by féi hernandez
My trans identity has always been about my body, but more so about my womb, my desire to bear a child and be a mother. As a trans femme person assigned male at birth (AMAB), I felt uncomfortable naming my experience with my womb. I could recount all the times I felt it throb and felt its thirst to hold something, but I struggled to articulate it.
I wish I could find solace in a celebration of all that I have been able to give birth to. Poems. Artwork. Writings. Songs. A spirit school for developing spiritual practitioners. Yet my womb, my desire to bear children in my body is what brought me to my transness, to my spiritual practice, and to the community I needed to carry me through this transcendental journey.
As the years passed, motherhood felt like it had become more intangible—further from me. I was vulnerable to my body’s changes at 28 years old. I was entering Dad-Bod mode, my facial hair was growing in thicker, I was squaring, and my weight was creating a lot of body dysmorphia for me with no child in my belly. I wanted to see what could help me feel more connected to my gender expression and my femininity.
Recently, I reached out to a health specialist at FOLX to inquire about Hormonal Replacement Therapy. We talked about a lot in the 30-minute consultation I paid $59.00 for, but there was one particular moment that felt full circle. While I knew the effect estrogen would have on my testosterone production and fertility, I wasn’t expecting for this to come up in the conversation. Thinking ahead and considering sperm banking took me for a spin. I hit the brakes and my whole life tumbled before me. The point of entry to my transness (birthing, bearing children, and fertility) seemed to find me even as I tried to ignore it to lessen the grief.
I was also having concerns about growing older. My body had changed dramatically over a short period of time. I had gained weight after surviving Covid-19 and a car accident that left me with traumatic brain injury (TBI). I was economically affected as I could not produce work. I was dealing with PTSD, my little brother’s death, a new disability, all while still not having a partner, a child, or building a family like many others around me. Cis heteronormative pressures of all colonized types began to creep into my trans body. I logged out of the zoom consultation, reviewed all the notes I took, and began processing. I immediately started calculating when all the birthing people in my family had children. I realized I was past the age my mom was when she gave birth to me. Anxiety fueled me to math in ways I never could before. I felt incompentent, as though I had failed at being and doing what I was supposed to do on this earth—birthing from my body, something pivotal and important within me. I was single and had no love interest in mind, so I questioned when I’d be able to experience motherhood. Clearly, I was also associating motherhood with being partnered and in love as if they’re mutually exclusive.
I mourned. I cried. Maybe I could do it on my own. But did I want to walk the same traumatic, difficult, yet path experience my mom had as a single parent? Did I have money to go through lengthy procedures that involved a medical system I didn’t trust? What if the person holding my baby ran away with them? How do I deal with the legalities that come with having a surrogate? It is all so unbearably confusing! I would lay in bed in wrath thinking of all the men I could’ve convinced to impregnate me. I wrote into the first night angrily, and every night after, until it became clearer.
I want to name the culture of immediate fixing: superficially healing wounds by intellectualizing the experience instead of feeling and studying the emotions that naturally arise. It’s clear we want to avoid the inevitable suffering that comes with holding said emotions, even the good ones. When sharing my painful truth regarding my womb, my desire to childbear as a trans person, I have been asked to pivot and instead look at all that I’ve been able to birth, symbolically—but finding satisfaction in symbolic birth wasn’t helping me move past this. People jump to finding solutions when they don’t want to see me suffer because they love me, but I believe that it is essential for us to hold this pain longer, to bear witness to this revealing longer, and let it change us. Our instinct is to run away from the discomfort of the questions my relationship to my womb, childbearing, and my trans experience may bring up in all of us. Whether my experience may be too spiritual, too unscientific or unquantifiable, or too sensitive—it’s real. This may feel new to folks who are unfamiliar with yearning for a physiological function, an organ, or a defining experience they can’t live through its completion because of their physical impediments. So I want to challenge us to consider that maybe what I’m revealing is actually an ancient, Indigenous reality for so many humans on this planet that don’t have the language or safety to be able to live in their truth.
