There were some great banners at the pro-choice demo on Saturday: see our photos of them here on Flickr. But one which stood out was a simple sign proclaiming that ‘men have wombs too’. Today’s blog attempts to unpick this slogan and look deeper at the intersections between pregnancy, sex and gender.
When most people talk about pregnancy they tend to focus on a female-born, female identified ‘woman’, generally assuming that this pregnancy has occurred because of penetrative sex between a ‘cis man’ and a ‘cis woman’ (see Scarleteen and Bish for a full explanation of ‘gender’ terms). These two people are also often assumed to be straight (see previous LGB blog for more on pregnancy and sexuality). Whilst this may indeed be the case the majority of the time, at EFC we think it’s really important to acknowledge the fact that some ‘men have wombs too’. But what exactly does this mean?
When delivering our Talk About Choice sessions in schools, more than once I have had young people ask me ‘if men can get pregnant’. There’s generally a titter, and somebody will reference a TV show in which they’ve seen a ‘pregnant man’ to back up their point. What these young people are generally referring to are trans men who have conceived and given birth. That is, someone who was born into a body typically read as ‘female’ but whose gender identity is male. Not all those who feel this discrepancy between their assigned sex and their lived gender will undergo full surgery (commonly known as ‘a sex change’ in the media) but some may choose to take hormones to affect secondary gender characteristics such as facial hair and a deeper voice, or may have a mastectomy and/or hysterectomy.
Some trans men retain their female reproductive organs and are able to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term, although they may have an outwardly masculine appearance. Thomas Beattie is an example of a trans man who has ‘gone public’ with his pregnancies although of course many more trans men become pregnant without such media attention. Trans men of course may choose to terminate a pregnancy, hence the banner which called out for the right to choose for all those who can become pregnant, male or female.
We believe it’s important for young people to acknowledge and understand the implications of sex, gender and sexuality with respect to pregnancy and are keen to address the diversity of those who are affected by pregnancy, abortion and childbirth.