It is not uncommon to have to think about your future in your teenage years, such as what career you want to pursue or where you’d like to live. However, being a young transgender person, there is the added decision of fertility and whether or not you want to have children in the future. If you plan to go on hormones, this decision could potentially remove that option. For a young individual, that choice is daunting to say the least, especially when hormone replacement therapy is a life-saving treatment which changes lives for the better and opting for fertility preservation can delay starting hormone therapy. This in itself can have bad consequences on one’s mental health. Let’s not forget that the choices and what we think we want when we are young can change drastically in years to come. Someone who is adamant that they don’t want kids, can decide they do want them later in life.
That was the case in my experience. I am a twenty-one-year-old transgender man who got prescribed testosterone (a type of hormone replacement therapy) in November 2017 to allow me to feel comfortable in my own skin and masculinize my appearance so I would finally recognise my reflection as who I truly am.
At the time, I was offered egg freezing which is a form of fertility preservation. I was aware of the risk of taking testosterone in terms of what that could mean with regards to biological children. But in that moment, I needed to be seen as male. My dysphoria was high everyday where I felt disconnected and uncomfortable with my body and how I perceived myself and how people perceived me. I would be misgendered and called ‘she’ everyday by strangers, family would also slip up with pronouns and this was despite having changed my name, come out two years prior and dressing myself in a male way. The way I saw it was that I was doing everything possible to be seen as a man and the helping hand I needed was hormones.
So naturally, when offered hormones, I neglected the chance to have my eggs frozen as I needed immediate comfort and happiness. Kids were too far ahead in the future for nineteen-year-old me to think about and adoption was always something I could turn to when contemplating starting a family.
Fast forward to late 2019, the plaguing thought of biological children had never really left my head since passing the opportunity. This was only made worse by being around my nieces and nephews who look like my brother and my sister. It was honestly gut-wrenching to think that I could have had that but chose not to. Regret was buried within me by that point. Now, of course adopting children should never be dismissed but as a trans man, I hate that I have to think a lot more about my future compared to people who aren’t trans. I feel like I’m constantly on a countdown, waiting for my next gender clinic appointment or surgery, my emotions high in the interim and forced to make life changing decisions when I’ve only just left home and not had chance to see the world or live life.
At my next gender clinic appointment in January 2020, I met with the endocrinologist whose job is to manage my blood test results that I have had done every four injections since starting hormones. Although this appointment was not for fertility preservation, I wanted to discuss it as it had been at the forefront of my mind. I expected to be met with judgement and criticism, especially as a clinician in the past had told me I would regret not opting to have my eggs frozen. However, I was pleasantly surprised and reassured that it would be possible providing I came off of testosterone. He also informed me that due to legal action from the Equality Commission, the process would be funded by the NHS, and my eggs would be stored for up to ten years. I was aware that I would have to stop taking testosterone and he agreed to write a letter to my GP, requesting that they refer me to the nearest fertility clinic.
Currently, I am off testosterone and waiting on an appointment with the fertility clinic. Though I’m unsure of when I will receive a date especially in the current global climate, I am grateful for the NHS. They have given me a chance to not only live my life comfortably, where I’m perceived as male with regards to my double mastectomy and being prescribed hormones, I will have the opportunity to be a biological father.
This great opportunity sadly comes with drawbacks including it is not guaranteed to work as some eggs do not survive and others won’t fertilise, IVF or surrogacy are needed in order complete the process and have a child and dysphoria can have detrimental consequences on a trans person’s mental health.
Dysphoria is important to recognise in regard to egg freezing because for many trans people, the thought of their reproduction cycle starting up again is soul destroying and painful in more ways than just physically. This is especially the case if they have not had to experience it for many years.
In my opinion, trans people are often expected to adopt in order to start a family to avoid potentially confusing their children. This should not be the case. As a trans man, I have only ever wanted to be treated like any other man and be allowed the same opportunities as people who are not trans. To me, it seems unfair that I could be pressured by society to not have a biological family of my own as it would be easier than having to explain my trans identity to my child in the future. This is why it is important for me to speak about this as I do not want an easy option. But I know that I needed to pick the option that was right for me, even if it is not guaranteed to work, at least I will know I tried my best and that is why I chose egg freezing.
WORDS: LIAM JAMIE HARRISON