I was reminded of a funeral, a spiritual miscarriage I experienced many years ago in the dirt lot of my first home. My mother prepared a bath for me with romero, lavender, dry roses, and sea salt after my flooding came. The flooding felt like something visceral spilling out of me followed by a sinking feeling that I had, without consent and control, been separated from something within me. I had been in ceremony with myself the days leading up to that moment around childbearing, identifying my womb, naming it, and questioning why I had been thrust into a body without the function I knew was a part of me. Semi-answers started pouring through during the ceremony, and after the bath, I felt more healed. I was able to enter a womb of my own needing. The romero protected my spiritually open womb from any more transgressions. The lavender laid me to rest. The dry roses helped ease my pain, held me in a sweet aroma and tenderness. The sea salt absorbed the heaviness and helped create space to be vulnerable and affirmed. My mother bore witness to my suffering and wrapped me in a white towel. I knew it was a wound from time immemorial. A past life? Or maybe it was all the stress I was under at the time. One thing was certain, I was grieving the loss of a child I never had, a miscarriage in multiple ways. I had just begun my training to become a postpartum doula through Birthworkers of Color. The experience activated something in me that I was afraid to know existed. I have a womb. Even if it’s one that can’t exist how I need it to, or bear the children I wish to home. It’s invisible yet alive within me. There is no science or way for me to conjure my ancestors, spirit guides, or TransGod to prove otherwise. Yet my mother held me after she pulled me out of the bathtub, and together we held vigil to a spirit child within me that could not metastasize fully. I drowned in tears and my mother wept with me. We mourned the children we’ve lost, lit candles, and tied red string around my waist to keep whatever was left of me together.
It has been years since that incident, and I’ve never given myself space to allow my yearning to be a birthing person unfurl. The way my mother held space for me in our yard that night is not the way the world-at-large holds me. I fear reliving the pain of being told I’m unacceptable, alien, sick, or taking up space that isn’t mine. It has kept me from articulating my truth in the ways I’m doing now.
My truth is that if I could, I’d have a womb surgically introduced to my body. I’d be whole if I did. Having a womb would let me breathe fuller. My calling is to be a mother, a birther of beautiful things, but being limited by a physiological counterpart is distressing. It’s a quiet doom to find hope in all the other births. To have the ability to birth life in this way would make me feel like I am not broken, unlovable, incapable.
I want to believe that before I entered this life on earth I chose my experience: my body, it’s diaspora, my eye color, my family, my laugh, my community, my hair etc. At least in my choosing I could blame myself for not having what I needed. I could blame myself for my brokenness. With this perspective it’s easier to solve the mystery, find answers and consolation amidst the grief: I did this, I am to blame. It’s a “lesson” of my own making. Maybe I was brought to suffer in this way so that I could write about it and hopefully help someone else who’s going through something similar? Maybe I’m here to reveal to the world more about their humanity through my suffering? It’s hard to create this narrative to lessen the damage of my reality—although it could very well be true. On horrible days I condemn nature and TransGod for taking from me what I need to be complete: a functioning womb in the body I’m in. But alas, there is only this féi, capable of birthwork to help redefine and expand notions of mother/parent hood and non-nuclear families.
My hope is that through this essay we can move beyond a linear process of healing (eg: pain to happiness), expand the space for complex identities, and hold our emotions longer. Through this essay I offer my process as one of revelation with many waves of elation, discovery, grief, joy, and peace that move to their own rhythm. Even in my longing, I am birthing a new world. There’s no consolation for the kind of birthing I wish I was capable of, but I gift you, my reader, this: my truth.
In the present, so many of us TGNC (Trans Gender Non-Confirming) BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are already under constant attack. We regularly face violence from the state, family, community, or ourselves (from all the internalized stigmatization). So nowadays we search for sweet resolves, answers for us by us, resolutions with happy endings, and decolonial hope.
I hope that by exploring trans AMAB folk’s yearning for child bearing we can make room for a new world of possibilities for all types of bodies and experiences. Although this lived experience is painful, it has given me the opportunity to reshape my inner world and how I operate outside of it.
