11 Transgender Parents Share Their Paths To Parenthood
“We are more than capable of loving our children just as much and just as efficiently as any other parent.”
Forget power tools and whiskey stones — all these transgender parents want for Father’s Day this year is to be with the ones they love. Some, who transitioned prior to becoming a parent, had to navigate adoption agencies, fertility clinics, and home births before welcoming their new tiny humans into the world. Others transitioned later in life, maturing into motherhood while renegotiating their relationships with older children who remember them as Dad.
BuzzFeed News spoke with 11 parents about their various roads to child-raising. They may be diverse in their gender identities, parenting styles, ages, and experiences, but just like cisgender fathers, these parents all share one important thing in common: an overflowing, unconditional love for their children and their chosen families.
“We are more than capable of loving our children just as much and just as efficiently as any other parent.”
Kayden Coleman, a photo manager at the Franklin Museum in Philadelphia, says he loves absolutely everything about his daughter, Azaelia. “I love when she randomly comes over and gives me a hug and kiss. I love when she says 'Dada!' over and over and thinks it’s hilarious. I love her attachment to both of us.”
When Kayden met his husband, Elijah, a security guard at a pediatric hospital, they fell in love and got married, but never thought they would have kids. “To be honest, we didn't change our minds. It was a surprise. I was off testosterone because I just had top surgery and wound up pregnant. We didn't find out I was pregnant until I was already 5 months along,” said Kayden.
Kayden and Elijah documented Kayden’s transition from female to male and his unexpected pregnancy on their YouTube channel, The Shady Colemans. He says they encounter transphobia online, but have yet to have any in-person confrontations. To critics he says, “We are more than capable of loving our children just as much and just as efficiently as any other parent. Our children will not be any more confused or bullied about my being trans than any other kid is about something like having a single parent.”
Kayden and Elijah don’t have any specific plans yet for Father’s Day other than spending time together as a family. “My daughter is 17 months, so everything is fun right now," said Kayden. "But mostly I enjoy taking her to the park and having her demand that I go up and down the slide with her."
“I get to talk to my daughter about what it means to be bold and strong. I get to talk to my son about being kind and empathic.”
Until Trystan Reese met John Caplow, he assumed children just weren’t in the cards for him as a recently transitioned transgender man. “When I saw him, I knew immediately that he was the person I wanted to spend my life with,” said Trystan. His relationship with John opened up a whole world of family possibility to him. “I married the man of my dreams and got really excited about the idea of co-parenting with him.”
When a relative was no longer able to care for her two young children, Trystan and John became temporary and then permanent legal guardians of Hailey and Riley, who were respectively 1 and 3 years old at the time. “We were in our twenties, living in Los Angeles, working full time at nonprofits,” said Trystan. “We literally picked up the kids and then bought diapers, shoes, clothes, and a bed for them all on the way back home. It was really a crash course for us on becoming parents.”
The family now lives in Portland and enjoys camping, hiking, and going to the beach together. “I feel really lucky. I don’t know how this happened or what I did in a past life to deserve these blessings.”
Trystan says his appreciation for the complexity of the gender identity spectrum informs his parenting. “I get to talk to my daughter about what it means to be bold and strong. I get to talk to my son about being kind and empathic.”
The children, now 4 and 7, don’t recognize that their parents are unconventional, says Trystan. “To them, they’ve always known all different kinds of parenting structures. We have lots of single-parent families, queer families, or blended families in our circles. In their eyes, there is a myriad of ways that kids can be unconditionally loved, accepted, and supported.”
“What’s important is that our kid tells us who they want to be.”
When expectant parents Riley Johnson and Rachel Hennessy settled down in Chicago and decided to start a family, they tried a few different methods before Rachel successfully conceived. “We did three cycles of anonymous bank sperm, two at home and one with a physician,” said Riley. “The process was weird. We were choosing a donor based off of handwriting samples and their answers to certain questions, but we weren’t allowed to see their photos.”
