The endless feeds in our social media inboxes often offer up articles on topics that friends have found interesting, shocking, or unique. Most of the time I flip right by, not paying any attention. There are only so many hours in the day of course. But on occasion, an article catches my eye and I'll skim through. Very rarely do I hunker down and read a whole article.
Last week was one of these rare occasions. A friend had shared an article written in Time, and I was utterly fascinated. The author of the article is the sister of Evan, a transgender male who recently delivered his son, and is now chest feeding (the term some transgender people use for breast feeding). I was fascinated and couldn't stop reading. How far we have progressed as a society, that not only is Evan free to live as the man he feels he is, but he can even bear children and chest feed. And Time is intrigued enough to write about it.
I am a pediatrician and mom myself, and currently eight months pregnant with my fourth. Pregnancy is hard. It is exhausting. Then the baby comes, and you are even more exhausted. I cannot imagine how difficult pregnancy must be for a trans male who has likely battled with body image over his lifetime, then to use that very body to create a child. Not to mention the stigma around being trans, and now pregnant.
Reading the article, I was proud of Evan and his family. I was humbled that my own pregnancy could be so 'easy' as a straight and cis woman.
So, I shared the article on my Facebook timeline. The subject, no more than, "Absolutely fascinating" with a link to the post. The picture that automatically posted is that of Evan chest feeding his baby in his Massachusetts home.
I felt embarrassed that people who follow me could be so harsh, mean and unkind.
I was surprised what came next. Plenty of people commented, many were from 'friends' or followers I didn't even know. Many comments were supportive and kind such as, "Thank you for sharing this post...when my wife and I became parents we quickly learned that every kid is different, and every family is different." And:
"Thank you Evan for posting this picture and sharing your story. I love the fact that it throws me a bit off my taken-for-granted-assumptions and pre-conceptions of what gender is, was and should be. It is stories like yours, and the sometimes heated discussions that follows that make us as human evolve in a new direction, wanted or not. It sure makes the current discourse on sexuality evolve. We discuss all those new stories with our kids, as a family, to foster open mildness..."
But some were hateful and judgmental. These stung, and I felt sorry for any potential trans child or family that might see them. Comments like, "This is absolutely disgusting, and NOT natural!"; "Sooo gross!!!"; and "This crosses the %#^@ line for me. This guy needs some psychiatric help ASAP."
So, I removed the post from my timeline. I felt embarrassed that people who follow me could be so harsh, mean and unkind. I didn't want to offend.
I posted, 'I am sad to say that my previous post regarding the fascinating Time article on one transgender family lead to many hateful comments. I have deleted my post out of respect for the many different families that exist today. This makes me sad and disappointed."
Immediately I was flooded with messages, texts and emails from friends who had seen or not seen the initial post and the comments that followed. People were curious; what did I post? What did people write that made me take it down? Would I please repost?
I spoke to some friends, straight, LGBTQ, cis and trans, and many suggested I repost. I am not ashamed to be supportive of this community. I have many LGBTQ patients, and have written before about how they are some of my favourite. These families typically go through fertility treatment, adoption or surrogacy to have children the "non traditional way." They REALLY want it. I also REALLY wanted to have kids, but in my heterosexual relationship these things can be easier. Open mindedness and tolerance are often placed in high regard. Kids raised in these families are statistically more resilient.
If motivated by love, and these parents aren't doing any harm, why not support them?
I truly believe that anyone who wants children, who will love and cherish and care for a child in a nurturing home, should be able to have one. Unfortunately, in my line of work I have seen many children from 'traditional' families who were abused, maltreated or unloved. Who says that only 'traditional' parents are best? I am proud to known many different types of parents; single parents, two dads, two moms, and various other caregiver situations where the kids are well adjusted and kind and amazing. Loved children are healthy children.
I do however believe we should all have the freedom to decide what we agree with and don't agree with. Though I feel that families like Evan's should be celebrated, I also can see why some would be put off by it. But I don't think we have to be mean. If you don't agree with these 'choices', don't make them. But to be as outwardly unkind as some of the posts on my page, well that seems unnecessary. There is a kind way to voice your objections. 'This guy is SICK', 'He needs help' etc. isn't constructive.
As we progress, I suspect these types of families will become more 'normal' in the public eye. If motivated by love, and these parents aren't doing any harm, why not support them?
I hope that as my kids grow, they will live happy and authentic lives. We should not fear a diverse society. As one comment in my thread says, "[A]s long as that baby grows up loved and cared for, his parents' pronouns shouldn't matter." I couldn't agree more.
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