Our First Pride Month As Parents

As Pride Month draws to a close, let this first be a reminder that we, the LGBTQIA+ community, exist. We always have, and we always will. Secondly, let this also be a reminder that active allyship matters year-round and not just for the month of June. Disgustingly, but not surprisingly, too many companies rainbow wash their western social media accounts and physical premises whilst doing nothing to support the LGBTQIA+ community in parts of the world where simply living life as your authentic self could get you imprisoned or, worse still, killed.

Last Pride month, we were patiently awaiting our little baby’s arrival. This Pride month has been our first as parents. Looking back, it’s interesting to see how being parents has slightly changed how we mark Pride Month. For us, Pride has, and always will be, a protest. Our rights are still being attacked, our right to live, our right to be our authentic selves. So this month, we’ve been looking at who shows active allyship year-round and who is only doing it for June (not cool, in case you’re wondering).

We’ve also been getting Alice involved in seeing some of the various installations near us, and with Pride In London being this weekend, we are excited to be taking her on her first Pride parade with friends from football (look out for the Chelsea Pride bus!). Alice might still be a baby, but for us, getting her involved and giving her the understanding of why Pride is needed, the history and the work that is still yet to be complete is super important to us as members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Just like no child is born racist, no child is born homophobic, biphobic, transphobic or interphobic. Children learn from the environment that they’re brought up in, so bringing Alice up around diversity, inclusion, and equality is a must.

Another thing we’re planning to do with Alice is to take a photo of her each June for Pride with the Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flag, which was designed last year by the wonderful Valentino Vecchietti. With Alex being trans and me (Steph) being intersex, this flag really does represent us. All too often, the trans and intersex communities are forgotten about when people talk about issues the LGBTQIA+ community face, so to see both of our community’s flags on the new design gives us some hope for the future that people will be more inclusive in their language and conversations. Alice will grow up to be a very active ally at the very least, so it will be great to be able to show her how she’s growing up around Pride and how we mark it each year. If you haven’t guessed already, Alex and I are very sentimental and prefer to take photos and videos to capture experiences rather than buying things which will only cause clutter. However, there are some things we’ve brought to show Alice when she’s older, including our friend AJ Silver’s book, Supporting Queer Birth, for which I was very honoured to be interviewed whilst pregnant with Alice. Being able to share my lived experience as an intersex person who has had many dealings with perinatal care (both negative and positive) is so important because we’re very rarely heard. It’s also why Alex and I were honoured to be part of The Positive Birth Company’s #ProudParent campaign last year.

Well, that’s how we’ve marked Pride month; quieter than we originally planned for various reasons, but as we always say – Pride is every day and not just for June! Allies show up every day of the year, call people out and pull them up on their language and behaviour when needed. So don’t let comments slide. We should be well past that now!

Finally, one last thing. This year’s world cup is being played in a country where it is illegal to simply be your authentic self if you’re LGBTQIA+, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg since Qatar abuse numerous human rights. So remember that when you see FIFA promoting equality, inclusion and diversity because if they genuinely cared, the world cup wouldn’t be held in a place where it is so unsafe for so many people.

Alice, a white baby with brown hair is wearing a rainbow coloured vest with white long sleeved vest underneath and dark blue jeans. She is sat on an Intersex-Inclusive Pride flag and holding her hair in one of her hands.
Alice sitting on her Intersex-Inclusive Pride Flag

Navigating Pregnancy When One Of You Is Intersex And The Other Is Trans

Firstly, Happy Pride! June happens to be our favourite month of the year, not only because it’s pride month, but our anniversary also happens to be today! Yes, we got together on the 28th of June, the same day as the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. For the LGBTQIA+ community, it’s the month where we celebrate how far we’ve come thanks to those who came before us, but at the same time raise awareness that there is still much more to be done. Even in 2021, the world isn’t a safe place for everyone, especially when there are still countries in the world where being your true authentic self is dangerous. There’s also those in power who keep trying to take away our community’s basic rights, rights our elders fought for.

2021 for us is special though, it’s the year that we become parents and a family of 3. But being LGBTQIA+ parents is far from easy. The journey to parenthood has been tough on us both. There have been moments of heartbreak with repeated miscarriages, and the system itself is full of red tape and discrimination. In addition, it’s been exhausting having to deal with people who don’t understand what we’ve been through, which is why for us, it’s so important that we’re visible, not only to challenge the outdated views and myths that you can’t have children if you’re intersex or transgender, but also to provide hope to other LGBTQIA+ people who want to become parents themselves. This year, we’re honoured to be part of The Positive Birth Company’s #ProudParent campaign, sharing our story alongside some other amazing LGBTQIA+ parents and parents-to-be, and you can read all the stories here.

Being LGBTQIA+ in a maternity/pregnancy care environment throws a whole host of emotions at you. So often misunderstood, Alex and I were extremely guarded and protective of each other until I met my community midwife, who, with her compassion, empathy, and determination to get it right, broke down every single barrier in the space of two hours. Unfortunately, she left when I was 16 weeks, but our new midwife is just as caring and empathetic, and it’s meant that we’ve felt welcomed, included but above all, safe. How did they manage it? By asking open-ended questions, not making assumptions, and giving us the time and safe space we needed to open up. It takes a lot to trust someone in the medical profession when you’ve been subjected to medical trauma in the past.

