Trans families: Where to go for support
Of the top five Google results for ‘best books on parenting,’ not one of the listicles offered mentioned the words ‘transgender’, ‘trans men’ or ‘trans women.’ Considering that some of the lists of 'best’ or 'most popular' books measured 20+ entries long, we want to offer an up-to-date and inclusive definition of parenthood and provide resources to members of the trans community looking to start a family.
What’s up with (lack of) trans education?
Sex education in the UK is only beginning to touch on trans issues at the surface level, with significant distress caused by lack of representation. Meanwhile, less than one-fifth of US States require inclusive discussions of orientation, let alone gender identity. With that in mind, lets quickly refresh ourselves on some useful terms.
For those not familiar, the term ‘Transmasculine’ refers to someone generally assigned female at birth but whose gender identity aligns with a masculine one to a greater extent than with a feminine one. ‘Transfeminine’ is the equivalent term for those generally assigned ‘male’ at birth.
People included by these terms might be:
- Trans men
- Multigender People
- Gender fluid People
- Other non-binary People
- Trans women
- Multigender People
- Gender fluid People
- Other non-binary People
Both transmasculine and transfeminine people might retain their assigned sex’s anatomy to varying extents, including trans men having female reproductive organs, and trans women having male organs. This means that biological parenthood is a functional possibility for most people in the trans community; however, there are practical legal, social, and financial obstacles preventing the majority from having kids this way. We will discuss below what these barriers are, how they impact peoples’ lives, and where you can find support to overcome them.
What’s the current setup?
Obergefell v. Hodges established in 2015 that transgender people have the right to marry regardless of whether their partners are legally considered to be same-sex or opposite-sex. In the UK, the gender recognition act of 2004 made it possible for trans people to legally be recognized as their acquired gender, meaning they have the legal right to marriage. That’s just six years trans people have actually had freedom of marriage – effing bonkers, people.
It’s good to have made progress with marriage rights, but what is the deal for trans people who want kids? Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapy are known to put a patient’s fertility at risk. Although in some cases, fertility is restored after a person stops hormone therapy, this is by no means guaranteed. The best course of action for younger and older trans people alike is to pursue fertility preservation with the freezing of gametes (eggs or sperm) before undertaking gender dysphoria treatment to allow other options like surrogacy IVF procedures later on.
However, in the UK, the trusts that
manage NHS funding for different areas – known as Clinical Commissioning Groups
(CCGs) – decide whether to support trans fertility treatments, and three-quarters of them
choose not to. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) recently sued NHS England.
Still, the outcome of the challenge was that CCGs are now advised not to
deny trans people fertility treatment without strong justification or
face legal challenges. This essentially means it is still up to
CCGs to decide, so most trans people in the UK are left with the choice between
transitioning or remaining fertile. This impossible choice shouldn’t have to be
made, and it’s not okay, so what can be done to fight against it?
What steps can you take?
Although you might not think these issues will directly affect you, we should all be coming out to support our trans brothers and sisters. After all, trans rights are human rights. Non-trans people can support the community by signing petitions, donating to non-profit trans rights groups, and attending events (although there aren’t many large gatherings at the minute), among other things. GLAAD.org has some good general information about ways in which you can be a better ally for your LGBT+ neighbors.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have advice for prospective transgender parents, and Money.co.uk offers more detailed guidance for fertility treatment beyond NHS funding. You can opt for treatment at an NHS fertility clinic, but this will come out of your own money; fortunately, this can often be cheaper than at private clinics. A fertility clinic should provide an individual with a fully costed treatment plan before you begin assisted conception; if not, you may face unexpected or added fees that drive the cost up a lot. Bourn Hall, Complete Fertility, and Manchester Fertility offers fixed pre-paid packages and information to trans people and other LGBT+ prospective parents.
In the US, there are numerous non-profit organizations dedicated to helping finance people’s fertility treatments. Some of the most LGBT+ friendly of these includes AGC Scholarships, Baby Quest Foundation, Footsteps for Fertility, the Family Formation Charitable Trust and Journey to Parenthood. However, it is worth bearing in mind that some require proof of infertility or future infertility, as is often the case for cancer patients, and that not all the application windows for these are on a year-round basis.
Adoption is one of the most popular and most easily accessible methods by which LGBT+ people can raise children and start families. Following the 2017 Supreme Court ruling, there are no longer any legal barriers to adopting for trans people in the UK and the USA.
In the USA, the leading adoption agencies include American Adoptions, Adoptions Together, Alliance for Children, and Life Long Adoptions. With 1 in 7 adoptions in the UK being LGBT parents between 2018 and 2019, it is undoubtedly a popular and inclusive option for many prospective parents. These organisations can offer emotional and community support for parents, offer to counsel, provide contacts with experience helping LBGT+ families, and streamline the process by providing information based on your region. They are helping to build a social space for LGBT+ people who might face judgment or blockers on the road to parenthood.
It’s not over yet…
In the UK, contacts and advice can be found with Stonewall, the Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES), LGBT Youth Scotland, Transgender NI, for support in Northern Ireland and Action for Trans Health.
In the US, similar support can be found with, The American Civil Liberties Union, the Transgender Law Center, National Center for Transgender Equality and for wider questions and immediate help, the Trevor Support Center.
Even in successful cases where a trans parent can adopt, give birth, follow a surrogacy through to completion, undertake IVF or any other method, they may still face unequal status regarding their parental rights.
Trans parents face the possibility of being misgendered on their child’s birth certificate or guardianship documents. There is little consistency across courts in the treatment of transgender parents for child custody and visitation cases. In fighting this legal inequality, we need to take huge steps forward for reform, but the best route is to contact an LGBT+ rights group for help with legal representation.
At Elvie, part of our mission statement is to support and improve every experience of parenthood, not just limited to conventional understandings of motherhood and fatherhood. We will continue to do our best and share the most up-to-date deets out there for people expecting and for those who are expecting to expect.