Pregnant Men: An International Exploration of Trans Male Experiences and Practices of Reproduction

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sociology & Social Policy

Abstract

Many male transgender people (hereafter termed 'trans men') transition without undergoing surgery to remove their reproductive organs or reconstruct their genitals. Gender transition from female to male, then, does not necessarily take away the ability or, importantly, the desire to reproduce. The overall aim of this project is to gain an in-depth understanding of the practices, experiences, and health care needs of the growing number of men who may seek to, or become, pregnant and give birth after gender transition. The project will use a range of qualitative methods including interviews, focus groups, virtual analysis and visual methods. In order to consider the significance of national and international care standards and health practices, divergent welfare regimes and differing legal frameworks of recognition for trans people, the project will include the UK, US, Australia, Poland and Italy.

Trans male pregnancy shows how shifts in gendered and intimate practices occur within changing social institutions, technological advances and developing cultural understandings. Vice versa, such social, technological and cultural transformations impact on how individuals live their gendered, bodily and intimate lives. Diversification of gendered, sexual and intimate practices, and advances in health care practices and reproductive technology, have significantly altered contemporary experiences of pregnancy and birth. Changing social and cultural attitudes about gender and sexual diversity, and legal advances around sexuality and parenting, have enabled the recognition of same-sex and gender diverse partnerships and allowed equal access to fostering, adoption and assisted reproductive technology. Over the last decade, same-sex parenting practices have received increasing social and cultural visibility, while legal shifts have foregrounded the rights of same-sex people to parent. Moreover, lesbian and gay parenting has emerged as a central site of inquiry within the field of sexuality studies, and in sociological studies of intimacy, kinship and personal life. Transgender practices of parenting, however, have received much less attention across social, cultural, legal, and academic spheres.

Aspects of Hines' (PI) earlier work (2007; 2010) have considered the impact of gender transition on parenting relationships-thus exploring parenting through gender shifts. This project takes a different, and uncharted, turn in exploring the experiences of trans people who become parents after transition. In considering the relationship between gender identity, the gendered bodily, and masculinity and femininity at subjective levels, the project seeks to examine how trans male narratives of pregnancy and birth bring new understandings to the embodied and gendered processes of parenting.

Legal and policy change pertaining to gender diversity has brought some levels of parity in terms of the relationship and parenting rights of gender diverse people. This project will examine the extent to which law and policy at international levels supports the health needs of this group of trans men and will consider the degree to which legal and policy frameworks impact upon decisions to become pregnant. Health care is a key area of trans campaigning organisations. It will explore the extent to which trans men feel supported and understood by health care professionals at pre and neo natal stages. At academic and practitioner levels, shifting family practices are linked to changes in reproductive technology. The project will address developments in reproductive technology and consider the level of which such advances impact on trans male pregnancy.

Findings will be disseminated to interdisciplinary academic audiences, policy makers, health and medical professionals and practitioners, and stakeholders at international levels.

Planned Impact

Impact is central to the project from design stage through to dissemination. Consultation about potential areas of benefit was carried out at design stage with key transgender campaigning organisations and support groups in the UK, Europe, US and Australia, and consultation findings were built into the research aims, questions and methodology. The project consultants, 'Gendered Intelligence', 'Trans Bare All', represent major international stakeholders. They will organise and run focus groups with the PI and UK Co-I to ensure that stakeholder impact is built into the project's methods of data collection.

Alongside, senior academics with extensive research experience in areas related to the project, the International Advisory Board comprises members of stakeholder groups (see CfS). Together these represent key transgender lobbying, health and educational organisations who will further the project's impact and dissemination through their membership and broader networks, including government ministers, policy makers, and medical and health professionals.

The project website, blog and twitter feed will ensure stakeholder and public impact through regular project bulletins and on-line newsletters throughout the project. Impact will be maximised through the making of a documentary film (See CfS), which will be shown at academic and stakeholder dissemination events in the UK, in Europe and in the US. It is envisaged that the film (produced by an experienced film maker and producer) will be later shown at international film festivals. The interactive website, blog and twitter will be maintained to ensure continued impact throughout and after the project.

Key findings will be released at different stages of the project via press releases, non-technical summaries, and through the website and blog. It is anticipated that the project will generate much media and non-academic interest. The PI has considerable experiences with media dissemination (including on BBC radio and Channel 4 news). The end of project conference seeks to bring academic, stakeholder and community groups together, thus maximising impact.

The focus groups with representatives from relevant health professional organisations in each country will embed impact and dissemination into the project at all stages in each of the geographical sites. Project consultants will organise two health practitioner training events, which will be co-coordinated with Public Health England. Key target audiences here will be midwives organisations and general practitioners. Dissemination events with health professionals are planned in the UK, US, Australia, Poland and Italy, and are costed into the project's broader impact strategy. Information Sheets for health practitioners will be developed to impact on care standards, and guidelines will be drawn up for policy makers at UK, European and international levels.

The project report will be widely distributed to stakeholders, health practitioners and government bodies to inform policy formulation on issues of the recognition of transgender families and care standards pertaining to transgender people through conception, pregnancy and birth. Project findings will be of use to government ministers, civil servants, policy makers and medical professionals in relation to claims for gender and relationship recognition (See 'Impact Statement'). Members of these groups will be addressed through stakeholder's dissemination workshops, press conferences and articles targeted at the media.

The project will impact on transgender people, their partners and family members, and transgender support and self-help organisations, who will be addressed through stakeholder's dissemination workshops. In addressing the experiences of others, the research will enable more informed choices about trans male pregnancy and parenting, and the social and legal processes of recognition, as well as highlighting potential issues of stakeholder concern.

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