As a result of all this, I considered more deeply what limited beliefs I still carried that I needed to let go of. What is family? What is “community”? I realized how limited my imagination was in conjuring the life I wanted to live. I couldn’t see my experience as a love story because I was told I was not enough, ill, or missing something. My imagination existed within a colonial context and I needed to burn it all down. I couldn’t believe the discourse I had daily: did I want a tall handsome cis man of color to be the parent of my children? Was I constructing, in my soul, the prototype the American dream had sold so many immigrants? I can only be a mother if the child comes from my own body. I didn’t actually believe any of this. My soul began to break through the limited scope of my understanding. Soft tender light shone through and pulled me out.
I began building the blueprint for a home for TGNC BIPOC parents and children. When I close my eyes I see a purple, pink, and blue five story house. Designed and built as a community. The house is in a meadow surrounded by pine trees and the scent of the ocean in the wind. It’s a safe haven to blossom and build a world where we can center love. The bounds of connection are endless. We are possible in ways unimaginable. Everyone’s fulfilled in the body they need and our understanding of being is expansive. We co-parent gently and fiercely as a community, or in units of one’s consensual choosing. This is the world I want my children to grow in, which means I must live in it now.
I still have moments like the zoom call with the consultant with FOLX that take me back to the start of my journey as a trans person. There’s something that says let your experience be a full one. Let every single part of your body speak, let every need be named, let everything that needs to bloom blossom, and all that needs to shift transform. Let your metamorphosis engulf you and have everyone see you, so they can see themselves too. There’s something that guides me to and from certain people. I want to believe it’s the child I lost and mourn that guides me towards their young being. The closer I feel with my child the more I realize the work is in decolonizing motherhood, transness, the body, birthing, and living in a fuller, safer world. The more I allow the possibility of my experience to reveal the possibilities of life on Earth, outside of the lens of Western colonialism, I can see that my child and I are possible right now. In this very moment we are together and in presence, even if a physical body is what keeps us apart. While this brings me consolation on a bad day, there’s the grief that exists regardless. Touching each other is beyond even the strongest spiritual connection. As I allow myself space to mourn and wallow, the more I am able to get back up and live, patiently awaiting the slow reveal of what this was all for. I, as well as my community, shouldn’t have to fight to be alive, feel full, or human. Being alive, surviving, or on a good day thriving in a capitalist and colonized world is something we celebrate because we are bound by it; but I want to know what my experience would be like in a world where fate is us becoming all that we need to without the fear of persecution and systemic violence.
I will have children eventually, even if it won’t be directly from my body. I am open too, in acknowledging how much fulfillment and joy I have experienced mothering Kosmoh, my TransGod sent puppy. I am open to seeing my creations both private to me and public to others alike be held in the reverence they deserve as my children. Especially Hood Criatura, my first full length poetry collection published by Sundress Publications. Yet, while I maintain a healthy (sometimes obsessive) relationship with birthing new projects, more grand every time, it doesn’t always feel fulfilling in the ways I need it to. I have also become open to exploring a life where motherhood is only one facet of my purpose. I wonder how many experiences I’ve missed out on or have kept myself from because bearing children was always so central to my becoming. I want to give myself the opportunity to be sensual, find pleasure, turn my acts of service inward (no pun intended), and continue to surround myself with community that sees me in truth.
I stand on my porch sometimes overlooking the dirt lot in my yard. We still haven’t found the time to prepare for a garden to blossom, but right where we buried my spiritual child, yellow flowers always bloom.
Featured image by Taryn Elliott.
féi hernandez is a trans, Inglewood-raised, formerly undocumented immigrant author of the full-length poetry collection Hood Criatura, which was on NPR’s Best Books of 2020. They are a Define American Fellow for 2021 and are currently the Board President of Gender Justice Los Angeles. They have been published in POETRY, Autostraddle, Immigrant Report, The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext, forthcoming Somewhere We are Human, and more. féi is the founder of The House of Ethér a center that provides spiritual healing. féi launched Spirit School for the Divinely Gifted, which centers spiritual teachings for TGNC BIPOC practitioners.
Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Resources
- Meet Me in the Yes: Transition After Sexual Assault
- Finally Feeling Comfortable: The Necessity of Trans-Affirming, Trauma-Informed Care
Trans Bodies, Trans Choices Films
- Watch Trans Bodies, Trans Choices here and access the transcript.
- Watch I Didn’t Think I’d Make It here and access the transcript.
- Watch My Abortion Saved My Life here and access the transcript.
- Watch the Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Having a Baby IG Live replay here and access the transcript.
- Watch the #TransBodiesTransChoices Online Townhall replay here and access the transcript.
Getting an Abortion
- Under 18 and need an abortion + free legal representation for judicial bypass? Call or text Jane’s Due Process: 1-866-999-5263
- The National Network of Abortion Funds connects abortion seekers with grassroots organizations that can support financial and logistical needs here
- Tips on how to choose a good abortion provider and questions to ask a clinic
- The Brigid Alliance arranges and funds travel, along with related needs, to support individuals across the country who are forced to travel for later abortion care.
For Clinicians and Providers
- Trans-Inclusive Abortion Services: a manual for providers on operationalizing trans-incluslive policies and practices in an abortion setting
Calls to Action
- Sign on and Demand #AbortionWithinReach: Abortion funds have come together to deliver an unprecedented bold statement, explicitly identifying what it means for abortion to be truly accessible for our callers. As we shine a light on these demands, we also want to spotlight independent clinics, who are our partners on the front lines giving support and care to abortion seekers. Independent clinics perform the majority of abortions in the U.S., and show up big as plaintiffs in the monumental cases of the past few years.
- Expand the Supreme Court & Save Abortion Rights. Sign the petition here.
- Urge federal elected officials to end the Hyde Amendment, the Global Gag Rule, and the Helms Amendment. Learn more and take action to expressly urge support for the EACH Act, the Global Health, Empowerment, & Rights Act, and the Abortion is Healthcare Everywhere Act.
- Invest in abortion clinics, especially community-led health care facilities.
- Talk about abortion! Change culture and shift stigma through powerful, values-based conversations. We believe dialogue, storytelling, and intentional conversations are powerful tools to organize and strengthen our movement. This guide for heart-to-heart abortion conversations from NNAF and this toolkit from Chicago Abortion Fund will support you to hold a small group gathering, house party, or action space where you can invite your friends, family, and acquaintances into meaningful conversations about abortion, issues that relate to abortion, and why you support abortion funds.
- Support the Black reproductive justice policy agenda, which outlines proactive policy solutions to address issues at the intersections of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity within the situational impacts of economics, politics and culture that make up the lived experiences of Black women, femmes, girls and gender-expansive individuals in the United States.
- Invest in long-term sustainable models of care that supplement existing structures of support and center the expertise of those who have been laying this groundwork for years so that communities have reliable support systems that contribute to one’s current and future ability to thrive.
- We urge all individuals knowledgeable about a person’s reproductive choices to make a commitment to not – under any circumstances – punish, criminalize or report any person for any pregnancy decision or seeking medical assistance for a decision. This includes abortion funders, public health authorities, clinicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, and community members.
Resources on Pregnancy as a Transgender Person
- Trans Bodies, Trans Choices: Having a Baby – IG Live Replay
- The Queer & Trans People of Color Birthwerq Project
- BOOK: How We Do Family: From Adoption to Trans Pregnancy, What We Learned about Love and LGBTQ Parenthood by Trystan Reese
- Meet the birth workers helping transgender parents bring babies into the world and break stigmas.
- Preparing for Pregnancy as a Non-Binary Person (Family Equality)
- Transgender Pregnancy: Moving Past Misconceptions (Healthline)
- From erasure to opportunity: a qualitative study of the experiences of transgender men around pregnancy and recommendations for providers.
- TransLash Podcast, Episode 13 ‘Trans Love’ feat. Precious Brady-Davis, who appeared with her husband Myles on the TLC special, My Pregnant Husband.
- If a transgender man stops taking his testosterone, his menstrual cycle often returns, reportedly within about 6 months.
- Explore TransLash’s guide for trans dads and TGNC parents.
‘Trans Bodies, Trans Choices’ Press
- Teen Vogue [EXCLUSIVE]
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