Saturday, 21 June 2014

Stepping out

     So after talking with Trevor the other day, I realized I need to step out and try to connect more with other parents.  Which I discovered today is going to have its challenges. A is 6 months now and the days of laying around all day nursing are behind us. She needs stimulation and community and other babies to interact with.

     We've been in a routine since she was about 2 months old where we wake up in the morning to snuggle and nurse. Then she plays on her mat for a bit while I try to get some cleaning done or shower.  Then she nurses again and naps a bit snuggled up to me.  By then it's usually just before noon so I get her ready, herd the dogs out of the apartment and down the stairs (elevator is broken) and get everyone into the van and drive to the off leash dog park for an hour before heading home and having a quick lunch before putting A down for a nap.

     It occurred to me this week that A's needs are changing.  Taking her out in her carrier to the dog park as our outing for the day isn't enough stimulation for her anymore.  

     So this morning I packed A up in the stroller and took her down the street to the neighborhood house for their family drop in. She loved it. When we got there, there was snack being served and I ended up seeing a woman that I had met a couple years ago at an early childhood education workshop.  

     And this is when I was reminded that my journey of being an out and proud Mapa did not end with me coming out to people while I was pregnant.  I was also reminded that it's not just my journey anymore. It's also Autumns journey and It's our family journey.

     The woman I ran into knows me in the context of childcare work and assumed at first that I was A's nanny.  She was there with 3 children from her home daycare.  I explained that A was my daughter and that I am the stay at home parent. I realized my 'passing filter' was kicking in.  My old faithful from my 8 years of passing before my pregnancy. This is when I start to talk about myself and edit and omit and thing that would connect to my trans identity. 

"How long have you been her nanny?"  The woman asked. 

"Oh...this is my daughter" I replied.

"Ooooh..."  said the woman "So you work some days and your wife works the other days?"

This is when I paused.  I could have said "Actually my husband works full time, I am the stay at home parent".

I didn't though.  I answered "Actually I am the stay at home parent".  By not correcting her, I let her assume I was strait and cis-gendered.  It's like wearing an invisibility cloak. 

A will never remember this interaction which is good.  I'm going to have to practice inviting being out to people.  That starts with opening up and saying things that might possibly lead people to ask questions like "Oh your husband! So...did you adopt?"  Which is when I would reply "No we didn't adopt, I am transgendered and I carried and gave birth to my daughter".  So next time I have the opportunity to do this, I will.  And then, I will blog about it! Promise ;) 

Until next time...

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Reflection on accessing health care while pregnant

It's a beautiful sunny summer day. Although it's still technically spring for a few more weeks. I took A to to the park by my house with the dogs. I have a pit bull and a chihuahua so we are quite the pack when we are out and about. I brought a blanket and a picnic. I ate my sandwich and chatted to people in the park while A rolled around on the blanket and chewed on a strawberry.  The dogs lay content in the sun.  It was a nice day.

Earlier today I chatted on Skype to Trevor from the Birthing and Breastfeeding Transmen and Allies Facebook page for an interview for a study he's doing around trans people, pregnancy and healthcare.

I can't believe how good it was to talk to someone who is like me.  I feel lighter.  And it was good to talk about my pregnancy experience with the healthcare system which is something I've been meaning to blog about on here too.  

We used a doula and midwives. They were all amazing.  Our doula, Michelle Maclean ( is friends with a close friend of ours and we had met her before in social situations so we felt comfortable going with her.  We met with her during the early months of the pregnancy.  She was so excited!  It was sweet how much she celebrated us.  She lent us books and gave us advice to prepare for the months ahead and the birth.  I could text or call her anytime I was feeling worried about something and she always got back to me right away.  During the birth she was a solid support and really helped guide us through the whole ordeal.  She also helped hook us up with donor breast milk for our wee one's first few months. 

