Melanie McDonagh

Of course a man hasn’t had a baby. Let’s not pretend otherwise

Of course a man hasn't had a baby. Let's not pretend otherwise
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You know a Man Having Baby story really would be a story if it were true. But the latest Man Mother story is only true if you accept the notion that the mother in question really is a man. And that depends on whether you go down the whole notion that being transgender involves biological reinvention, rather than hormonal/surgical intervention plus credulity and the creative use of language.

Two people with wombs, ovaries and XX chromosomes, conventionally known as women, have had babies. As it happens, one of them has taken drugs to suppress lactation on the basis of an unwillingness to breastfeed, but, you know, it took drugs to stop the otherwise natural process of breast milk production. In the other case, the baby-bearer, conventionally known as mother, has engaged in 'chest feeding', to most of us known as breastfeeding. In short, we have biological women having babies. As a story, it ranks on the Dog Bites Man story, rather than a Man Bites Dog sort.

The only reason this has had rather a different spin is that both these women are transgender but didn’t quite get round to suppressing their natural reproductive capacities before going the whole hog. One of them, Scott Parker, had a fling with a male friend – I think we’re talking heterosexual sex here – and became pregnant before starting hormonal treatment. “I thought”, said Scott, “I’m a man now – I can’t have children. Now I have everything.”

The other, Hayden Cross, paused transgender hormone treatment on order to conceive a baby using a sperm donor met on Facebook. A less propitious start for the progeny is, I’d say myself, hard to imagine. Anyway, Hayden Cross does not feel like a mother, despite patent biological evidence to the contrary, which you, dear reader, may well regard as a cultural construct anyway.

The reason why we’re getting excited – well, mildly interested – in all this depends on us taking a particular version of transgenderism seriously. That is to say that it’s complete reinvention, that we take literally the notion that the transgender person is as much a man or a woman as someone born that way. So we feel obliged to go through the motions of regarding these transgender people giving birth as tantamount to a man doing so. But it’s not. We can call transgender people what we or they like, but there are irreducible biological realities underlying all the Mx stuff which occasionally surface, as here. These are not men giving birth; they are women who want to be men having babies. Let’s not pretend otherwise.