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LGBTQ Plus

So He Wanted To Get Pregnant — The Story Of A Trans Dad Ready To Give Birth

The idea of a man carrying a child only receives attention when it is sensationalist or entertaining. But for trans men like me who want to get pregnant, we face discrimination and danger at all levels — from society, the healthcare system, and even from our own communities.

Photo of ​transgender father Bennett Kaspar-Williams while pregnant

Transgender father Bennett Kaspar-Williams while pregnant

benettonpurpose via Instagram
Iván Danilo Donato Castillo

-Essay-

This is my story.

I found myself lying on my bed on my back, naked, looking at the origami paper boats that hung from my ceiling. To my right, a clock, which showed me that my mother would be home in about two hours. Above me, a groaning cis man — cis meaning someone whose gender identity matches that assigned at birth — collapsed in exhaustion.

"I couldn't hold it," he told me after ejaculating inside of me. Honestly, I never practiced safe sex with him — I didn't really even know what that meant at that age. With him lying on my body, I asked myself for the first time with full awareness, do I want to bear a child?

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The "fear of getting pregnant," that ghost of sexuality that haunts us people assigned female at birth once we start our sexual life, had entered my life.

Families don't always look the same

Many times, I ignored the limits of self-care and mutual care in search of sexual pleasure, so that fear repeated itself a couple more times. After first asking myself if I wanted to conceive, I found myself immersed in a series of internet forums on childbearing capacity, responsible pregnancy, pampering during pregnancy, and even “tricks to get pregnant.”

On the other hand, I started searching for things, like how much does it cost to raise a baby? What are the laws on pregnancy and childbirth? What types of births are there? Then I understood: I wasn't asking myself if I wanted to carry a child, that was already very clear. I was asking myself how to do it.

The very idea of the "pregnant man" breaks the scheme of hegemonic masculinity.

Having discovered the multiplicity that sexual desire can have from the diversity of bisexuality ended up generating new questions about my desire to carry a child. I constantly asked myself, what if I like cisgender women, how am I going to get pregnant? How does the law view this type of a family? I condemned myself to the impossibility of building a future family a cis woman. And although the idea terrified me, I thought that I could only understand my sexual orientation as bisexual until the moment I decided to have a child. After that, I thought I would have to join cisgender heterosexuality to be able to form a family without the barriers of discrimination.

I would have liked to think that educating myself about my own sexuality — plus Colombia's C-683 law passed in 2015, which opened the doors to same-sex adoption — was sufficient guarantee to calm my concerns. It was during this same time that I began to understand my own gender identity as a trans man and so things drastically changed.

Sensationalist coverage

At least in Colombia, paternity is a controversial issue and ruled by patriarchal cisgenderism. In a country with a rate of single mothers that runs as high as 84%, talking about a wanted fatherhood seems more like a joke. Considering trans fatherhood meant for me rethinking the very meaning of fatherhood in my environment. Assuming stereotypical gender and caregiving roles is something I was raised with because I was assigned as female at birth.

My mind was blown, and it still happens every time, when I confronted my personal desires with my imposed upbringing. However, I have resolved that how I build my masculinity is not represented by cisgenderism, or by what was imposed on me, nor by what is expected of me as a man. The very idea of the "pregnant man" breaks the scheme of hegemonic masculinity and which bodies and identities are suitable and worthy of carrying children.

The next break was with my own body. After three years of taking testosterone, I was faced with the necessity of preparing my body for pregnancy by going back to those old internet forums, noticing something different: none of the forums really talked about pregnancy capacity, responsible pregnancy, or body care for the pregnancy. Each and every one of them talked about getting pregnant as a woman, the body of a pregnant woman and responsible motherhood.

The discourse was always the same, but now it made much more noise in my head. The whole world internalized pregnancy as a unique and exclusive possibility for cis women and from there, every time the words "pregnant man" appeared, they were sensationalist. The treatment of our identities is completely dehumanizing. They see us as the attraction at a freak show.

Am I a freak? Do I have to hide my pregnancy? Can a trans activist hide a pregnancy? And if I don't hide, will they reduce me to passing entertainment and discard me and my baby once we are no longer entertaining?

Photo of a pregnant woman placing her hands in a heart shape on her belly

"Each and every one of them talked about getting pregnant as a woman"

Mateus Campos Felipe

Alive and ready 

All these questions have filled up my body and mind during preparation for giving birth, while in parallel I learn about "maternity" and how we usually have to do it. I analyze and reinterpret how that goes through my trans-masculine body. The fear of discrimination and rejections from a health system that is not prepared to receive deliveries from pregnant men make clear that the system is even less prepared to accompany a trans-masculine wanted pregnancy.

Reflecting on the minimal possibility of having medical attention that responds to my needs and concerns about a society with a deeply internalized transphobia led me to to do a few things. I filled my agenda with transfeminist midwives, observed in detail who in my chosen trans-family has the ability to accompany my pregnancy, and listened to the stories of my brothers who have experienced the violence of the "cis-tem" in their pregnancies and childbirths in order to seek less violence in mine.

Although it pains me to admit it, I have also been forced to build a reliable support network for my baby in case I am killed because that happens to trans people — many of us get killed.

I want to be a trans dad

I have left my hormones and with that I have had to re-learn how to listen to my body. I am faced with the constant fear of whether what I feel in my womb is its slow death or a reminder of how alive it is. Small bleedings begin to appear after a couple of months. My breasts, atrophied by surgical malpractice, swell and sometimes itch. Sensations that I no longer remember go through me again.

My volatile emotions have led me to tears of happiness after an orgasm or infinite sadness at the sight of the truck of the dog pound. All of this is a sign of what has always been a part of me. My body reminds me I'm alive! I'm ready! And I want to be a trans dad.

Note to readers: In this piece, I do not intend to represent or appropriate the experiences of pregnancy and paternity of other transmasculinities.

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Society

Now They're Diagnosing Burnout's Never-Quit Cousin: Burn-On

Feeling overworked but not yet burned out? Often the problem is “burn-on,” an under-researched phenomenon whose sufferers desperately struggle to keep up and meet their own expectations — with dangerous consequences for their health.

Now They're Diagnosing Burnout's Never-Quit Cousin: Burn-On

Burn-out is the result of sustained periods of stress at work

Beate Strobel

At first glance, Mr L seems to be a successful man with a well-rounded life: middle management, happily married, father of two. If you ask him how he is, he responds with a smile and a “Fine thanks”. But everything is not fine. When he was admitted to the psychosomatic clinic Kloster Diessen, Mr L described his emotional life as hollow and empty.

Although outwardly he is still putting on a good face, he has been privately struggling for some time. Everything that used to bring him joy and fun has become simply another chore. He can hardly remember what it feels like to enjoy his life.

For psychotherapist Professor Bert te Wildt, who heads the psychosomatic clinic in Ammersee in Bavaria, Germany, the symptoms of Patient L. make him a prime example of a new and so far under-researched syndrome, that he calls “burn-on”. Working with psychologist Timo Schiele, he has published his findings about the phenomenon in a book, Burn-On.

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