Designing the life you want (and living the life you have)

When I first consulted an endocrinologist to discuss hormone treatments for my condition, she warned me: you can’t get pregnant while taking testosterone, understand? I thought: not worried about that; I’m single and likely to stay that way for a very long time to come. I thought: don’t make me laugh. I had no wish to be a parent, nor any intention of passing on my messed up genes to the next generation.

When I consulted a surgeon six years later to discuss the pros and cons of having a hysterectomy, he strongly encouraged me to go ahead with getting it. Why go through the risk of getting cancer in your ovaries or uterus, he said. You don’t need them so get rid of them. I was persuaded and underwent a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy in 2010. The surgery went smoothly and I especially looked forward to much less dramatic hormone fluctuations afterwards, something that had been affecting my mood more severely than I liked. I wasn’t disappointed.

After the surgery I could take much lower doses of testosterone while maintaining within male range of hormones in my body. I no longer had to worry about the dreaded trough; that time of the cycle when many transmen experience severe mood swings right before their next shot of testosterone. I was elated.

But having a hysterectomy also marked the moment of no return for me. I had already been on testosterone since 2004 and had no intention of ever transitioning back to living publicly as a woman; that bridge had been crossed well and good. But in physical and theoretical terms, I could, if I so wished, do so. I still had a choice. I could, conceivably, be a very hairy, very deep-voiced woman and have intercourse and conceive a child. I could be a biological parent to a child. If I wanted to, which I didn’t.

That changed when I met M. Love has a way of doing that; making you reconsider even your most basic values, beliefs and plans for the future. With M, for the first time in my life, I could imagine a life that included children and me as a parent. I hadn’t even realized this was something I wanted. I had a lot to learn: I hadn’t known, for example, that I would find love — it had snuck up on me. For so much of my life, it had simply seemed like an impossibility, and yet here I was, in a loving partnership. What else had I taken for granted as impossibilities? Was it time to reconsider these too?

Since my hysterectomy I have had no regrets. But I would be lying if I said I did not grieve for the loss of that intangible desire to create a clan of my own, from my own loins. As I become more comfortable with my manhood, I have to grieve for that part of me that will not experience something that is so key to what we are told makes being human great — having a child, a family of your own.

We have other options, of course. My partner and I have discussed the possibility of adoption, or of perhaps inseminating her with the sperm of a donor. These are all exciting and worthy discussions to have as we plan a future together. Don’t mind me, though, as I shed a tear for the child who will never be. The one I could have had, had my life unfolded differently. Sterility takes some getting used to — even when you choose it for all the right reasons.

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