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Where's the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad

Where's the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad

Автором Trevor MacDonald

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Where's the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad

Автором Trevor MacDonald

5/5 (2 оценки)
290 pages
4 hours
May 24, 2016


In a time when to most people “pregnancy” automatically means “motherhood,” what is it like to get pregnant, give birth, and breastfeed a child all while being an out transgender man?

When Trevor MacDonald decided to start a family, he knew that the world was going to have questions for him. As a transgender man in a gay relationship, Trevor has gone through the journeys of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing all while exploring (and sometimes defending) his role as a trans dad. Trevor and his partner tackle all the questions new parents are familiar with, such as: Should we feed our baby breast milk or formula? Should we have a hospital or home birth?

Other questions are much less familiar: How can a man cope with gender dysphoria when going through such female-coded rituals as childbirth and breastfeeding? How can a person breastfeed after having had chest masculinization surgery? How do we find donor milk to supplement our own modest milk supply?

Luckily for the reader, Trevor explains his own answers to these questions with grace and humour. His stories convey the intimate and sometimes surprising realities of the transgender parenting experience. This memoir is a book about being a breastfeeding parent and a transgender man, and the many beautiful, moving, and difficult ways these two identities collide. It shows us that, ultimately, the parenting journey is beyond all our assumptions and preconceptions. “Where’s the Mother?” is a memoir about love and family like no other.

May 24, 2016

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Trevor MacDonald started his blog, www.milkjunkies.net, to share his experiences of transitioning, becoming pregnant, and breastfeeding with the use of supplementary donated human milk. Since 2011, milkjunkies.net has received over 600000 visitors. Trevor founded the first online support group for transgender people interested in pregnancy, birth, and breast or chestfeeding. He has initiated and helped to design and carry out a study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research on the experiences of trans-masculine individuals with pregnancy, birth, and infant feeding. He received international media attention in 2013 when his application to volunteer with his local chapter of La Leche League, a worldwide breastfeeding support organization, was blocked on the grounds of his gender identity. He successfully campaigned for a change to LLL’s policy in 2014. Trevor is a Huffington Post featured blogger, and has appeared as a speaker and workshop leader at conferences such as Yonifest (with Ina May Gaskin and Michel Odent); the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference; the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health; the Canadian Association of Midwives; and the International Lactation Consultant Association, to name a few. He frequently presents educational sessions for church groups, university courses, LGBT youth groups, and health care workers. Trevor lives near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. This is his first book.

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Where's the Mother? Stories from a Transgender Dad - Trevor MacDonald


Part One: Transition


MARCH 24, 2008

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing this to you because I want to explain it carefully and completely, something I am not sure I could do in person or over the phone. I have felt ever since I was very young that there was something different about me, but for a long time I didn’t know what this was. Starting around puberty, I became aware that it had something to do with gender. I have never felt like a woman, yet at the same time I know that my body is not that of a man, and this mismatch makes me very uncomfortable. I am transsexual. I feel as though things are backwards for me in terms of gender – my body is female when it should be male, everyone treats me as a woman when they should treat me as a man, and I am expected to dress and behave as a woman even though I am male in my mind.

This situation is not my fault or yours or anyone else’s – this is just the way I am. Although I don’t know the reason for my problem, I am doing something about it, and the steps I have taken so far have been encouraging. I have seen a clinical psychologist specializing in gender dysphoria. She assessed me as transsexual and believes I have the necessary maturity and self-awareness to make this type of decision. She wrote me a letter of referral to an endocrinologist who will be able to prescribe hormones and monitor my health so that I can begin to transition safely and effectively from female to male. I would eventually like to have top surgery and possibly other procedures as well to become closer to being a complete man.

At work, I have explained my situation and my plans to the personnel manager, who has been understanding and helpful. He said that although some people might be uncomfortable at first, he is certain that every single employee will support me in this. Together with him and a few other friends, I am preparing a plan to come out fully at work.

Friends outside the company have been nothing but positive as they’ve shared their curiosity and confusion in conversations we’ve had. I am happy with my life in Winnipeg, and with my relationships with friends and family. However, I am often extremely frustrated and I think this will only become much worse if I do not transition. The knowledge that I can and will do something soon about my situation keeps me going. I recently cut my hair short in a masculine style and bought new glasses that are helping me start to look more male. These changes, though still far from getting me where I want to be, are beginning to allow me to feel truly good about how I present myself physically.

I have chosen to go by Trevor. I found it difficult to think about changing my name – I know that my current name is undeniably feminine, but I had never thought of it that way when it was applied to me; it was simply my name. Trev for short sounds relatively close, and I am comfortable and happy with it. I hope that you will eventually feel that way as well. I am sure that you will have many questions, and I’ll respond to them the best that I can. Phone when you’re ready to talk.

Love, T

Neither I, nor my parents I’m sure, thought that just over three years after writing this letter I’d be breastfeeding a baby. As a man. It has been a challenging, rewarding journey, with little that I would do differently if I had a chance to do it all again. My husband says that I am like the platypus. Unclassifiable. European naturalists were mystified when they saw this mammal that is duckbilled and egg-laying, and has a beaver tail. There is nothing wrong with the platypus itself; it just doesn’t fit into our system of classification. I will begin from the beginning, and try to explain to you how this is my normal.


SINCE TEENAGEHOOD, I’VE always imagined myself having a masculine voice, a square jaw, short, messy hair, a beard and moustache, a muscular chest, square hips... and then I have trouble visualizing the rest. I don’t like to think about it. When I look in the mirror, most of what I see today matches what I envisioned. Taking testosterone for a few years and having chest surgery diminished my gender dysphoria, my sense of incongruity between the sex of my body and the gender of my mind, to a bearable degree. I like small mirrors the best so that I only see my head and shoulders. I recognize those parts.

