When Trystan Reese first came out as a transgender man at the age of 20, his mother was worried how he would have a family one day.
“The first thing my mother asked me was, ‘who will ever love me?'” he tells Global News. “She did not mean it in a negative or insulting way, she was genuinely concerned that if this was the path my life took, I would never find someone to be with, and a biological child was completely off the table.”
Today, the 34-year-old non-profit professional born in Vancouver is eight months pregnant with his first biological child.
“I’ve known other transgender men who have been through this process,” he says. “I always knew it was possible … I just didn’t know if this was something I wanted to do until I met [my partner].”
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Reese and his partner, social worker Biff Chaplow, who currently live in Portland, are also adoptive parents of Chaplow’s niece and nephew.
Sharing their story
After being featured on a podcast about their nontraditional family in 2015, the couple began to notice other people reaching out to them who were in similar parenting situations.
Starting their own blog, they began documenting their experiences as adoptive gay dads, exploring the topics of trauma and parenting, as well as the current political climate in the United States.
In 2016, the couple also experienced their first miscarriage, something Reese says is just as important to share.
“Part of us wanting to be open about our story is to be open about the both the joys and the struggles,” he says. “That’s one of the real pitfalls of parenting in the modern era, is that we’re supposed to just have just cute photos on Instagram and that’s just not something we believe in.”
He adds when the couple lost their first pregnancy in 2016, they only told a few people in their close circle.
“We did want to take some time to heal,” he continues. “We did set a limit on [the next pregnancy]. If in the next year we aren’t able to have a successful pregnancy, we would just close that door and be really happy with these amazing kids we already have.”
But his pregnancy story, which has now gone viral, has also come with a lot of confusion and hate. Reese says he is “shocked” to hear some of the negative criticisms of his pregnancy.
“It has been really hard because part of the reason that you want to have a family is to bring more love into the world,” he tells Global News. “When you get a backlash, you know in some ways you are on the right track because it means you are beginning to challenge ideas and norms.”
Experience as a trans parent
But the parenting experience itself as a trans person can also be quite different. Reese adds people may be curious or have questions about how a trans man can carry a baby, for example, but may be too afraid to ask questions.
In a video posted on his blog when he was six months pregnant, Reese says some of the most common questions is why he decided to carry his own baby.
“You have to kind of unfortunately dismantle some of the stories that have been told about what it means to actually be trans,” he said. “One of the big tropes or things that we’re commonly told about trans people is that we were born into the wrong body and we really hate our bodies.”
This, Reese says, for trans man like himself, is untrue.
Reese, who has transitioned hormonally (taking testosterone for facial hair and a deeper voice), says he appears as a man and that’s enough for him — he doesn’t want to change his body.
And hormones also can make the pregnancy experience as a trans person challenging, he adds, which is why he hasn’t been taking them during the pregnancy. And navigating the health-care system that may not be used to a trans man being pregnant.
Looking forward to a new family
Reese says besides some morning sickness and heartburn, the pregnancy has been completely normal.
“It’s been exciting to know that I get to be in this body that has given me the life that I wanted, while also being able to create life for my family, for Biff,” he says. “I knows he’s [in there]… we are really excited to meet him.”