Earl (left), Elliot (right) & baby Autumn
Earl and Elliot are the loving parents of their toddler, Autumn, and quick as any parents to express the joy of starting a family. They’re also willing to share insights into the challenges trans people may encounter, given their experience as trans parents navigating health care systems and social norms.
As a youth, Elliot looked forward to pregnancy and parenting later in life, yet worried how this would delay his gender transition. Upon learning about trans men who had temporarily halted taking testosterone in order to become pregnant, Elliot gained the confidence to begin transitioning.
Earl notes a common challenge trans folks face becoming parents is assumptions by health care professionals that trans individuals are not planning reproductive futures. Elliot can attest to this, for as a young adult he found himself swept up in the transition steps that other trans men were pursuing. He recalls his doctor booking him a hysterectomy consultation, where a nurse pointed out to Elliot that he didn’t look excited to be there. The interaction reaffirmed his desire to keep pregnancy an option, and to not pursue the surgery.
These days, he actively encourages dialogue about trans parenting. “I loved that I was pregnant while facilitating the trans youth drop in, as the youth watched me go through pregnancy and now continue to ask about Autumn. Five years ago when we were doing a family group, parents were talking about going through mourning for their trans children who may never get the chance to be parents themselves. So, I love knowing that there are now stories that show that there’s lots of different ways to make families.”
Accessing health care throughout pregnancy presented some challenges that the couple learned to navigate. In order to ensure a smoother visit, Earl would call ahead to inform both the receptionist and the health care practitioner that they were a trans family and that his pregnant partner, Elliot, uses male pronouns.
“Once you’re a parent, visibility is a huge challenge”, says Earl. “No matter where we are, we don’t quite fit with everything. We’re always a little bit different.” Elliot adds, “People don’t realize I’m the parent who birthed and fed Autumn. So relating to other parents can be difficult as there’s often the disclosure moment. So sometimes you feel isolated staying at home, but when you go out to meet with other new parents you still feel isolated due to the difference in experiences.”
One way Earl and Elliot have addressed this is through becoming active members of a community organized Queer and Trans Pregnancy and Parenting group which brings parents together to support one another. “It’s exciting to connect with other trans parents and get seen for the family we are,“ states Earl. “If we can build enough community support for one another and continue to model it, it can model hope and community support for other families who may need it, including those who are not trans.”
Some final advice they have for others is, “Having a baby you need support. You can’t do it on your own. Stay connected to people and seek help.”