They changed tack and started looking for a donor among their friends. After searching through hundreds of contacts on Facebook, they found a compassionate public defender who they met once through a good friend. To their great delight, he agreed to be their donor. Rachel is serendipitously due on Labor Day.
Many people ask Riley and Rachel if they know the gender of their baby yet. “I mean, I get why it’s in an issue, but to me what’s more important is that our kid tells us who they want to be,” said Riley.
Riley is excited to become a father and curious to watch his future baby grow up. “I think it will be interesting to see what kind of kid we have,” Riley said. “We joke that our kid’s way of rebelling will be [to be] really straight-laced and have no tattoos.”
“To me, he’s just my daddy.”
As a former paramedic firefighter, Chino Scott-Chung was skeptical when his pregnant wife Maya Scott-Chung declared she wanted to have a water birth in their Oakland home — but when the big day came, he was thrilled with their decision. “I was the one who delivered [our child] in the water. It was the most incredible experience of my life — there she was just in my hands,” said Chino. “Then she opened her eyes in the water and looked up at me. I just fell in love with her right then.” Maya and Chino initially weren’t sure what they should have their new daughter, Luna, call him, but Luna decided on her own.
“To me, he’s just my Daddy,” said Luna, now 10. Chino was initially nervous about living up to this paternal role, but ultimately found that raising his daughter as a dad came naturally.
Maya says when they were dating, she could tell that Chino’s mix of strength and vulnerability would make him a great partner and father.
The family maintains a close relationship with their sperm donor, Daniel Bao, who they affectionately refer to as “Duncle.” Daniel has Chinese and Latino heritage, similar to Chino. Daniel and Chino’s mother have become close friends and take a cruise together every summer.
Luna says she loves to sing, dance, act, and make art. She hopes to attend Oakland School for the Arts (OSA) and one day become a professional performer. “She’s a really empathetic, considerate young woman who is blossoming into herself,” said Chino. “She’s just the most amazing young person who’s turning into an amazing young woman.”
“I’m proud that I was able to be there for her, and she’s always been there for me.”
Growing up in Fayette, Missouri, in the 1960s, Kylar Broadus was beaten up every day at school. He didn’t fight back at first, because he was raised to believe that education was a privilege and nothing was going to stand in his way of finishing school.
By age 5, he was already presenting as male. Kylar says his parents both worked two jobs to support his family. “I remember going to work with my father and sitting in the back of his truck. Someone said, ‘Oh, you brought your son along.’ My dad just nodded. They always stood by me and had my back.”
Kylar is a Missouri-based professor, attorney, activist, and public speaker now working as senior public policy counsel of the Transgender Civil Rights Project. In 2010 he founded Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC), the only national civil rights organization dedicated to the needs of trans people of color. “My parents were children of slaves," said Kylar. "They shielded us from all the trauma of their past and taught me how to be a confident black person."
When Kylar remarried and became a stepfather, he was moved by the depth of love he felt for his stepdaughter and the growing strength of their bond. “I was very caring and protective of her. We talked very much like father and daughter.” Kylar recalls his daughter flying out to be by his side when he fell seriously ill and had a major surgery. “I’m proud that I was able to be there for her, and she’s always been there for me,” said Kylar, his voice breaking with emotion.
“I think the success that comes for trans people is to find your new family. You can’t always bring your old one with you.”
“My life has blossomed and expanded beyond what I could have imagined,” said Dianne Piggott. “I look in the mirror and I see the authentic me that I didn’t see for half a century.” When she’s not spending time with her network of close friends, Dianne attends Boise State University, where she is studying to become a therapist. She says she travelled a hard road to reach her current contentment.
At age 35, she was presenting as a man. She had a steady job, a wife of 18 years, and a young son. She also suffered from insomnia, panic attacks, and gender dysphoria that was reaching an unbearable intensity. In 1997 she divorced and moved to Seattle in hopes of transitioning and finding community. After two years of struggling to make money and qualify for hormone therapy, Dianne gave up and moved back to Idaho.