For me, my medical trauma started as a young child. Put on hormones at just 9 years old because my body didn’t ‘conform’ to the not so lovely little tick box that doctors have. I struggled with body image, being bullied and even comments from some family members regarding me being on hormone replacement therapy. When I moved in permanently with gran at 14, one of the first things she did was attempt to get me off the hormone tablets that I didn’t want to be on. We went to the doctors, only to be told that it was in my ‘best interests’ to stay on them despite horrific side effects, mood swings and further down the line, a blood clot. Intersex kids are seen as medical emergencies, our bodies over-medicalised and decisions on surgeries, hormones etc., made before we’re even old enough to voice our own opinions.

For Alex, on the other hand, it was a case of not being believed by healthcare professionals. When Alex first went to ask his GP to refer him to the GIC, he was told he needed therapy instead (he didn’t). That wasn’t the only issue; once the GP finally did the referral, rather than changing gender markers and details on his record, they completely deleted his old NHS record and set up a new one. It meant that vital medical history was deleted, putting Alex at risk, and even now, any medical problem he has is often blamed on his hormones rather than actually investigated. It’s resulted in Alex becoming so guarded that we’ve often gone to walk-in for medical attention instead of the GP. The only time he now goes to the doctors is for blood tests and testosterone shots, as these are handled by the nurses with who he has a better experience.

We had this conversation about our struggles with healthcare professionals a while back, and a few things became super clear. Firstly, those who stop trans people from accessing the healthcare and referrals they need are often the same ones dishing out hormones to intersex kids causing irreparable damage. Secondly, those in power trying to restrict trans healthcare are often the same ones who allow doctors to perform cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids before they’ve even been able to voice their opinion. Not only is it hypocrisy at its finest, but it’s a massive issue because cosmetic surgeries on intersex kids are irreversible and come with lifelong consequences, especially when they’re performed before the child has even had a chance to explore their identity and tell the world who they are.

Back to our journey to parenthood, and as you can probably already tell, my decision to be the gestational parent wasn’t an easy one. Alex would never even contemplate carrying, so we knew straight away that if we were going to do this, it would be me doing the carrying. So naturally, I felt excited but nervous because of my past experiences. However, I found focusing on the end and having our bundle of joy helped me through the appointments and hormone courses.

What no one prepares you for, however, is the heartbreak of pregnancy loss. The one in 2019 shattered me, and my mental health took a massive hit. It’s difficult enough to deal with miscarriage alone, I was away with work at the time, and Alex was working as well, so he couldn’t come on this trip with me. No one on the trip knew I was pregnant. We’d all been at pride the day before, and my excuse for not drinking was that I was on antibiotics at the time. Not a complete lie, as I actually was! But it meant that when I realised I was miscarrying just before boarding the flight, I didn’t feel able to tell any of them. I took the flight, got to the hotel, checked in and then made an excuse as to why I wouldn’t go shopping before making my way to the hospital. From there, it was confirmed that I was miscarrying. I had Alex on the phone in a panic and feeling guilty that I was going through it alone, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the lack of empathy and support from one of the nursing staff. When they looked through my notes, realised I’m intersex and had repeated miscarriages, they took it on themselves to tell me that they were surprised I’d even gotten pregnant in the first place and that Alex and I should look at other options. Anyone who’s suffered miscarriage or baby loss will know that it destroys you inside. To have that comment thrown in the mix sent me to an extremely dark place. It was the very thing that caused both Alex and I to become guarded about what we shared and whom we shared it with regarding maternity care after breaking down the walls we’d previously had built up from our individual experiences with healthcare professionals.

Back to now, and to be so close to meeting our baby fills us with joy, hope and a sense of achievement. Joy because we knew that one day, we would become parents; it was something we’d spoken about early on. It was just a case of when would be the right time not only work-wise but also allowing a new team of healthcare professionals into our lives when we’d both had previous bad experiences. Hope for the future, that the world is a more welcoming place and more progress is made, so that future generations don’t have the same struggles that we do now. Finally, a sense of achievement in that my body isn’t a failure, and we’ve proven the person who made that shocking comment almost two years ago wrong. Being intersex or transgender doesn’t exclude you from becoming a parent; we’re living proof of that fact along with many others.

Why We Aren’t Throwing A Gender Reveal

There’s no better feeling during pregnancy than finally getting over the halfway mark! There’s just something magical about having the 20-week scan and the sense of reality that comes with it. It also marks the point where the planning and preparation for your little bundle of joy gets into full swing. Except for us, we’re not thinking about whether to paint the nursery pink or blue. The fact is, we’re not focusing on the gender of our baby at all. 

Why? 

