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Trans Masculine Fertility

Lesson 3 of 4

Resiliency Strategies for Trans Men

Video Lesson

Written Lesson

Areas of Support

This video will help you think through specific resiliency strategies that can help you get through the fertility process and navigate the medical system, as a trans man.

There are three primary facets of psychological wellness that must be juggled in this process: support around gender identity, support around the fertility process, and bolstering a sense of personal safety.

Approach to Pregnancy

Some individuals choose to keep their pregnancies under the radar, not telling anyone they’re pregnant, and living life as cisgender men. This may be called "going stealth."

This approach can help someone feel supported around your gender identity as a man or non-binary person, and it can also create increased safety.

But it can be hard to not have support around a pregnancy. Going stealth and choosing to not tell people you're pregnant may mean that you have nobody to vent to or ask advice from, that you might not get to sit at the front of the bus if you feel nauseous and you might not be able to take advantage of things like prenatal yoga or childbirth workshops.

Another alternative is to move thorugh the world pretending to be a cisgender pregnant woman, making the choice to not tell people that you identify as trans or non-binary. This is more possible for non-binary people or trans men who didn’t take hormones prior to pregnancy. This strategy is helpful in terms of a feeling of safety, and allowing access to pregnancy support systems. But it won’t allow you to be seen as who you really are, which can be deeply triggering. Not having support around your identity — being read or perceived as a woman without having the opportunity to correct the assumption — is a difficult experience for a man.

Finally, there is the option (which Trystan speaks to from personal experience in this video), to make the choice to be open and out as a trangender pregnant person. This addresses the needs around gender identity and pregnancy support, but can decrease the sense of personal safety, as it can make someone a target of transphobic attacks.

Much of this decision might hinge on the community you’re a part of. As Trystan explains, he lives in Portland which is a progressive area, where he assumed he wouldn’t face very much day-to-day bigotry. He also had the benefit of supportive people in his life. This allowed him to take advantage of support around his pregnancy, from prenatal yoga, to childbirth classes. While living in a progressive area might have shielded him from daily face-to-face negativity, the decision to share his pregnancy publicly was a different story — online was a much harsher world, and one that required significant resilience to navigate.

Often, questions come up like “am I really a man or a non-binary person if I’m pregnant?” Many struggle with this, and finding support systems either in person or online to connect with other men who are pregnant or who have been pregnant can be incredibly helpful in disentangling gender from pregnancy, and in reinforcing the concept that men are still men (and non-binary people are still non-binary), even when they’re pregnant.

Explaining Your Child’s Story

People often wonder what they’ll tell their children about how they came to be. Luckily, there are now several great books you can read to their kids, at every stage of development, that can help them understand their origin story.

For example, one book called “What Makes A Baby” explains, in gender neutral terms, that there are three things required to make a baby — sperm, eggs, and a uterus — and that some bodies have some of those, and some don’t. It’s a simple way to explain to your child the different people who helped to bring them into the world.

In speaking with psychologists, they make clear that the best approach is to be honest and up front with your child from the time they are born. Historically, there was a desire to shelter children from their origin stories, but we now believe that does much more harm than good. Particularly in today’s world of consumer genetic testing, if a child is the result of third party reproduction like donor sperm or donor egg, it’s very likely that they will eventually find out.

Parents of Trans People

In this video, Trystan gives advice for parents of trans people. A few key pieces of advice that he gives are:

  • Be patient with yourself. You had a vision about who your child was going to be, and that vision was likely tied up with gender in one way or another. So don’t put pressure on yourself to feel a certain way. But find your own space to work that out; and don’t expect your child to hold your hand through your stages of grief and letting go.

  • It’s ok to be a centering force for your child while still being supportive. Your child might want to do things really quickly, and one example is transitioning quickly without thinking about fertility preservation. It’s ok for you to say “I hear you, we’re going to get there, but everything can’t happen immediately and all at once.”

  • Bear witness to your child’s struggle. Let them know that you see and hear them.

Strategies for Self-Advocacy & Allyship

In this section of the video, you’ll see role-plays of different situations between a trans person and a stand-in for a medical provider.

You’ll see several self-advocacy strategies come up in these role plays. Here are a few:

  • Start any feedback with an appreciation. This is a way to make sure the conversation doesn’t start off in a defensive place.

  • Tell them something very specific that went wrong. So instead of “your staff always…” just use one specific instance you can point to that they can correct — explain why that one incident was upsetting or inappropriate or could be read as transphobic.

  • Think about standing your ground politely. Getting activated emotionally can make a provider defensive and make it less likely that they’ll hear your out

  • Think about who your ally is in any given situation, and put that ally to work.

  • Inventing a hypothetical future trans person: sometimes it can be hard to say that something was hurtful or offensive to you. If that feels uncomfortable, you can always take some pressure off, and give your provider feedback by saying “X situation happened, and I’m ok, but I want you to know because if that happens to a trans person in the future, that could be really upsetting to them”

And remember—you don’t have to do everything on your own. It’s completely fine to invite a friend to come with you to appointments, and let them know ahead of time what you’ll expect in terms of support.

We hope the examples in the videos can be helpful to you as you envision how you can be an empowered advocate for yourself.

Fertility can be a challenging journey for everyone, and it’s normal to need assistance. Even though this process can be long, and emotional, as many trans people attest to in these videos, it really is worth it in the end!