Saturday, April 14, 2007

when tough little boys grow up to be dads

I'm thinking about babies again. Maybe it's the springtime, and the quickening of everything's blood, or maybe it's the fact that I'm always thinking about babies. I watched a pretty good documentary called "Transparent" a month or so ago, and it didn't really touch on the issue of guys wanting to have children post-transition. And I was surprised by the lack of discussion around fertility issues at the Trans Health Conference a few weeks ago- for me, it's always been a central factor in my decision to transition. Last year in the spring, I was contemplating starting testosterone, and weighing my desire for masculine puberty with my desire to have a baby. It's clear which priority won out, and I'm delighted and thankful for the hormonal changes (Even the tumultuous ones) of the past year, but now that the dust has settled a bit, I'm revisiting this issue and thinking hard and not necessarily getting much further.

And basically, it boils down to the fact that I'm real sad that I'm not going to be able to bear children. There's a line in that transman health guide that's online (quite a good read, actually, available here) about how traditionally, transmen have been declared sterile, and have accepted that as the necessary price to pay for transition, but in reality, that line of thinking is limiting and outmoded. That really hit home for me, because that mentality of "you win some, you lose some" was a big part of how I eased my anxiety about the prospect of starting testosterone and thus extinguishing my personal reproductive capabilities.

I know that plenty of folks are infertile for plenty of reasons, and there is in fact no proof that I would've been able to bear children had I not started this hormone regimen of mine, beyond the fact that the women in my family are generally if anything extra fertile (hence the various pairs of fraternal twins). So it's not 100% definitive fact that I'm sterilizing myself with this transition of mine.

That doesn't mean I don't feel a lot of sadness about losing the opportunity to be a biological parent, and some guilt and worry about having made the decision that lost me that opportunity.

There's a post over on the ftm livejournal community about dealing with infertility, and a lot of what's being said, in the original post and the comments, resonates deeply with me- particularly the poster's line "often i feel a real ache when i think about not being able to continue the genetic line of my family."

I want to carry on my family line, and it makes me real sad to think that I'm probably not going to be able to in this fashion. My children will be part of my family, have my name, and I'll give them my stories and sensibilities and habits just as my family has given me theirs. I know that I'm going to have a family one way or another- adoption, miraculous scientific advancements, the generous assistance of my sister. I'm going to love my children, and I don't harbor any notions that they're going to be any less mine because they didn't spring from my loins. But it's going to be complicated, and I can't imagine that I'm not going to feel keep feeling these pangs about not being able to continue my family along this particular, traditional avenue.

I love seahorses- they're beautiful little creatures; I find 'em mesmerizing in their goofy ungainly figures, but I love them, too, because the boys carry the babies. It's what makes me think sometimes about being pregnant- it's odd to put myself and pregnancy in the same sentence together, because I'm a boy, and boys don't get pregnant, but darn it, what if I did? It sounds radical and weird and very appealing on some level- could I be a pregnant dad? Until I take a step back and think about what it'd mean to get to that point.

When I started T last year, I was certainly eager to be rid of the uncomfortable aspects of menstruation- some of which anyone who menstruates might easily identify with. There are plenty of unpleasant components all of which were exacerbated by the dysphoria I felt around dealing with it in the first place. I know plenty of women feel empowered by their menstruation, but I generally pretty much ignored mine as much as possible, except when its actual presence demanded attention, usually with painful cramps, inconvenient stains, and a distinct damper on my sex life.

I was getting plenty sick of smuggling tampons into men's rooms, which all feature a distinct dearth of stalls as well as a prominent absence of trash receptacles inside those few and far between stalls, making for a singularly and highly unnecessarily troublesome disposal process. Dealing with my period in the men's restroom had a distinct tinge of discomfort and humiliation, and I'm not at all sorry that I don't have to do it anymore. Likewise with the lack of cramps. Don't miss that semi-monthly debilitation at all!

Which is why it's so hard for me to get at the root of my sadness around my infertility. I didn't particularly appreciate menstruation (though I didn't utterly despise it, either) and I'm glad I don't do it anymore, and I think my feelings would be similar around being pregnant. I think it would be weird, and jarring, and dysphoric.I think it'd also be amazing and powerful, and I think about it. I think about whether I could stop T now and regain reproductive functionality and start buying tampons again and stop getting hairier and stop building muscle mass without trying. Could I do that, and for how long? I don't want to have kids next year.


It's helped me to talk to people who are adopted, and spend time conceptualizing ideas around family that aren't so strongly rooted in the "blood is thicker than water" mentality. And it's helped to remember, too, that I'm going to have a queer family no matter what. The logistics of having children is probably going to be among the first of many complexities, and I do myself a disservice to think "oh, if only I weren't so selfish and unwilling to give up my hairiness and testosterone, I could be popping out the babies with no problem!" Being pregnant is a pretty intense endeavor, and it would probably flip me out. I'd like to raise my children with a partner, and hir thoughts about having kids will need to factor in. And then there's the matter of being a trans person and a parent- Hey kids! Dad used to be a girl! (Sort of. By some folks' reckoning.) I have to think and hope that if I can handle raising them with any sort of grace or aplomb, they'll manage to handle having a trans dad with the same sensibilities.


puck said...

my professor is trying to have a baby, and she mentioned in class the other day how her midwife works with a lot of transmen. which isn't to say that, you know, you haven't passed that point, but... i think it's always really important to try as hard as you can/want to/feel is necessary.

my aunt really wanted to get pregnant, and she tried to get inseminated a few times, and then she fell in love and... he'd had a vasectomy. but he also had a grandson, so she got her baby, in a way.

oh goodness, the drive for children.

Eli said...

And what a drive it is! I'm at a bit of a loss even to explain why I feel this so strongly, but I'd definitely say that being a dad is one of (if not absolutely) the largest ambitions I have. I have faith that I'll find a good way to create my family, but it's still a little daunting in the mean time.

non biological parent said...

Adopt. Once you have the baby it's all the same. Trust me, I've done it.