Transgender people accept their sexual identity; however, they often feel misunderstood by both the straight and LGBT communities. As the stigma against transgender people decreases, more people are transitioning to their true gender identity. We spoke to a loving mother whose daughter and son-in-law are an LGBT couple who have had children via IVF. Her son-in-law met her daughter before he transitioned; they started off dating as a gay couple. Her son-in-law then took the brave step to transition.
Can you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
I am an embryologist working at a large tertiary academic hospital. My job mainly involves working with eggs, sperm, and embryos. Eggs are retrieved from patients under anaesthetics and immediately taken to the lab, where I wash the eggs and place them in culture medium.
Sperm is received from patients via ejaculation or sometimes by a minor surgery where immature sperm is extracted directly from the testicles.
The sperm is washed and placed in culture medium. Then, I follow a protocol similar to a recipe to add sperm to the eggs. This procedure is called in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Sometimes if the sperm do not move well, I will do a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), where one sperm is caught in a tiny pipette or needle, and an egg is held in place in another pipette. The sperm is then injected directly into the egg, and fertilisation happens. This unit is now called a zygote, and it will develop into an embryo and then a blastocyst. If all goes well, the blastocyst will be transferred into the uterus resulting in a pregnancy.
Did becoming an embryologist change your outlook on life in any way?
By this, we mean do you look at humans with even more awe than before becoming an embryologist, as you know the incredible science that has gone into creating them, especially those that needed the help of modern technology?
After becoming an embryologist, I realised that a new life could never be taken for granted. There are so many different vectors involved in the creation of life. So many things can go wrong, so we can truly call it a miracle when a pregnancy happens.
Can you tell us about your incredible daughter and son-in-law?
My daughter is turning 30 this year. She is a fantastic person to know and is strong, intelligent, mature, and is an excellent mother. In addition, she is a qualified make-up artist and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies in 2010. My son-in-law is a qualified sheet metal worker, and he is 31 years old.
Did your son-in-law transition from female to male before they met?
My son-in-law met my daughter before he transitioned. They initially dated as a gay couple before he started counselling as the first step in his transition.
How long did your son-in-law’s transition take?
His transition took a few years, and the first two years were spent in counselling. Then, during the third year, he started with hormone replacement (testosterone injections). The final step was a few years after this when he had a double mastectomy and total hysterectomy.
They then decided to start a family. Can you tell us what steps they took to have their family?
My daughter started tracking her monthly cycles. They retained a sperm donor through the LGBTQ community where they lived in Victoria, Canada. During her ovulation, she was inseminated, and as with most artificial inseminations, it took a few cycles before she became pregnant.
Was it a smooth process?
It was quite a bumpy ride! She miscarried her first pregnancy after two months of gestation. This was an extremely traumatic experience. Also, the inseminations can take several attempts before success.
How many children do they have now? How old are the children? Have your daughter and son-in-law discussed how they plan to tell their children about how they “came to be”?
They have four children. The children are 5, 4, 3, and 2 years old.
They have grown up knowing about donor sperm and that their dad is transgender. One of the children used to say: “my daddy is trans ginger!” They know that generous people had donated sperm to help their parents have them. They also know that they all have different sperm donors and the same dad. It is a very open topic in their house. They attend pride parades every year, and the children are part of this.
Have you noticed an increase in couples who have transitioned, opting to use ART to start a family?
Working in an IVF clinic, I have regular interaction with same-sex couples and people undergoing gender reassignment. Same-sex couples are very welcome at fertility clinics in general, and they comprise a fair proportion of patient populations. Patients who are in transition attend fertility clinics to preserve their gametes (sperm or eggs) before their surgeries. They may then return at a later date to use their frozen material for IVF treatment.
Did your daughter and son-in-law choose to have counselling throughout their fertility treatment?
They did not go through fertility counselling. They did, however, go through individual counselling, separately.
Do you or your daughter and son-in-law have any words of wisdom for other couples in similar situations who are thinking about starting a family?
My advice to couples is to wait until the transition phase is completed, as my son-in-law did, before starting a family. These are both substantial life changes, and I would not recommend going through them simultaneously.
Although, thankfully, the stigma against transgender people is slowly lessening, there are still a few that have many misconceived opinions – how have your daughter and son-in-law dealt with this?
My son-in-law certainly has to deal with prejudice, my daughter not so much. It is hard for him as his job is very male-oriented; by this, I mean he has to be careful about bathroom use at work or changing in the locker room. In addition, all his co-workers are not accepting of transgender people.
If you are considering transitioning or need guidance regarding starting a family and your transitioning journey, please get in touch with us x