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.”
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 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.