In 2014, the Williams Institute at UCLA presented a review of existing research on transgender parenting. How common is it for trans people to have kids? At what age do trans people have kids? Do trans women have kids more often than trans men or vice versa? Here’s what the research shows.
Contrary to popular belief, many trans people in the US have children at the moment. Although trans people become parents less often than cisgender people, around one in three trans people are parents. There’s no consensus on whether trans people are more likely to have kids than cisgender LGB folks, but one study of older trans people found that trans women are as likely to be parents as bisexual men and women and even more likely than cisgender gay men.
More than half of trans women have children, but only one in five transmasculine and non-binary people are parents. At the same time, it’s more common for trans men to have children living with them than it is for trans women. Finally, people who transitioned later in life have higher parenting rates than the ones who transitioned early on. That shows that many trans parents had children before they came out and transitioned, so for someone who is out as trans, becoming a parent is much more difficult.
Transphobic people who believe trans people shouldn’t have kids often use the argument that having a trans parent can negatively affect a child's development. It might be true, but definitely not because trans people cannot be good parents. The most common reason why children of trans parents can be stressed is separation from that parent, which can sometimes happen after divorce or when the other parent doesn’t accept their partner’s gender identity.
Other than that, it is very uncommon for children of trans folks to be bullied because of their parent’s gender identity. Kids tend to get very protective of their parents when they see them getting rejected or disrespected, such as when someone misgenders them or uses their dead names. But that usually serves as an opportunity to learn how to deal with those situations and don’t take them close to heart. Those experiences and the example of their parents make kids more open-minded and teaches them to embrace diversity, which is extremely important in today's day and age.
Coming outs can be difficult, and it’s natural that kids may be shocked and confused when they suddenly learn their mom is actually a trans man or their dad is actually a trans woman. At first, some kids say they feel a sense of loss of the life before their parents' transitioning. Big changes are always stressful for kids, so it’s important to answer all of their questions and give them time to process what’s happening.
Kids learn how to act and react from people around them, so naturally, the children of trans people who live in accepting and supportive families will have an easier time accepting their parents’ gender identity than the kids who see that some family members aren’t happy about it. The support of the other parent is crucial — if the parents still love each other and their family doesn’t change at its core, the kids feel that they are safe, and everything will be okay.
There’s absolutely no evidence that would suggest that having trans parents has any effect on the children’s sexuality or gender identity. Nor does it matter what gender their parents identify with. The things that define children’s happiness are the relationship they have with their parents, the relationship between the parents, and adequate resources in the family. Therefore, if a transgender person has a loving accepting partner, cares for their child, and has access to affordable healthcare and social care, there’s no reason why the child would be unhappy.
Some may argue that a parent’s transitioning may be very stressful for a child, so it’s better if the parent keeps living in the closet and conceals their true gender identity. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
When a person lives according to the sex assigned to them at birth rather than the gender identity they identify with, they feel immense psychological pressure and discomfort. That state of distress is a recognized medical condition that is called gender dysphoria.
Just like any other medical condition, dysphoria requires treatment, and if it isn’t treated, it can lead to severe psychological damage, worsening of the quality of life, or even suicide. Treatment of gender dysphoria varies from person to person, so it may involve psychotherapy, hormone therapy, or sex reassignment surgery, but one thing that’s essential for every dysphoric person is living in accordance with their true gender identity.
In other words, if a person identifies as trans, it is very detrimental for their health to hide it and play the role of someone they’re not. Being trans is not a choice and not something you can give up. Dysphoria needs to be treated properly so that trans people can live their true lives and be better parents and partners.
There are many reasons why trans people shouldn’t be afraid of transitioning and coming out to their children. The most obvious one is that it is much easier for a happy person who lives in harmony with themselves to be a good parent than it is for a person who feels like nobody knows who they truly are.
A trans person who is out, transitioned, and accepted can dedicate more energy and express more love to their child. Most trans people don’t aim to stand out and attract attention to them — they just want to fully live their lives and be able to focus on things like their education, careers, or their children, just like cisgender people do.
Another reason why a parent should come out to their child is that children may get upset if they find out that their parent is keeping such a big secret from them. Even if the parent means well and wants to protect their child by not telling the truth, the dishonesty may hurt the child even more. When a parent comes out to their child, the child feels that there are no secrets between them, that there is trust, and they are treated like an adult who deserves to know the truth.
According to research, younger children have an easier time adapting to their parents' gender identity, which is another reason why trans parents shouldn’t postpone their transitioning process. A child that doesn’t go to school yet won’t have to explain to anyone why their mommy is their daddy now, and will only care if they will still be loved, fed, and cared about, which they definitely will.
Options like adoption or surrogacy can be very complicated for trans people. While trans women can’t become the gestational parents for their children, some transmasculine and non-binary people can. The decision to carry your child as a trans man is not one that is taken lightly. For some people, it is not an option since being pregnant and giving birth is something that would give them intense gender dysphoria.