Well, there are several reasons. Firstly, I’m living proof that what a scan says regarding gender isn’t always true. My mum has an ‘It’s A Boy’ teddy bear with quite an interesting story behind it (embarrassing for the person who got it, though!) Why? Because my parents thought they were having a boy after being told what they thought was my gender on a scan, and then found out I wasn’t a boy when I was born. Ok, the 1990s didn’t have the best ultrasound machines, but you can see why you shouldn’t rely on your scan results. My body produces too much testosterone, and, as a result, I have a lot of masculine features like excess hair (especially face and neck!). Upper estimates suggest that 2-3% of the world’s population are intersex like myself. That’s about the same number of people born with red hair, so it’s not as rare as people are lead to believe, and yes, intersex people can and do have children!

There’s also the simple fact that gender and genitalia are two different things. Those who have found Family Of Wanderlusters through my travel blog, Instagram or YouTube channels, or through Alex and I sharing our story via The Positive Birth Company for Pride will already know that Alex is transgender, and he is very much of the opinion that colours and clothes should not be gendered, which I agree with! Will our child be brought up entirely gender-neutral to enable them to explore their own identity as they grow? I wish we could do that, but the world is so gendered that all we can do is show them that toys, clothes, activities, colours etc., are not gender-specific. If they want to play with lego? Then they can. Want to play football? Go ahead. Want a dolls house? Then we’ll get them one. Wear dresses? Fine. You get the picture.

For some in the intersex, transgender, and non-binary communities, gender reveals hurt. They reinforce the idea that girls like pink, wear dresses and play with dolls and makeup and need to be wrapped up in cotton wool, whilst boys like blue and play rough, which certainly isn’t the case. Not only does it reinforce dangerous stereotypes surrounding gender, but it also erases those who are intersex and reinforces the idea that we don’t exist along with those who are transgender, non-binary or gender non-conforming. Let’s face it, they aren’t gender reveals, they are genital reveals, and frankly, children shouldn’t be treated differently based on what’s between their legs. 

Last but not least, on top of reinforcing gender stereotypes, gender reveals also have an environmental cost. There have been instances where these reveals have caused wildfires, explosions, and worse, affecting biodiverse ecosystems for years to come. There are also news articles online linking them to deaths when the reveals have gone horribly wrong, and nobody wants that on their conscience. 

Let’s face it, we’re in 2021, and frankly, the outdated practice of throwing a gender reveal party needs to stop. As for those who have gender reveals just to celebrate their bundle of joy, that’s what baby showers are for, and you can easily have a gender-neutral themed one to do just that! 

Five Things You Should NEVER Say To LGBTQIA+ Parents

Two things have unfortunately angered us over the last few weeks or so. First of all, someone in the family decided to share the news that Alex and I are expecting before we had a chance to tell extended family and friends. The second? Responses we’ve had all because we’re LGBTQIA+ parents to be on top of the fact that I’m disabled and pregnant. There are just things you NEVER say to disabled parentsĀ (see blog post on that here), and there are also things you NEVER say to LGBTQIA+ parents! The following list is not exhaustive, but these are all things that we’ve had to listen to from various narrow-minded people since a particular family member outed our news (which you don’t do. Period.)

1. Asking how we’ve had kids

Tip – none of your business! Fact is, there are many ways to have children. Families are created in many different ways, come in all sizes, and no two families are ever the same. Whether someone adopted, used a donor, had a surrogate pregnancy etc., is none of your business, and the intrusive questions aren’t welcome, nor is the calling out from such narrow mindedness.

2. Asking who the real parents are 

We are. End of conversation.

The fact that people even ask us this question gets to me, especially as it’s often asked at the same time people question how we’re having our child. People see parenthood as a very biological thing, but that will never be the case. It takes more than biology and being a donor to be a parent.

3. Asking if our children are or will be LGBTQIA+

We are not mind readers. We don’t have crystal balls, and we can’t see into the future. We can’t tell if our child will be LGBTQIA+ themselves, and guess what? It doesn’t matter, and it’s none of your business whether they are or not! After all, it’s not a choice. Right now, all that matters to us is that our child grows up to be happy, well-rounded, respectful, and as healthy as possible. No matter who they are, they’ll always be loved and accepted because they’re ours.

4. Assuming that our children will get bullied for having LGBTQIA+ parents

Just stop right there. Firstly, I like to think children today are more tolerant and accepting of each other compared to when Alex and I were in school. Also, when we were in school, LGBTQIA+ issues weren’t talked about, something that is now thanks to a requirement for schools to provide LGBT-inclusive education. I’m pleased about this, as it’s something Alex and I didn’t get taught at school, partly because of Section 28, which was finally repealed in England on 18th November 2003 when we were both in primary school. To assume that our child will be bullied just for having LGBTQIA+ parents is hurtful and something we’re hoping won’t happen.

5. Commenting that our children will miss out because of us

Miss out on what exactly? Our child will have everything they need to ensure they aren’t missing out on anything. Saying that they’ll miss out simply because of who Alex and I are is entirely disrespectful. You wouldn’t want anyone questioning your parenting ability or how you plan to bring your child up, so why would you question ours?

As I said initially, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it gives a little bit of insight into what we have to deal with, just because some can’t keep their noses out of our business. Even if it’s under the guise of being inquisitive, it’s not on.