Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Man Gives Birth? Time to Sound the Ethics Alarms?

In the United Kingdom, some “medical ethics experts” have called for an investigation into the birth of a child to a trans-man. 
“Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said there needs to be a proper inquiry in to the issues surrounding these births. ‘We have to sit up and consider these things,’ she said. ‘I don't think it is in the interests of the child to distort nature this way. We are prepared to do anything possible to fulfill the rights of the adult.’ ‘But I think it is at the expense and rights and welfare of the child.’  Trevor Stammers, director of medical ethics at St Mary's University College, London, said: ‘You are hardly going to end up with a baby that's going to have a happy, productive and optimal childhood.’  (Source:

Many of these objections are familiar as objections to homosexual men and women having children, but no one should be surprised that trans-men and trans-women are interested in having children.  Most people say that they want to have children, and there’s nothing about a transgender identity itself that nullifies that interest. 

Many trans-men and trans-women have children, of course, but many of them had those children before transitioning.  What is different now is that people are taking steps to have children after transitioning.  To address this issue, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health has recommended that all people seeking body modifications, especially permanent ones, be advised about options for preserving their fertility afterward.  The Endocrine Society in the United States offers the same advice to clinicians involved in transgender body modifications, including hormonal interventions offered to adolescents. 

So, as far as an inquiry into these matters is concerned, let’s start here:  there is nothing about a trans-identity that makes someone unable to appreciate the nature and consequences of being a parent.  What about feared effects on the child?  Perhaps the child will grow up in a state of gender confusion.  There is precious little study of this area, but what little research there is does not suggest that children are disordered themselves because their parents make unconventional choices in gender expression.

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