Since childhood, I’ve been proudly and stubbornly proclaiming that I will never have a child.
My mom had always attributed my statement to immaturity and assured me that I would change my mind when I grew up. You can imagine where this is going…
I’m now 22, engaged, and I feel pretty much the same way I did when I was 7. As I’ve grown and consumed more and more media, I realized that this immaturity theory stemmed from the assumption that all grown women want and have babies. Now I can acknowledge that as an antiquated concept, leading to some pretty inappropriate and invasive questioning…but I’m not a woman. So lately, I’ve been reflecting on the extra stress associated with feminine societal norms when they’re pushed on someone whose every natural feeling leads them away from the feminine body they were born in.
Contrary to what other stories about the childfree debate might suggest, this affects folks besides cisgender women. Besides the fact that everyone who has child-birthing abilities and vaginas aren’t cis, the issue of societal expectations based on the body is often placed on trans men as well.
Since I’m pre-op and pre-hormone therapy, the majority of the population assumes I’m a woman. Therefore, I’m always grouped into the “woman” category when they make assumptions and suggestions about my body. This takes an already rude and misogynistic behavior to the next level for me, as it’s incredibly disconcerting and dysphoria-producing to be misgendered and then lectured in this way.
Though it’s difficult for me to imagine now, I believe I might someday want a child with my partner, Skylar, either through adoption or surrogacy. But I have joked about wanting to have Skylar’s baby on a number of occasions because we joked our genetic combination would make a crazy cute human. Regardless of this undisputed fact, it’s just a joke.
I absolutely don’t want to have a child naturally, which is something I decided in high school, though my family thought it foolish. I have a number of genetic disabilities, hereditary infectious diseases and mental illnesses, something I could never give to another human being. I have a heart condition that would require me to have open-heart surgery before I give birth in order to prevent a life threatening stroke.
Having a child naturally is simply not an option for me. Besides the health risks for myself and the baby I would be carrying, I know that being pregnant would be such a disastrous and dysphoric experience for me. Most days, I can hardly look down at my chest, so I don’t think a pregnant swollen inherently feminine belly would help much. I also don’t have vaginal sex, and plan on getting a hysterectomy (a procedure that removes the uterus) as part of my transition process. So having a baby is just so far from my checklist of things to do.
Besides these physical aspects, my desire not to have children at all is so strong because of my childhood.
I grew up very abused, and so I associate childhood with bad times. I know raising a kiddo of my own will open a lot of old wounds for me, and perhaps cause me to repeat patterns of abuse that I learned growing up. Additionally, my mental health is pretty fragile, and I don’t want to submit a child to being raised by a person with bipolar and PTSD just like what I went through with my parents. I’d much rather focus on me and the life that I’m building with my partner towards greater recovery.
I’m so familiar with these reasons why because people’s questioning, though inappropriate, does make me think. I don’t want to feel like I need to explain myself, but this explanation keeps me grounded in the truth when rude, illogical statements threaten my confidence in my manhood. Being grouped in with women time and time again brings me back to younger days when I was still seriously questioning if I really was a man.
The conviction in people’s voices who judge my choices and the ubiquity of pregnancy-posi commercials sometimes make me question if I should transition, wrongfully and temporarily implanting pregnancy as something that should be a priority to me as a woman (to be clear, these priorities should not be pushed on cis women either, as every individual wants something different out of life).
Many people have tried to sell to me just how worth it pregnancy is, even if I stated I was into it. Sometimes, that makes me wonder if my very valid reasons for not wanting children are important. It makes me wonder if I really should transition and if I would regret not being able to have children. Rationally, I know this is all nonsense, but I’m in a vulnerable place in my recovery, just about to start hormone therapy. There’s lots of room for questioning and doubt, so these pregnancy-loving ladies really do get to me.
I respect motherhood and pregnancy so much, but I know that neither is for me, nor are either truly possible for me. As a man and a person who will soon have no female reproductive organs, pregnancy and motherhood will never be a reality to me.
That fact is simply that: a fact. When people question it, begging for wiggle room that would entail forgoing transitioning and questioning my gender identity all over again, it’s extra hurtful. On my transition journey, I’ve been trying my best to liberate myself from womanhood that I’ve failed to perform: vaginal sex, conventional feminine presentation and a desire for children. But as long as I still look like this, as long as people see me as a childless woman about to get married, I might continue to feel small and disoriented when folks suggest I give childbirth a second thought. But at the end of the day, I’m on the path to becoming the person I’ve always wanted to see in the mirror, and no amount of shaming from others can truly stop that journey.