Then, of course, there are other issues such as the healthcare system that’s totally unadapted to trans men and non-binary people since pregnancy is a topic that is very closely connected to motherhood now. The language around childbirth is very gendered too — names like “maternity ward”, “women’s center”, or “mommy and me classes” don’t take into consideration that not all pregnant people identify as women.
Despite all that, some trans men carry their own children, and maybe even more of them would be comfortable doing it if our ideas of pregnancy and parenthood weren’t as gender-loaded. Not all women can relate to the romanticized, hyper-feminized image of pregnancy, let alone trans men or non-binary people. And as our society develops and more people start learning the difference between biological sex and gender identity, we need to make the pregnancny experience more gender-neutral and inclusive to all parents.
Trans men who have ovaries and a uterus can get pregnant after they stop taking testosterone. It is possible to get pregnant while taking testosterone, but it’s very unlikely. After trans men stop taking testosterone, it can take several months until they start ovulating and possibly get pregnant.
For pregnant trans men, it can be very difficult to find healthcare providers that would understand the complexity of their pregnancy journeys. While there are some trans-inclusive pregnancy centers, few people have access to them, so as a result, many trans men end up being the ones to educate their nurses and doctors on their experience and health issues.
In recent years, the feminist movement has led to a big shift in how we perceive men and women and their roles in society. However, not a lot of progress has been made in terms of parenthood —we expect the women to be child-bearers and primary caretakers, while dads are supposed to be the breadwinners and the “helpers”.
While many LGBTQ+ folks can easily reject gender roles and such labels in their relationships, it is more difficult when they become parents. In reality, the nature of pregnancy is not very gendered, it’s the culture around it that’s so unnecessarily feminine. By adopting a more gender-neutral approach, we can not only make trans men so much more comfortable with their bodies and pregnancies but also shed some of those outdated gender roles around parenthood that harm both LGBTQ+ and cisgender heterosexual parents.
There is a specific Non-binary Parents Day celebrated annually on April 18, but some non-binary people are also trans, and they deal with many of the issues trans parents deal with.
AMAB (Assigned Male at Birth) non-binary people can have kids through adoption or surrogacy, or their partner can carry the child if they can and want. AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) non-binary folks may become the gestational parents for their children if they ovulate. If they don’t, they can stop taking testosterone, start ovulating, and possibly get pregnant.
Of course, physiological issues, regardless of how important they are, aren’t the only things on non-binary parents' minds. Few people are lucky enough to have access to trans-inclusive medical centers or medical professionals who have experience with non-binary and trans pregnancies.
Some non-binary people might not feel comfortable about disclosing their gender identity to the medical staff for the sake of their safety or privacy. If that’s the path you choose, it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure you will be okay with spending lots of time in heavily gendered settings, so you might get misgendered or even feel dysphoric.
According to Family Equality Council, "this can mean correcting people when they use “ladies” language, which you may or may not have the capacity to do. Decide for yourself what your capacity is, and ask for help from allies. Or opt out of situations where you’re unlikely to have the ability to educate and correct others".
Even if you feel alone and misunderstood, there are other people who are going or have gone through the same things. If they don’t live in your area, you can connect with other trans and non-binary pregnant people through social media. Having someone in your life who know how you feel creates a huge difference and makes all the problems seem easier. That’s also true for the other, non-gestational parent who can discover ways to help you by finding people who are in the same boat.
Although it is a highly individual experience, breastfeeding and chestfeeding can be possible for many non-binary parents, even AMAB folks. It largely depends on whether or not the person has had top surgery, but even if they did, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be able to breast or chestfeed their children.
Formula is also a very valid option, and you shouldn’t feel any shame if you decide to go that route. It has been developed and improved for decades, and it is perfectly safe and healthy for newborn babies. If you feel comfortable with it, you can also consider milk donations and joining some peer-to-peer milk sharing networks.
Just like many other aspects of pregnancy and parenthood, breastfeeding is also a very feminized experience. Luckily, more inclusive language has already started appearing such as chestfeeding or bodyfeeding, which are the terms that can help normalize the experience for trans and non-binary parents.
One quite obvious issue non-binary parents have to deal with is a lack of common inclusive labels other than “mom” and “dad” that their children could use. Some people may say it’s just a word and not a big deal, but most of them would probably agree that there is something very intimate and sacred in someone calling you “mom” or “dad”, so why shouldn’t non-binary parents have a way to experience that?
While the world is already starting to accept a variety of pronouns other than “he” or “she”, there’s still no in-between in many areas of parenthood. New non-binary parents may feel comfortable in their identity for a while, but when they have to deal with those questions, they might have to feel like they have to pick a side.
Some of the most popular labels non-binary parents have adopted are “maddy” or “baba”, with the former being a combination of “mommy” and “daddy” and the latter an international word that is female in some languages and male in others.
Days like Trans Parent Day might not seem like a big deal to cisgender people, but such small celebrations can really help the trans community feel seen and accepted. That's why it's important that Trans Parent Day is recognized and celebrated all over the world.
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