A lesbian/transgender couple with... fertility trauma woes

Buckle up tight, campers, and keep your arms and legs fully inside of the car because we’re going off on a bit of a tangential ride this evening. I’m delving into this story almost reluctantly, but as longtime readers probably already know, when I get a bee under my bonnet and feel a rant coming on… well, we all know how that ends.

It all started last night with an opinion piece in the New York Times. I only noticed it because it popped up on social media via one of my friends who had tagged it as being interesting. Here’s how the Gray Lady teased the piece by Joanne Spataro on Twitter:

“I’m a lesbian. My fiancée is a trans woman. We’re trying to have a baby the old-fashioned way. It’s complicated”

I’m going to go ahead and confess that my initial response probably could have been a bit more charitable.

Since the original description and even the title left a bit of mystery (as all good clickbait ledes must) we’ll need to set the stage for what’s really going on here. The author, Joanne Spataro is a humorist and writer who also happens to be a lesbian. She’s engaged to be married to her partner Lara, a man who “identifies” as a woman (or a transgender woman for purposes of this article) and they’re trying to have a baby.

As to their partnership, no problem there. I could debate some definitions with the author and point out that she’s really in a relationship with a man who is exhibiting, “at best, a sign of confused thinking” or suffering from legitimate gender dysphoria, as described by the American College of Pediatricians. And I clearly wish that we could focus more resources on actually trying to help such people rather than spending our time attempting to normalize such conditions, but that’s also a story for another day. What consenting adults do with their own bodies and which other consenting adults they choose to pair up with is not only up to them but their definite right. I wish the happy couple nothing but the best.

The only part of this editorial which got under my skin was the description of the “perils” they are encountering, along with the complications and challenges in trying to have a child. The author makes it sound like it would have been better to go through in vitro fertilization than have to deal with all of this trauma.

Over the last several months, I’ve spent evenings watching my fiancée, Lara, inject herself with smaller and smaller doses of estrogen. I’ve watched her stand in front of a mirror, singeing each hair out of her face with a secondhand electrolysis machine.

The return of her testosterone hasn’t resulted in just the resurgence of facial hair; her pants now fit differently, too. My own skin has been plagued by acne since I got off the pill six months ago, and my default states are angry, hungry or sleeping. Such are the perils of trying to have a child the way Lara and I are trying, without in vitro fertilization, or cryogenically frozen sperm. The way fertile cisgender people do: They simply couple up, and boom — a child is born.

So for those who didn’t want to click through and read the entire article, here are the major life changes which this couple is dealing with in their effort to get pregnant:

  • Joanne has stopped taking her birth control pills.
  • Lara is weaning himself off of estrogen.
  • Then, presumably, “boom. A child is born,” to use the author’s description.

In other words, they’re doing what every other male-female couple in the world does when they first begin trying to conceive, except most guys don’t have to worry about stopping taking estrogen first.

My major issue with Spataro in all of this is the SJW entitlement on display, conveying the idea that it’s somehow unfair that they can’t “just” use in vitro fertilization and have to alter their regular medication schedules. Is the author aware that being able to simply go “couple up” (as she puts it) and produce a baby the way nature and/or God (take your pick) intended is an incredible gift? There are a staggering number of couples out there, both same-sex and straight, who would probably sacrifice a limb to have that ability.

I’ve gained a lot more insight into fertility issues over the past couple of years as some younger relatives have been struggling with those very challenges. A while back I started listening to the Eggcellent Adventure podcast (highly recommended) which goes into painstaking detail on all the steps of the process of attempting in vitro fertilization in hopes of having a baby. The costs are through the roof and many health insurance policies either won’t cover it at all or leave huge copayments on the backs of the parents. It can easily add up to many tens of thousands of dollars. One or both parents undergo hormone therapy (instead of simply stopping such therapy.) There are invasive egg retrieval procedures for the mother to endure. The failure rate at fertilization is terrible. The implantation process is a serious medical process to be endured and the likelihood of the baby “taking” is poor. Many couples have to go back and try over and over again, running up massive bills.

So if you find yourself in a position where you can actually have a baby “the way fertile cisgender people do,” you should be thanking your lucky stars. Many people have it far, far worse. To her credit, Spataro does offer some advice to younger couples who might want to invest in freezing eggs or sperm in case they run into fertility issues later in life. Assuming you can afford it that’s not a bad plan and worth considering. But please don’t bemoan the fact that you have to do things “the old-fashioned” way to get pregnant. Compared to far too many around the world you are truly blessed.

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David Strom 3:31 PM on November 30, 2022