So last week was all about love. This week, babies. I want to raise a family. I have done so for years. Me and an ex had baby names picked out - and we split 5 years ago. When I came out to my sister, one of her first questions, well statements, was "but, you want kids". Yep. And as she realised, transition makes that tricky.
Before I start - no. It is not just trans-folk that have things to think about to gain a family. This is my take on the difficulties I face as a trans-woman. It is also not meant to be whiney, as a proof read makes it sound. It is actually just me stating the situation as I see it. The decision to transition was the best thing I ever did and it just happens to have a few kinks to it. I am actually very upbeat and hopeful for the future! So don't go offering cheese to go with my whine - although I won't say no to some cheese...
So, first, the standard baby thoughts. Am I ready for kids, well... I'm not quite sure. How can you ever be really ready for such a life changer? But I know I am closer than I ever have been. I am now me, in a country and city I feel settled and that I think would be great to raise kids, and I am doing an adult job (finally, sorta). On the down side, I get tired a lot. I run around and wear myself out. At the moment I can have the luxury of having a lazy evening or lazy weekend. I am not sure I am physically ready. Mentally I am probably better than ever, but heck, I have a social life for the first time since pre-PhD, 10 years ago, so that would be a lot to give up.
So swings and roundabouts, as it is with kids. But the idea of doing it alone, as I said last week, scares the heck out of me. I'll need the support and help. With two, at least the tired can be shared a little. And let's face it; critters are expensive so sharing the financial burden would be almost essential. This is the blog I started writing last week, and it should make sense why I decided to cover love first. And I think I showed that that has it's own trans* issues - but I still ain't gonna jump in with the first person that shows interest and wants kids. Sod that. I want love, not just a family route.
Partner aside, it is complicated for a girl like me. At the moment it seems that a lot of the trans* YouTube vloggers that I follow keep bringing up their 'parental desires'. I have no idea if it a domino effect, with one vlogger watching another and becoming inspired to talk about it (just like me). Maybe it 'nesting' season now, as it gets cold. Maybe I am just sensitive to it. Who knows. But one thing is clear, being trans* complicates having kids - or at least certain routes.
I hear many trans-women talk in major anguish about not being able to carry children. In fact, they can be real nasty about girls who talk disparagingly about periods. But as with most things, that is just born of hurt. Me, I dunno. I cannot imagine carrying a child and the pain of giving birth. Plus all the other nasties that come with the 'gift' of being able to carry life. It is far from an easy thing. But if I could, yes, I would.
Science is a million miles away from letting me do that. I have heard that a womb transplant recently went ahead, for a woman who could not conceive (I forget the actual reason why). This is amazing, remarkable news but this is a long way from being experimental - and further from becoming an option offered to trans-women. I will be way past old when it does come in, if it even happens in my lifetime.
Well what about the male ingredients? Well, ya see, girls like me take a lot of hormones, including testosterone blockers. These do exactly what they say on the tin - which means that all the stuff coming with T also disappears. T is responsible for so many generally masculine features. Facial / body hair growth, muscle mass, receding hair line, sex drive and, of course, sperm production. And that last one puts a real crimp on certain baby making routes.
When you start taking hormones you are told that all changes are reversible with the exception of breast tissue growth. However, fertility always comes with a question mark. It is not known how long it takes to lose this but after 1.5 years, it seems a reasonable assumption - backed up with certain observations.
There is just not enough data it seems to tell me whether or not stopping hormones would lead to a return of fertility. If so, how long do you need to do it for? Medical guidelines do, literally, leave this as a question. I guess a big part of this is that trans-girls cannot get themselves off the hormones. I think it would wreck my head. Trying it on the off chance - it is such a hard thing to do. I did watch a vlog from a girl who experimented stopping hormones for a week, just to see how it affected her. The result was that she did not want to do it for longer or ever again. Add that to the knowledge that you have no idea if it will actually do anything for fertility then it may prove totally pointless.
I guess it would depend how desperate you are for each goal, which is more important. But some medical idea of the actual result would at least make it easier. Plus as time goes on you get closer to what is, for some girls, the ultimate stage of transition, gender reassignment surgery. Once that goes ahead there is no going back.
At his stage you are probably saying to yourself "hang on a second, why did you not take precautions against this and store yourself a sample". Simple reason, expense. Sure, if it means everything to you then you pay for it which is great unless there just is no money to pay for it. Maybe in England it is different - I do not know. But it is expensive in Switzerland and I just could not work it out and coming to England just did not occur to me. I found it really difficult to get any info on and maybe it was there but hell, I had a LOT on mind. I just could not cope with more things. Plus, it was not actually brought up so it didn't really seem like a real thing to sort out. So you choose the important things and deal with them one at a time. Now that I am settled, it is easy to come back to this but at the time I just couldn't. I would not do anything differently: I did what I could.
And let's not forget - this is all based on the assumption that it is a cis-girl I end up with, who is both willing and able to have a baby. It is not just trans-women that cannot mother children, and my heart hurts for cis-girls in that position. You could use a surrogate mother of course, but the baby batter has to come from somewhere. So at this point, is this really a viable route? Or, if you are in a straight relationship, then the male ingredients could easily come from the partner without the anguish of stopping hormones. These can be circumnavigated but the route becomes less and less 'natural'. So yes, it is a real mind-bender.
So why all the bother about making babies? There are other ways. True. I am just very sentimental. I like to think that I will pass on my mother's genes and keep them alive just as my sister has. This might sounds really dumb but it means a lot to me. It makes me sad to think that my DNA will die out. I am far from perfect but I hope I have my good qualities. My mum made me - me, and I would like to let a bit of that go on. Not in some type of God complex. Just, to have a legacy. To not be forgotten.
And maybe there is some part of me that knows that this is all because of actions I took. I say action, because there was never a choice - ever since I learnt about transition I never felt I had a choice. It was a decision - live or die - and that is not any sort of choice. No one decides on a trans* life whatever Germaine Greer and her hateful bigot supporters think. But at the same time, I would not swap 'me' for anything.
So, anyways, on to the good news. There is adoption. I was reading a little while ago that the UK adoption agency are really happy to have trans* adopters, even when they are single, as they are more likely to take slightly older children. Now, this is great on two levels - that I could adopt and that some poor kids get a home. I mean - how awesome is that: to give someone the chance of a better life. I do wonder how flexible the system would be if it was a single trans* person trying to adopt a new born - but let's not think about that and take the good from it.
I had grand plans, way back when choosing baby names, that at least one child would be adopted. Yes, I hoped for a 'naturally conceived by me' child, but I hope I would have followed through with the rest of the plan. Adoption really is an amazing thing to do. And it means that yes, I have options and possibilities. My future is not yet written.
If it gets me out of changing nappies, maybe this has all worked out for the best!