About the down-there bits. When I was born, some doctor looked at them and said simply, It’s a girl! In that moment, it was decided that I’d need to have a girly name, complete with two different French accents, a rolled r, a silent h and a silent e. I would be dressed in pink and purple and given dolls to play with. I would have braids, bobby pins, and barrettes. I’d use figure skates, not hockey skates. I would not be allowed to playfight like the boys always did at school. My bicycle would have V-shaped bars instead of a horizontal one. I’d be told not to stick my hands in my pockets or wear a baseball cap. When sitting, I would have to cross my legs or keep them close together – all this, because of what was between them.

My mother insists that when I was a child, I used to love wearing a particular red dress. She says I wore it so much she had trouble finding time to wash it.

A friend recently saw a photo of me at around age five, done up in pig tails – he gasped, looked at me, and then examined the photo once more. I think I sometimes forget, he said. You grew up as a girl.

I guess I did.

Being a musical kid, I regularly took part in recitals and festivals, and had to contend with formal clothing at each event. I felt the usual nervousness that most people experience when called upon to perform in front of others, plus another layer of intense discomfort: instead of the casual, formless t-shirts and baggy pants that I preferred, I had to put on clothing that highlighted my presumed female gender. I never said so, but I felt anguish beyond measure, every time.

One day, when I was maybe eight years old, a teacher at the music school complimented me on my performance and then added, In a few years you’ll get to wear a slinky, spaghetti strap dress while you play. Won’t that be so fancy?

I was horrified.

My inner conviction that I was a boy was so strong that from time to time I entertained a conspiracy theory to explain it. Perhaps I’d been injured in a routine circumcision and then my parents had opted to raise me as a girl. This got tricky when I hit puberty. What had they done to me to make breasts grow? Mom could be slipping hormone drops into my breakfast cereal.

I felt utterly betrayed by my periods. Nobody could make that happen if I was really a boy. My body was growing up without my brain, leaving me behind.

Rather than try to grapple with the overwhelming dysphoria I felt, I ignored it, doing homework, and practicing violin and piano. I wore dresses when I had to, and waited for a day when I could make a different choice.

At school, I became lost among my classmates. My best friend virtually forgot about me one day – she was now interested in boys. I liked boys, too – the fast ones, the strong ones, the smart ones, the tough ones – and I wanted to be like them. The boys didn’t seem into me, or when they did, they were most keen on parts of me that I hated, and I was dismayed. School became a swirling mess of hormonal energy with each kid choosing a side and then jockeying for position. I couldn’t just hang around with whomever I liked anymore.

I was saved by honours classes in high school and a small group of high achievers. I kept my head down, in my books. When I ventured out of my safety zone, others immediately caught scent and went on the hunt. A girl named Maya used to leave her post at the smokers’ corner beyond the school fence, coming over to mock-flirt with me. She smacked her lips in loud kisses and lifted her skirt up high to show her legs, pressing her body into mine until I got away to a class that she couldn’t keep up with.

I had one friend, Emma, who was beautiful, feminine, and sensual but accepted that I wasn’t any of those things. One evening we were working together at her house on a photography project for our social studies class, and she gave me some clothes to wear for a portrait. After she left the room, I tried to put on the tank top she’d picked out. I didn’t own one. I put it on over my head and pulled it down from where it bunched around my shoulders. The material stretched over my upper half, into the shape of two breasts I’d never seen before in daylight. I couldn’t breathe. I peeled the tank top right off without modeling it for Emma. No one could see me like that. I felt shocked, angry, betrayed. Where had those lumps come from? The innocent-looking fabric had created boobs and left me wanting to crawl out of my skin.

I can’t wear that. I can’t wear something that tight.

Ah, okay. I’ll find you a t-shirt that we can use instead.

Emma understood. I started to talk to her about feeling different. I didn’t have the words or awareness to say that I was transgender, but I told her that when I closed my eyes and just imagined myself, I was a gay guy.

"I wish one of my kids was gay! said Emma’s mom. I mean, how awful that some people reject their kids over this. I think it’s a waste – I would be so good at raising a gay kid."

Thanks, Mom, said Emma, with the sarcastic tone a teenager can muster so perfectly.

I had found a safe haven.

When I was an older teen, I became serious about violin playing, and I lived in awe of the teacher who mentored me at the time. She had studied with some of the eminent masters of the twentieth century, the most famous being Jascha Heifetz.

As a young woman, my teacher was big, self-conscious, and talented. You had to be good to study with Heifetz. His time was precious and any word out of his mouth was to be acknowledged as a pearl of wisdom from one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.

Each week at the beginning of my teacher’s lesson, Heifetz made her stand on a weigh scale. He expected her to have practiced her etudes, learned a concerto, and lost a few pounds.

Do you want people to feel sorry for you when you walk out on stage? Heifetz asked. He told my teacher she must be thinner to make it as a violinist.

She obeyed, and later carried on his tradition of taking a keen interest in every aspect of students’ lives, especially the ultra-personal. One day I came to my lesson, dressed as always in respectable but gender-neutral clothes, my hair cut unisex style. I played the first movement of Mozart’s Fourth Violin Concerto. My teacher stopped me just before the cadenza.

"You look like an it," she said. She made me stand in front of the mirror, and started discussing my features. She brushed my shortish hair forward from behind my ears so that it came to fall around my face, creating a softer, more feminine look. I instinctively moved it back to where I liked it. She laughed in a strange, angry way, and pulled my hair forward

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