Our midwifery care with Strathcona Midwifery Collective was also amazing.  I remember thinking during my pregnancy that once the baby was born, I was going to miss having such stellar health care and I do.  The midwives treated us with dignity and respect and I felt so taken care of and in control of my own birth.  I had anticipated maybe having to pass as someone I wasn't (like a really butch female?) in order to get proper care for my pregnancy but this wasn't the case at all.  I felt I could totally be myself and the care they provided totally fit with what I needed.  Our midwives felt like part of our community and still do. I felt pretty lucky because I know not all trans people going through pregnancy have such positive interactions with health care professionals.

Cora from Strathcona Midwifery collective was our midwife who was there for A's birth. I remember a few times during the labour thinking to myself "damn I'm lucky!" Cora was so solid and calm. We tried to deliver at home but ended up going to the hospital. Again I found myself feeling so lucky that Cora was also my ally and part of my community. Having her there at the hospital just put me at ease. The hospital experience will be its own blog post though so I will move on. 

I had really bad back pain that started halfway through my second trimester and persisted throughout the rest of my pregnancy. I ended up needing chiro, physio and tried acupuncture as well.  My doula and midwives recommended places to go that specialized in pregnancy related pain.  I remember feeling nervous.  I felt so vulnerable because I really needed support.  My back was too painful to ignore and I was having trouble sleeping.   I was afraid that I would be turned away or treated badly by these people that could offer me relief.  

I didn't even have the guts to call places at first.  I would have my husband do it for me and explain my situation.  He said he found this difficult because he was often talking to the front desk person and not the person that would be working with me.  He suggested I try emailing the person that would be working with me to explain my situation.  This way I wasn't showing up to an appointment and having the awkward conversation that 'yes' I was in the right place and get the picture.

I tried a physiotherapist Joanna Hermano with Electra health floor recommended by my midwives.  I made the appointment then sent an email as my husband suggested.  The email went something like this:  "Hi I'm Elliot, I have an appointment with you this Thursday for pregnancy related back pain.  You came highly recommended by my midwives.  I am transgender so I look male and use male pronouns.  See you Thursday."

Joanna wrote back saying thanks for letting her know and that she would see me at the appointment.  When I got there we talked about my needs and my back pain and she gave me my treatment and that's it.  No curious questions about being trans, just a conversation relevant to my care.  So simple and so appropriate! I continued to see Joanna for my whole pregnancy and still go to her now.  What I really like about her is she has never made me being trans the focus of our appointments but she didn't ignore this part of me either.  I remember during one of our post partum sessions she said she'd been thinking about me during my pregnancy and wondered if it had been difficult to find comfortable clothes to wear.  I felt like she saw me as a whole person with trans being a part of that. 

Emailing places before appointments really helped. I think it was helpful for the healthcare professional to be aware that I was coming and it really helped my overall anxiety before going to an appointment.  The acupuncturists at Poke Community Acupuncture were great and so was Stephanie Bonn at Coco Chiro. 

I think what I learned about my needs around accessing health care as a trans person during my pregnancy is that I don't need being trans to be the main focus of that care unless its to do with my transition. I also learned that curious questions about my body and transition that aren't relevant to my care are innapropriate. Luckily I had so many experiences like the ones described above where this didn't happen. I chose to focus on my positive experiences for this post. 

That's all for now!  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Pregnancy days

This blog post will be about my pregnancy experience. Being a passing trans man, this experience was unique to say the least.  I can say that besides creating the life of my child, my pregnancy was important to me in some important ways.

But first, here is a link to Qmunity's queer terminology for folks who are reading this that are not as familiar with all the queer and trans language I'll be using in these posts.

Leading up to when I got pregnant I had alot going through my head. I was managing a busy child care centre and was not out as trans to the staff, parents or children.  I was passing and therefore being read as a gay cis gendered male.  I had a good relationship with my boss and my colleagues. 

I had been off hormones for about a year before getting pregnant which brought about its own changes. My emotions were faster and demanded more of my attention,  My body changed. My muscle mass shifted and people often commented in my weight. Apparently it looked like I had lost weight. I was suprised actually how many people I barely knew commented on my weight but that is a topic I will save for another post!

