July 24, 2013

The Transsexual Journey Towards Parenthood


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Science! post. Guess I’ve just been too busy with other things to keep an eye on PubMed.

I’m glad I got back around to it, though, because I found a really interesting new study. It’s called Transsexual parenthood and new role assumptions, by Franco, Bordin, & Cipolletta, from Culture, Health,  Sexuality July 2013 [ePub ahead of release]. Unfortunately I have not been able to obtain a copy of the full article yet, but the abstract alone provides some interesting information.

This was not a “hard” science study, but a “soft” one — using questionairres to assess views and opinions of the participants. In this case, the subjects were 14 male-to-female transsexuals and 14 cismales. Each was questioned “to explore four thematic areas: self-representation of the parental role, the description of the transsexual as a parent, the common representations of transsexuals as a parent, and male and female parental stereotypes.”

The conclusions, as reported in the article abstract, are as follows:

Transsexual parents accurately understood conventional male and female parental prototypes and saw themselves as competent, responsible parents. They constructed their role based on affection toward the child rather than on the complementary role of their wives. In contrast, men’s descriptions of transsexual parental roles were simpler and the descriptions of their parental role coincided with their personal experiences. These results suggest that the transsexual journey toward parenthood involves a high degree of re-adjustment, because their parental role does not coincide with a conventional one.

In some ways, this is one of those “No shit, Sherlock” sort of reports. The trans parent “does not coincide with a conventional” parental role? Who’d a thunk it?! Conventional parenting roles are based on conventional, binary views of gender, a view that being transgender explicitly rejects. It’s no surprise, then, that trans parents are less likely to define themselves in binary ways. Still, it’s nice to have a peer reviewed study come to the same conclusions.

I have not yet had the pleasure of reading Jenny Finney Boylan’s Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenting in Three Genders. However, I will be curious to see, when I do get around to it, how Boylan’s experiences with parenting echo the conclusions drawn by the study. I suspect they will echo one another.

When I get my hands on the full report, I may return to this study. I’m curious to know some of the specifics in terms of what questions were asked, etc.

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