This post is part of our week-long series on the personal impact of the current state of reproductive health, rights, and justice.
by Ezekiel Reis Burgin
Reis Burgin is an academic, an activist, a therapist, and a social worker. He holds a BA in Psychology and Sociology and a Master’s in Social Work. His first contribution to The Literature (as “they” call it) will be coming out in July 2013, a chapter in Social Justice in Clinical Practice: A Liberation Health Framework for Social Work.
I am a man.
And one day I want to be a father.
I’m inspired and amazed by the fathers out there, including my own, who are wonderful, caring, compassionate parents, and I want to be one to add to that beautiful, diverse array of parents.
I’m inspired and amazed by the men out there, who aren’t fathers, and who are wonderful, caring, and compassionate adults, and I want to be one of those too, and to be a father to help raise more people to be wonderful, caring, and compassionate individuals.
The things I like about babies are different than the things I like about toddlers, different too from the excitement of raising pre-adolescent children or teens. My partner and I have had many discussions about what it would like to be feminist parents, about how we’ll go about raising our kids in as anti-racist, feminist, and sex-positive a way as we can. We’ve talked about our different skills, as they apply to kids, how I’ll be pleased as punch to help the kids with math, and how he is excited to hang out with an infant. In our discussions we’ve also explored potential challenges, due to careers, and money, and all the little things that partners who are thinking about kids talk about.
So suffice it to say, I’m a pro-kid type of guy.
Because I am trans, I am also a guy that could conceivably gestate a child.
And that thought fills me with dread. Typing those words, thinking those words causes my stomach to clench, my mouth to fill with too much saliva, my throat to close, and shivers to roll down my spine. I breathe deeply, filling my lungs slowly, trying to slow too my heart, beating far too rapidly from that terrifying, panic-inducing thought. My face is too warm, my muscles are clenching in fear. I feel like my skin is crawling and I need to brush off my legs, my arms, my shoulders, to clean myself of this thought, to escape from it. I use the most clinical but vague language I can when I think these thoughts, I avoid repeating them, even in the recesses of my own brain, choosing instead to refer to them as “these thoughts.” “These thoughts” are the ones I try to avoid saying aloud, or typing too often, because to do so would paralyze me.
I love kids. I want to raise kids. I respect and admire those who choose to allow another life to grow in them, to birth another person. Typing these words is calming, for it is such a true, wonderful statement. My breathing returns to normal, my muscles loosen, a smile alights on my face. I am in awe of those who are willing and able to do this, to be pregnant, to bring new life into the world.
I know of men, and have known men, who are not like me. Who wanted a child and were willing to carry it inside themselves. I respect them, am amazed by them, but I cannot understand them.
As a trans man, I have spent much of my adult life coming to terms with my body, coming to see it as something that I want to reside in. But this tentative truce I have with my body, more specifically with how my body moves through the world and is interpreted by others, is precarious. Only recently have I been able to not feel every wrong pronoun, “ladies,” or “ma’am,” as a punch, a kick, frankly, an assault to my Self. This ability is due to years of struggle, surgery, and hormones. It has taken these things for me to feel at home in my body even when others see a Me that is not here. This truce requires my control of my body, my control of myself. I cannot love a body that is not meaningfully mine, and my body cannot be meaningfully mine if I do not have absolute control over what I do, where I go, how I move through the world. I am lucky (and angry that it is matter of “luck,” angry that so many people do not share in this “luck”), that I do have that control over my body.
But in moments when I think about these terrifying thoughts, when I commit them to paper, when I acknowledge to myself that specific reality, I am all too aware of how close I am to having that control taken from me.
I will type these words only once today, and try to push them aside upon hitting Enter, because they are so scary, so full of visceral revulsion and panic for me: if I were to somehow, somewhen become pregnant…
…my mind draws a blank. That potential is too much, it is impossible to contemplate. How could I survive that experience, having my body taken from me, wrested from my control by biology and society? I couldn’t.
What then, is the meaning of abortion rights for me, as a trans man? Abortion rights are my ability to live. So that one day I may become a father.
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