I found out I was pregnant on my birthday last year. I was pretty sure I was pregnant. I knew the day after conception. My nipples were really sore and my husband said I smelt different. Even though I was almost sure I was pregnant, holding that positive home pregnancy test with two lines on it made everything very real. 

How did I feel? Excited! Relieved that the trying part of the journey was over and scared.  Like, really scared. Not just because I'm a trans guy but also just the reality of the responsibily of bringing a new life into the world really hit me like a tonne of bricks. 

The first few months of being pregnant I didn't tell anyone except for a few close friends. I was really nauseous like all the time. I spent alot of time sleeping and trying not to throw up.  When I wasn't doing that, I was doing alot of thinking about how I was going to navigate the world during my pregnancy.  

I just kept thinking 'I want this little life to be proud of where they came from'.  I realized I needed to model this pride starting with the pregnancy.   I had spent a large part of the 8 years leading up to my pregnancy passing as a cis gendered male in my work and school spaces.  Outside of my queer and trans community, I was afraid to tell people I was trans.  Ideally I like people to know and feel more comfortable around folks that know I'm trans but I was often too scared to tell people.  I was convinced that being out as trans would effect my success in my work.

At work, I basically had two choices for my pregnancy.  I could hide it and not tell anyone, letting people think what they wanted about my growing tummy.  Or I could tell everyone.  I contemplated going off work once my tummy got too big to hide and then telling everyone later on that we had adopted.  That just didn't feel right though. I was so excited about this new little life and I wanted to celebrate with the people around me.  A couple of the families I worked with were also expecting babies around the same time as me. I would smile and listen quietly while my staff would chat excitedly to the expectant mothers. I felt invisible. I wanted to be seen and celebrated just like anyone else.  

I work at a child care centre for infants and toddlers. I had been transferred there about 6 months before I became pregnant. I was still getting to know the staff and families and was worried how they would react to the pregnancy.  The thought of telling everyone really overwhelmed me so I decided to break it up into 3 parts.  First, I would tell my boss then, my staff and finally the Familes I worked with.   

I was so nervous. I kept thinking of the worst possible scenario.  That people would treat me bad, ice me or say ignorant things to me.  I'm part of a union so luckily I wasn't worried about losing my job.  It was more like, I had spent all this time in my job building relationships with people and I was worried that when they found out I was trans and not cis gendered like they thought, they would be weirded out and treat me differently. I imagined my staff all threatening to quit and pictured the Familes taking their children out of the centre. 

So I told my boss first. You know what she said? "Holy shit!"  Then she offered her support in telling the staff at my centre. She said if anyone showed any discrimination that she would come and talk to them. Woot! So, I was off to a good start.  

Next came telling my staff.  I decided to tell them at our staff meeting so that I could tell everyone all at once.  I started off by saying"I have some big news" and one of the staff said "what are you having a baby?"  I think she was joking but then I said "well, actually..."  and watched their jaws slowly drop to the floor as I explained that I am transgendered, what that meant and that I was pregnant! I also told them that if they had any curious questions about how that all worked, to go home and use google and they should find any answers to their questions. They hugged me! They clapped their hands with excitement. Most of the women that I worked with were older with children and grand children of their own.  They said thank you for telling them. They said they would be there for me and that they would support me. They also said "now we understand why you have been eating so much!" And "oh your moods Elliot! Now we understand!"  I thought that was funny :).

A couple days after that meeting, one staff approached me and told me that she was actually really confused after the meeting but went home and used google to find out about trans people and pregnancy. She thanked me again for telling her because now she could learn about trans people and be a good support to me and any other trans people she might meet.

I was so glad I told the women I work with.  I was 5 months pregnant by the time I worked up the nerve to tell them but so relieved once I did.  As scary as it was it was so nice to be seen! It was so nice to be celebrated! And not only that, it was so nice to be treated like a pregnant person. Everyone at work was so helpful in making sure I didn't have to work too hard or lift heavy things.

