Project Summary

The central aim of this project is to provide an in-depth understanding of the feelings, experiences and health care needs of trans people (including trans men, transmasculine people and non-binary individuals) who wish to, or become, pregnant.

Funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), this 3 year project runs from April 2017- April 2020. Headed by Dr. Sally Hines as Principle Investigator (University of Leeds, UK), the project has an international team of researchers. Co-Investigators include Dr. Carla Pfeffer (University of South Carolina, US); Dr. Damien Riggs (Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia), Dr. Elisabetta Ruspini (University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy) and Dr. Francis Ray White (University of Westminster, UK); they are also supported by Dr. Ruth Pearce (University of Leeds, UK).

Project Aims

The principle aims of the project are to:

  1. Consider the extent to which transmasculine practices of pregnancy and birth constitute an emerging socio-demographic shift.
  2. Explore the ways in which transmasculine practices of pregnancy and birth bring new meanings to gendered and embodied identities.
  3. Analyse how transmasculine practices of pregnancy and birth speak to issues of gendered, sexual and intimate citizenship.
  4. Evaluate transmasculine practices of pregnancy and birth in relation to ‘best practice’ standards of health care for trans people.
  5. Examine transmasculine practices of pregnancy and birth within the context of ‘best practice’ standards in reproductive science and technology.

The project also aims to generate impact and knowledge exchange at international levels:

  1. Gender diverse people and those close to them benefit from the project’s focus on educational and awareness programmes.
  2. The general public benefit through the project’s contribution towards public awareness raising on a topic of increasing social and cultural importance.
  3. Policy makers, human rights organisations and government ministers benefit from the project’s contribution to public policy. In this way, the project aims to contribute to evidence- based policy making on issues pertaining to the rights and recognition of transgender families.
  4. Stakeholders and user-groups, including trans support groups, campaigning and educational organisations, medical professionals, and health practitioners, benefit from the project’s knowledge exchange programme of activities and project outputs.

We thereby hope to create dialogue between academic, policy makers, and practitioner and user-group communities in order to impact on policy change, and to broaden public educational and awareness initiatives.


Project Context and Scope

Many trans men and non-binary people transition without undergoing surgery to remove reproductive organs or reconstruct genitals. Rather, their embodied transition is aided by hormone therapies and/or chest surgery. Gender transition, then, does not necessarily take away the ability or, importantly, the desire to reproduce. The project will use a range of qualitative methods including interviews, focus groups, diary methods, virtual analysis and film production.

Trans pregnancy shows how shifts in gendered and intimate practices occur within changing social institutions, technological advances and developing cultural understandings. Vice versa, such social, technological and cultural transformations impact on how individuals live their gendered, embodied and intimate lives.

Diversification of gendered, sexual and intimate practices, and advances in health care practices and reproductive technology, have significantly altered contemporary experiences of pregnancy and birth. Changing social and cultural attitudes about gender and sexual diversity, and legal advances around sexuality and parenting, have enabled the recognition of same-sex and gender diverse partnerships and allowed equal access to fostering, adoption and assisted reproductive technology. Over the last decade, same-sex parenting practices have received increasing social and cultural visibility, while legal shifts have foregrounded the rights of same-sex people to parent. Moreover, lesbian and gay parenting has emerged as a central site of enquiry within the field of sexuality studies, and in sociological studies of intimacy, kinship and personal life. Trans practices of parenting, however, have received much less attention across social, cultural, legal, and academic spheres.

Aspects of the PI’s earlier work (Hines, 2007; 2010) have considered the impact of gender transition on parenting relationships-thus exploring parenting through gender shifts.  This project takes a different turn in exploring the experiences of trans people who become parents after beginning a transition. In particular, it looks at the experiences of trans people who become pregnant and give birth within the EU, US, and Australia. In considering the relationship between gender identity, gendered bodily aesthetics, and masculinity and femininity at corporal and subjective levels, the project seeks to examine how trans narratives of pregnancy and birth bring new understandings to the embodied and gendered processes of parenting.

Legal and policy change pertaining to gender and sexual diversity has brought some levels of parity in terms of the relationship and parenting rights of gender diverse and same-sex people. This project will examine the extent to which law and policy supports the health needs of this group of trans people and will consider the degree to which legal and policy frameworks impact upon decisions to become pregnant.

Health care is a key area of trans campaigning organisations. The project will therefore explore the extent to which trans people feel supported and understood by health care professionals at pre and neo natal stages. At academic and practitioner levels, shifting family practices are linked to changes in reproductive technology. The project will address developments in reproductive technology and consider the level of which such advances impact on trans pregnancy. The project will contribute to debates in each of these areas as they evolve over the coming years.

New empirical material will develop sociological understandings of contemporary socio-demographic shifts around intimacy and personal life, and the gendered nature of these changes within national and international contexts. This will also add to wider sociological understandings about the relationship between gender identity and embodiment. Central to the project is how trans people negotiate their gender identity and presentation with the traditionally ‘female’ signifiers of pregnancy and birth. This, then, raises larger questions, which the project will explore, of what gender categories means in contemporary society.

The project has two foci:

  1. Young transmasculine people in the early stages of transition, who, in focus groups will talk about their feelings about the possibility of pregnancy in the future.
  2. Trans people who have conceived after transition who, in interviews will talk about their experiences of conception, pregnancy and birth.

These two transitional life-stages will enable exploration of embodied reflections and experiences of pregnancy and birth at the levels of future, present and past. This will allow the project to go beyond consideration of subjective experience by addressing changes at cultural, social, legal, policy, and technological realms.

Findings will be disseminated to policy makers; health and medical professionals and practitioners; stakeholder; and interdisciplinary academic audiences at international conferences.