“I was feeling the pain of being separated from my family. I felt unloved and unlovable and that seemed like it was just going to be a permanent state,” said Dianne.
When she met Val, who is now her wife, she came to a place of self-acceptance and decided to transition. “When I called my father and told him I was transitioning, he said, ‘Oh, thank god. I thought you were going to tell me you had become a Republican,'” said Dianne. To her amazement, she was embraced by everyone she knew, with the exception of her son and daughter-in-law, who cut off contact immediately.
“My son is very smart, witty, and bright, and I really do miss that. I miss watching him be a parent to my grandson,” said Dianne. She would love to be a part of his life again, but isn’t holding her breath.
“I feel no lack of love, I feel no lack of family. There are people that I dearly love and I feel that they dearly love me. I think the success that comes for trans people is to find your new family. You can’t always bring your old one with you.”
“My hope is that by introducing her to a wide diversity of people and teaching her the history of her peoples, she'll find herself well-immersed in the unique beauty of her composition and family.”
Louis Mitchell will be spending Father’s Day with his wife, Krysia, and his nearly 3-year-old daughter in his church where he works as a minister in Springfield, Massachusetts. “My faith is the key and foundation of all that I am, including my transition. I can't understand why the Divine thinks that I'm so strong and awesome that I would be good at this journey, but I honor that my particular calling is to hold all of these experiences and to share them to help others. I feel blessed to be a Holy Hybrid,” said Louis.
Louis says he loves reading books to his daughter, playing hide-and-go-seek, and especially hearing her sing songs. “She’s strong and smart, silly and creative. She has a sense of herself and shows a sweet compassion when she feels that someone is upset. She’s curious and fearless,” said Louis.
Although he is conscious of how sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and anti-black racism may affect his daughter in the future, he trusts she will be able to hold her own. “My hope is that by introducing her to a wide diversity of people and teaching her the history of her peoples (Peruvian, Polish, African-American), she'll find herself well-immersed in the unique beauty of her composition and family. She's also a tough one — willful and smart,” said Louis.
“[My son] was amazed and said, ‘Oh, you’re like a cool Transformer!’”
When Willy Wilkinson sat down to explain to his 4-year-old son in age-appropriate terms that he was transgender, he was surprised by his son’s response. “He was amazed and said, ‘Oh, you’re like a cool Transformer!’” said Willy. As a father of three, Willy relishes the joys of his parental role.
“I’m really happy to be a father. I’m happy to be physically male and experience that bond I have with my son. I love having a relationship with my kids as a father and being in the world as a father.”
When he decided to medically transition, the principal at his children’s elementary school invited him in for a meeting to discuss ways they could avoid bias. Inspired by this positive experience, Willy wrote Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency, a forthcoming memoir including suggestions for schools on how to support the kids of trans parents.
Willy currently works in Oakland as a public health consultant, helping organizations, businesses, and educational institutions improve access for LGBT people. He will be partnering with COLAGE to pilot a program for kids with trans parents. Kids will work with peers, mentors, and school staff to reduce isolation and feel more connected to their school community, and learn how to talk about their family stories and respond to intrusive questions.
“I thought it was weird that people were asking if I was going to try to force my child to be transgender,” said Willy. “Around 18 months [kids] really tell you what they want to wear and start to express their gender. We let them express themselves in whatever way they want.”
Willy loves spending time with his children and says some of the best Father’s Days he’s celebrated were really low-key. “They make me breakfast and we play in the backyard,” said Willy.
“She introduces me as her mom and she has never missed a pronoun. She’s just an awesome person.”
Emilie Jackson-Edney says her relationship with her daughter has grown significantly closer since she transitioned. “I came out to my daughter first because she was a Shred Betty. She had dreadlocks and was a skateboarder, so the people she associated with were more on the fringes of society. I figured she would understand,” said Emilie. “She introduces me as her mom and she has never missed a pronoun. She’s just an awesome person.”
