Men cannot be pregnant, give birth, or be mothers

Men cannot be pregnant, give birth, or be mothers

By Rachael Wong 

The Courier Mail has published a piece about women who identify as men in Queensland and the “discrimination” they face when it comes to language, policies and procedures while pregnant, giving birth or raising children.

The transgender men (biological women) interviewed expressed regret at being “misgendered” more while pregnant, feeling excluded by “female-centric” language in the health care system, and not being registered as “father” on their children’s birth certificates.

“(Pregnancy and childbirth) is a hyper-gendered space. I find that really difficult”. – Roy, a transgender man pregnant with second child.

“Everything from the fertility clinics through to the birthing centres, through to the antenatal care and mothers’ groups; everything is geared towards women, so it’s a really huge issue for our trans parents.” – Holly, partner of a transgender man who gave birth during COVID.

“I’m glad the law is catching up to the reality of male pregnancy… Some women find it difficult to hear me talk about pregnancy, like it’s a female club or something”. – Alex, a transgender man who gave birth in 2013.

The reason "everything is geared towards women" and that female-centric language is used around pregnancy and childbirth is because of the fundamental biological reality that it is women who become pregnant and give birth.** Trans men can only become pregnant and give birth because they are biologically female i.e. women.

There is no “reality of male pregnancy”, only female pregnancy.  It is indeed a “female club” because childbearing is a uniquely female capacity.

The joy and privilege of bearing a child is something that men will never experience. Nor will they know the pain, heartache and oppression that women often face as a result of their childbearing capabilities.

Men cannot be pregnant, give birth, or be mothers, and there is nothing discriminatory about this self-evident reality. The only thing unfair or exclusive about the terms “mother” or “pregnant woman” is the social penalties they entail, such as for example, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace – something that men won’t ever have to deal with.

Trans people complain of discrimination and exclusion, but talking about “pregnant men” or using language like “pregnant person”, “birthing people”, “uterus owners” and “chestfeeding”, erases women from the reality of their own biology and lived experience, and denies them the uniqueness of their role as mothers. What could be more discriminatory or exclusionary than that?

Yes, trans people deserve respectful, appropriate health care, but women deserve the same. Women must not be erased under a facade of “equality” and “inclusivity”.

Rachael Wong is the CEO of Women’s Forum Australia  

** It is important to note that while many are infertile, in some cases intersex persons (individuals with disorders of sex development (DSDs)) who have functioning female reproductive organs can become pregnant. However, such disorders do not negate the fact that pregnancy and childbirth are distinctly female phenomena.