Even though my baby wasn't born yet I was already a parent. Coming out helped me I really see this and to be aware of how my actions impacted my child. If I hadn't come out, it would have been harder to ask for help when I needed it. I may have ended up working longer hours and lifting things that were too heavy. I beleive the energy around my pregnancy was so impacted by coming out. My sweet babe could be celebrated by more people giving her more true connections in this world.  

When I go back to work my daughter will be coming with me and attending the child care centre where I work. She can proudly point at my belly and say that's where she came from.

Bring pregnant pushed me to get over my fear of telling people outside my community that I'm trans.  I became more visible, which is something I missed when passing.  I feel more present and stronger by overcoming those fears. I'm also proud that this is the me my daughter will know and look up too.

Coming out while pregnant layed down the foundation for staying out as her birthing parent. More on that in another post.

I eventually told the families I work with that I was pregnant shortly before I went on my leave.  By that time, I was confident that I had the support of my staff. The families overall reacted positively as well.  Lucky me!  

As a disclaimer for this post, I know not all trans people live in a place that is so open minded. I also know that not all trans people wish to be out as trans even if they could be. This blog is about me and my own experience and isn't meant to speak to anyone else's experience. 

That's all for now! 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mapa's blog # 2: Nursing days

   So I'm watching the Stanley Cup playoffs  this morning (Montreal vs. Boston) and I have to really remind myself to calmly get excited when Montreal scores a goal! My sweet babe dreamily suckling away was abruptly startled out of her latch when Montreal scored their 3rd goal in the third period. Good thing I'm watching the game by myself! It would be hard to ask a room full of people to stay calm during a playoffs game so as not to disturb the babe.

     While I'm on the subject of nursing, I would like to write a bit about this complicated relationship I've found myself in. The first couple months after she was born it felt like a struggle most days to even get this relationship established. The struggle was mostly to do with getting her to stay latched and to have a proper latch. It was stressful! We were also going back and forth with bottle feeding. For awhile there every time she bottle fed, I felt overwhelmed with guilt that I was failing at nursing and somehow inadequate as a parent who is trans.  It was complicated. And hard. I definitely went to some dark places at times and was heavily dependant on the support of my partner. 

     I had 2 surgeries in 2008 to create a male looking chest. The first surgery they used liposuction to suck out the breast tissue and then the second surgery several months later cut away any extra skin. I was pretty happy with this surgery. I loved the feel of my t-shirt against my back. I loved the freedom of not binding my chest anymore.

     When I became pregnant last year I wasn't sure how the hormonal changes would effect my chest. Sure enough, after a few months of being pregnant it started to look like my chest was growing back a little. This was hard but I was still comfortable in a t- shirt and I helped myself through this part of my pregnancy by reminding myself that my chest would probably go back to normal after the babe was born. 

     I didn't think alot about nursing while I was pregnant. I knew there was a possibilty that I would be able to nurse but as far as planning for it, I was really only able to think about crossing that bridge when I came to it. When the babe was born and a few days later I discovered I was indeed producing milk, it was only then that I realized how much I deeply wanted to nurse her. All my newly found "Mapa" instincts were driving me to go down that road and I was torn at first. Like I basically remember being at a cross roads and saying to myself "I'll probably need to sacrifice the male looking chest I once had if I want to do this and am I going to be ok with that?"  I remember saying out loud that this is what I should do because it's what's best for her. My husband assured me that what's best for me would also be best for her. 

     So in my raw emotional after birthing state, I made the choice to prioritize nursing. I would say the first several weeks were so so challenging for me, the babe and my partner for sure. Everytime she rejected latching I was trapped in the sinking feeling that my body was incomplete and that was why she wasn't latching. This caused much stress and I'm sure affected her latching. It wasn't until I recognized the effect the stress was having on nursing that things began to feel better and to finally feel established.  A was about 2 months old by then. 

