Trystan Reese shares his experience carrying his son, Leo, and offers advice for treating trans parents with respect.
Even though it’s nothing new, trans pregnancy is slowly becoming more visible. That’s largely because of people like Trystan Reese, a trans advocate, educator, and dad who shared his experience with pregnancy publicly in 2017.
In interviews and on a blog he shares with his partner, Biff Chaplow, Reese told the story of carrying and giving birth to their son Leo. Reese is far from the first trans dad to get pregnant and give birth, but his openness shown much-needed light on an experience that’s commonly misunderstood. But being so open inadvertently opened Reese up to a barrage of questions about the nitty gritty details of his pregnancy with Leo, most of which were things no one would think to ask a cisgender person about their pregnancy.
“Every trans person I know who has given birth — and there are hundreds of us all over the world — they all get the same types of questions,” Reese said. “People really do want to know what’s the worst thing someone has said so far, and I don’t always want to share that. They want to be titillated in that way, and they also want to learn what transphobia really looks like.”
Reese added that, a lot of the time, he doesn’t think people understand the implications of what they may be asking when they question a trans parent about their experience with pregnancy. A lot of that has to do with a general lack of understanding about what it’s like to be both trans and pregnant at the same time. On top of the education Reese has already done through being so visible throughout his own pregnancy, he offered some advice on how to treat a trans parent with the same respect all pregnant people deserve.
“How was the baby made?” falls into Reese’s column of things you just really shouldn’t ask about.
“When it comes to actual conception, you’re asking about my sex life, basically,” Reese said. “As much as it’s possible to frame that in a positive way, we have lots of curiosities in our life, but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to have all of our questions answered. It’s just best to not ask.”
It’d be extremely intimate and a bit weird to ask any pregnant person how they made their baby. But Reese explained that, for trans people, questions about sex can feel especially loaded, given the cultural obsession about trans bodies and sexuality. This is one case where a question can feel more like a morbid curiosity or accusation. Reese suggests thinking about why you want to know the answer, and whether you’re really entitled to one in the first place, before proceeding with the ask.
On the birth plan:
How someone plans to give birth is also really personal, and packs the extra punch of stigma. “The only question that I ever get asked is, did you have a c-section or a ‘natural birth?‘” Reese said. “That’s so loaded for so many reasons. Number one, it’s incredibly personal. Number two, there is implied that somehow a c-section is not natural.”
Reese explained that there’s an added layer of stigma in this question for trans people.
“What people often don’t know is there is an obsession with trans bodies in our culture,” he said. “When you ask [that], I hear that you are another person asking about my private parts. It’s not that I’m embarrassed about the way that my birth went, it’s that I’m so used to people being obsessed with what I have going on in my pants, that that question can feel really awkward and uncomfortable.”