and that their reproductive potential cannot be re-claimed.
The journey to being our authentic selves, especially as trans people, has its rewards as well as its challenges. Young people who are transgender have to go through immense struggle to be who they are in this world of clearly divided gender lines. They are facing a life of obstacles around their gender identity, in work, in relationships and in the world as a whole. As they grow up and figure out how to manage it all, they have the right to make choices that we all make such as: Who they want to love, the type of relationships they have and whether or not they want to have a family of their own. We all want our children to have these options someday. This opportunity should be available to all people of childbearing age no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
That is why it is so important that we have organizations such as Gay Parents To Be, caring about providing the best possible care to the LGBTQ community. This will help to create a brighter future for this new generation of brave out young people and their families. They provide the place to create the unknown dreams of these future families. Committing to education around this is what is important for all of us. An opportunity is not an opportunity if we don’t know we have it and if we don’t fully understand what the opportunity is.
If you have a child or teen that is questioning whether they are trans, help them figure it out. There are places to find reputable resources to support you while you support your child. This is your family. I know this is confusing. Make it simpler by finding appropriate and accurate information. View here: Transgender Family Building Resources.
If you have questions or concerns, we're here to help.
Mac S. McGregor is an activist for civil rights for both the transgendered and gender non-conforming community. He is a dedicated, heartfelt educator who focuses every part of his existence on creating a world where people can feel free to be true to themselves.