Transgender and gender-variant people desire families, just as our not-so-variant peers do. But when I was first considering whether I might be a transgender man when I was in high school, my dreams of one day having a family practically flew out the window.
Somehow, I thought that if I was trans, that ended the possibility that I could one day have the family I wanted. But I couldn't have been more wrong.
A lot of trans people worry that we won't find a partner or won't be able to have children; some who dream of getting married or having a biological tie to our children think that these dreams are over once we start transitioning. But that's simply not the case. Today, I'm a husband planning my own future family. It was my personal desire to be partnered and my choice to become married (not everyone has to do these things), and I know now that I can become the father I've always dreamed of being.
But as a teenager, it was easy to believe that I couldn't have any of that. Why?
Part of the problem, as I see it, was that I didn't experience a lot of images of trans or gender-nonconforming girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, or parents around me -- not on television, in art, or often in the wider world.
And part of the problem was that society was sending me a message that being trans meant I was unlovable or unattractive or unfit to experience life fully. I also somehow internally received the message that being trans would mean I would be "harming" my future children. I've heard a lot of other trans people tell me they've had similar thoughts.
If you're thinking that as a trans person you won't find love or raise a family, I suggest considering where those thoughts come from (and I admit, this is easier said than done...it takes time, and often reading or talking it out with others). Are they the truth, or did you assume that based on negative portrayals of trans people you've seen around you?
If this is the case, no need to feel ashamed that you believed society's fears about trans folks -- it's just time to actively resist those thoughts.
Because the truth is, messages that we, as trans people, are unlovable or less capable as parents are based in transphobia -- the fear of transgender people. Society is often afraid of what's different than the "norm," and the people around us fall in-line and repeat those messages because they're afraid of being seen as different too.
But the reality is, as trans people, we are 'different,' in some ways, from the 'majority' -- but that's a good thing. Yes, we're the 'same' in the sense that we're men and women too, but we're men and women with unique life experiences. Those experiences means we get to "look behind the mask" of these distorted social messages -- and all the other narrow ones about what it means to be a "real man" and a "real woman" -- and see where they've led us wrong.
When I started doing this kind of thinking in college, I started to see the "bigger picture" of why I was only getting these negative, limited ideas about being a transgender person.
Part of it was that “transgender” identity is still contested in its definitions -- and for too long those definitions haven't been decided by trans people themselves. Among doctors and scientists, for instance, homosexuality was de-classified as a mental disorder a long time ago, transgender patients continue to receive a psychological diagnosis of “gender dysphoria”. While feeling dysphoric is real for a lot of trans people who feel their body and mind doesn't match, the medical practice of coding transgender people as socially and medically 'sick' or 'deviant' because of it has led to stigma and discrimination.
A lot of trans people, over the years, have felt too stigmatized to even come out to their doctors as trans; or if they did, they felt too stigmatized to admit they wanted help in building a family. So, for decades and decades -- long before my birth -- transgender people were generally absent from public and scientific conversations about parenting and families, except in references to mental illness.
Our invisibility and marginality (that is, the fact that our experiences are shuffled off to the side and therefore rarely discussed) have led to inaccurate assumptions about trans people and our desires around having children and the fact that trans people are just as suitable parents as non-trans folks.
So I say: don't listen. If you want to be a parent, that's your right. Some people might resist, but but they don't define who you are. Don't give up on becoming the woman or man you need to be, which includes becoming a mother or father if that's what you know you want. I haven't given up, though sometimes it's felt hard-- and it's helped me see the full potentials of my life. It all started with me questioning.
If it feels right to be a man, why should I accept anyone else telling me it's wrong? If it feels right to want to be a father, why should I accept someone telling me I can't?
Photo courtesy of Glyn Lowe Photoworks / Flickr.