I followed a trans man’s pregnancy for a year. Here’s what happened.

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Photo by Matt Walsh
Liam Johns and Duane Danielson, of Charlotte, N.C., invited The Charlotte Observer to follow their journey from pregnancy to fatherhood.

The first time I met Liam Johns was at Central Coffee in Plaza on a Saturday morning.  

This coffee shop, he told me, was one of the few spots he felt safe as a transgender man. I knew what he meant — Plaza Midwood is one of Charlotte’s more progressive neighborhoods. But it was my job to take Liam’s story beyond this first interview, in his safe space, and share it with the public.

Liam’s pregnancy is, biologically-speaking, fundamentally similar to the more than 100 million people around the world who give birth each year. Yet, very few experiences resemble his.

Medical research and cultural references to trans men having babies are almost nonexistent in a global society where it’s assumed that only women will be giving birth. And, as vast as the Internet is, there’s no guidebook for trans men who still have their uteruses and want to carry children. Liam says he often felt all alone: out of place on maternity message boards, disregarded by online fertility sites and generally misunderstood by strangers.

So, his reason for sharing his story in such an intimate, yet public way, was simple, he said:

“There are other people like me. And there are gonna be people other than me … Hopefully by the time our child is [of] school age, we won’t have to be activists anymore.”

#TeamPregnantDad

For more than 12 months, Liam and his husband Duane allowed me and a videographer from The Charlotte Observer to follow them from the first trimester to birth. My notebooks were filled with details of both their overwhelming joy and never-ending stress as prenatal ultrasounds and baby showers turned into pediatrician visits and dirty diapers.

Here are 5 highlights from the series, titled #TeamPregnantDad:

Chapter 1: My favorite part of this first piece is how Liam and Duane’s not-so-platonic sperm donor arrangement blossoms into full-on love story.  

Chapter 2: Prepare for an emotional rollercoaster. Liam and Duane find out they’re pregnant and wait a whole 24 hours before they blow up Facebook with the news. Things go pretty well until Duane hears snide comments at work. Liam puts a brave face on but struggles when he is hospitalized with the flu and has to constantly correct nurses: Yes, he’s pregnant. But no, he’s not a “she” or “her.”

Chapter 3: If your mother has ever stressed you out, this one’s for you. Liam’s already-delicate dynamic with his family is strained during his pregnancy. He’s further on edge every time he leaves the house, as people won’t stop staring at his beard and baby bump.

Chapter 4: After pregnancy complications, Liam spends a whirlwind 24 hours in the hospital and the health of his and Duane’s baby is uncertain.

Chapter 5: People have been asking “Is it a boy or a girl?” Liam and Duane aren’t telling. Here, they explain how they’ll raise their child gender-neutral.

12 COMMENTS

  1. It’s been awhile since a news story has made me truly sick to my stomach. This poor, poor baby. Liam is pushing “his” own agenda on that child and setting it up for a lifetime of isolation and confusion. This is the worst form of emotional abuse and it’s heartbreaking that an innocent child will have to endure this. He may think this is all fun and games and he’s doing the best thing for his child by not discussing gender but he’s causing irreversible damage. I am just so disgusted by this. I wish legal intervention could occur to get that baby into an emotionally stable home. A baby is not a social experiment.

    • It’s actually people like you who cause irreversible damage, confusion, & isolation with your bigotry. Respect people’s pronouns, respect people’s rights to live their lives.
      This has absolutely zero effect on you, shame on you anonymous prick

      • Liam can live his life however he wants. He’s an adult. I don’t give a damn about him. I care about the innocent baby being brought up in that emotionally unstable household, with a parent who is clearly mentally ill. A baby who will not even know what gender/sex it is because daddy thinks gender is a dirty word and not a part of functioning society. That child will spends its life in therapy due to the damage his “father” is inflicting because he is too messed up in the head. It’s tragic.

        • And the Observer disabled comments because I’m willing to bet a large majority would agree with me, and that’s not PC. Check out their Facebook comments on the story.

  2. The vituperation here is in direct proportion with the level of stupidity (I didn’t say “ignorance” because it implies that information is not available. Stupidity is voluntary.) of the poster(s). Get your noses out of your book of fairy tales and try some science on for a change.

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