     A is now just over 5 months old and our nursing relationship feels like an old comfortable sweater. There are still challenges at times but nothing that feels overwhelming. Nursing is her quiet time, her cuddly time and her going to bed time. I cherish these times when she is snuggled up on me and pulls off her latch to smile up at me with her shiny eyes. 

     And my chest? Yes, nursing has changed my chest. I seem to have more milk ducts on my left side. She nurses on both sides but pulls off sooner on the right. My left side actually looks like a small breast again. And did I mention I'm on a swim team? All my swim mates were quite supportive during my pregnancy and didn't even seem that weirded out by a guy in a speedo with a big pregnant belly. They would make jokes that I drank too much beer or that I had swallowed a basket ball. I can say I feel more self conscious now with my lop sided Mapa chest but I'm proud of it too because I feed my babe with it! And my team continues to be supportive asking how A is doing and then just talking about our workout and what we'll be eating after practice.

     Some days I think to myself 'what have I done to this chest I worked so hard for?' But my joyful feelings from nursing are louder than those worries and I know my body will be ever changing.  I'm not sure how long I will continue nurse, it's just something we take day by day. 

That's all for now. A bit of a long post I know. Hope you enjoy. 

P.s. by the time I'd finished writing this, Boston had made a come back in the end of the 3rd period and kicked Montreals ass by tieing up the game and scoring the winning goal in the last few minutes of the period. Oh well :/

Monday, 28 April 2014

Mapa's blog #1

Hello and welcome to my blog!  I am married and have a 5 month old daughter.  My husband and I  both identify as queer and transgender.  This blog will primarily be to post about our experiences as parents and our interactions with the world as parents who are queer and trans.  This first post is to introduce me.  Hope you enjoy :)

     Being trans and the experience of being a trans person is something that I've found can be difficult to put into words.  With trans becoming more visible in today's society, there is a narrative that is probably assumed about my experience by many.  Like that "I was born in the wrong body" and that "I feel like a man trapped in a woman's body".  I've even told this narrative to people because it felt easier at the time than to try to explain my complex experience as a trans person.  I mean, how can you describe something that is constantly shifting and taking on new forms while simultaneously falling back on to old familiar ones? I've had many a blank stare when I've used the word trans to describe myself.  I feel like being trans is something that can be so unique to each individual.  Like I can't just be like "oh I'm trans" and expect people to get it.  People usually need to get to know me on a pretty personal level to really understand what being trans means to me.  But now all you have to do is read my blog! Ha. 

I am a female to male trans person on the trans masculine spectrum.  I took male hormones for 8 years and also had chest surgery to have a male chest.  Just over 2 years ago I chose to stop taking hormones so that I could begin cycling again and try to get pregnant. In December 2013 I gave birth to my daughter who I will call A for the purpose of respecting her privacy. Becoming pregnant and having a baby has completely changed my life. I would say it's also shifted my trans identity somewhat as well. I had never celebrated my body really until I became pregnant. Carrying a little life inside me made it hard not to. Even though I had chest surgery, my chest still has produced some milk. With the use if herbs and a supplemental nursing system, I have been nursing my baby since she was born.  The experience of nursing and being pregnant has definitely changed my relationship with my body. It's like I've become more comfortable with my female body (for now) in relation to pregnancy and my nursing relationship with my child (if that makes any sense). I'm honestly not sure if this will change and if I I will want to go back on T one day. I just know I'm in this space for now and I'm happy. I'm cherishing everyday with my sweet young babe and while nursing can have it's challenges, I wouldn't have it any other way.  The name I've chosen as a parent is Mapa. Because well, I'm not a daddy or a momma, I'm a Mapa. 

That's all for now. I plan to write posts on my experience being pregnant as well as my experience giving birth in the hospital so stay tuned!

 As far as questions or comments, this blog is intended for other trans and queer parents and allies.  Feel free to leave comments and thoughts so I know you have been here!  
If you are not familiar with transgender people and pregnancy and have questions, I encourage you to use google as I will not be answering any questions in this forum.