Emilie says she also has a son who she is very proud of, and laments that he and his family have decided not to include her in their lives. “When I came out to him, he struggled with that. He said, ‘Look, I love you, but I need to figure this out,'” said Emilie.
In an effort to hide her identity, she initially worked for 37 years in a traditionally hypermasculine environment as a civil engineer. “I became suicidal and felt that there were only two choices for me: face the demons or terminate my life. It scared me, so I sought professional help and came away with the diagnosis of my condition.”
At the age of 56, Emilie transitioned while on the job. “The employer thought that I was covered under their discrimination policy. They enforced their sexual harassment policies and allowed me to transition with dignity and honor.” (In reality, there are no legal protections written into the Idaho Human Rights Act (IHRA) barring discrimination against members of the Idaho LGBTQ community in housing, employment, or business.) Emilie volunteers in Boise with Add the Words, a nonprofit organization working to amend the existing IHRA to include the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity."
“Acceptance of the transgender phenomenon over the previous 60 years has been glacial. I think ignorance leads to fear and fear leads to anger and anger leads to many different forms of oppression,” said Emilie. “I see a lot of changes now. I see transitions happening and more families choosing to stay together.”
“I love everything about being a father. I love those moments of looking at him and realizing that here is this tiny life and I get to be a part of it. There’s no greater feeling.”
Two weeks before their son Aiden was born, Min Matson and his wife were notified by the open adoption agency that Aiden’s birth mother had chosen them to be his adoptive parents. They had been trying to start a family for nearly three years and couldn’t wait to bring their new baby back to their San Francisco home.
They had to overcome significant transphobia to complete the adoption process. Min says the social worker on their case ultimately admitted that her bias was coloring her judgment. “She compared gender dysphoria to being bipolar. I called her on it and said that as a health professional, she should know better by now that being transgender is not the same as mental illness,” said Min. “She acknowledged that her transphobia was getting in her way of being objective, and said she would reassess with her supervisor.”
Min was adopted himself and says he’s grateful for his adoptive parents' guidance. “Being Asian and raised as an adoptee has always been an important kind of life-changing challenge for me. My parents were amazing at helping me understand adoption,” said Min. He recently threw his parents a 50th anniversary celebration in their hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
As a board member of the Transgender Law Center, Min says he hopes he can not only make a difference, but also set a good example for his son. “I want my son to embrace being a part of movements that are important. My son Aiden will always know that I’m trans and I want him to feel like he’s a part of that as well.”
Min says there isn’t anything he doesn’t love about parenthood. “We couldn’t love anything more. I love everything about being a father. I love those moments of looking at him and realizing that here is this tiny life and I get to be a part of it. There’s no greater feeling,” said Min.
“I do a fair bit of sharing and education. The rest of the time, I am just parenting my kids and living my life.”
When Trevor MacDonald and his partner decided to start a family in Winnipeg, Manitoba, his doctors told him to stop taking his testosterone. “I have a beard, a low voice, and I wear typical men's clothing. I express myself this way because it makes me feel like me. My chest surgery was also a very important piece of being able to express my gender identity,” said Trevor. Soon after he stopped the hormones, he conceived.
Although he now has less breast tissue than before, Trevor wanted to experience breastfeeding his children. Following his first natural birth, a midwife helped him successfully nurse his newborn. Trevor now has two children, ages 4 and 7 months, and is an advocate for transgender parents.
“I give presentations to health care providers about how to provide trans-competent care, and I write a blog, Milk Junkies, about my personal experience. I also run a group on Facebook for trans people interested in pregnancy, birth, and lactation as well as health care providers who want to learn more, Birthing and Breastfeeding Trans men and Allies. So, I do a fair bit of sharing and education. The rest of the time, I am just parenting my kids and living my life,” said Trevor.
When alone with his family, Trevor can just be himself, no questions asked. They have no plans for Father’s Day yet, but Trevor hopes it will involve breakfast. “Maybe we’ll make waffles.”