I was never one to imagine my future children. While others dream about everything from their future kids' names to their looks and passions, my thoughts have always been a bit more self-centered. I wouldn't say that I never want to have kids of my own, but as a 22-year-old graduating into an unprecedented pandemic and economic downturn, the idea of bringing another life into this world that's dependent on me for survival is more stressful than anything else. So, I didn't really give it much thought . . . until I was forced to.
About a year ago, I had to consider the idea of becoming a parent in a much more immediate way. I'm a trans woman, and one of the first steps toward transitioning is hormone therapy, which also causes infertility. At the time, all I wanted to do was start my transition and leave the body I felt so uncomfortable in behind, but instead, I had to make a decision I didn't imagine dealing with for years to come: whether I would ever have my own children.
My best chance for biological children is frozen in an egg yolk in a warehouse in Illinois. Its existence is reevaluated yearly based on my ability to pay a $250 bill, and brings with it a reminder that my connection to motherhood is tentative and sterilized.
When I first tried to start hormone therapy, it felt like an invisible force was standing in my way. I vividly remember taking the train into Chicago to the Howard Brown Health Clinic. I was running late, so I sprinted the mile walk between the train and the clinic. I got there only to find out that I was at the wrong place, and I was told to reschedule my appointment for another day. A week later, I was sitting on a sterilized hospital bed waiting for the doctor to come in and ask me why I wanted to change my body so drastically. It was scary, but I was ready for anything. I was convinced I'd have to fight for my right to access the hormones I needed because no one was going to simply hand over such life-saving drugs to a baby trans woman who still had stubble on their chin and a voice that sounded like it had something to hide.
Of course, there was no fight. My physician was on my side 110 percent. She asked me why I had decided to transition and what outcome I was looking for. I told her I didn't expect hormone therapy to change me into the femme I envisioned myself as overnight, but I wanted to fix what felt like a chemical imbalance within myself. My body was overrun with testosterone, and I was reaching for something that a daily dose of estrogen and testosterone blockers could turn from fantasy into reality.
That was when she informed me that if I truly committed to these pills, I would have to accept the fact that I would be infertile. She gave me several options for banking my sperm, but all I could hear was another obstacle in the way of my transition. My first thought was, "Who wants kids anyway?" But because I've always been a fairly responsible person, I also thought that I should respect my future self and give her the option of having her own biological children. I was torn, but the part of me that was living in the moment I had been waiting so long for told my doctor to give me the pills anyway.
I left the clinic that day unsure of my next step while also holding a month's supply of estrogen pills in my backpack. When I got home, I took one just to know the taste. I placed it under my tongue and waited for it to dissolve, but even that felt like an eternity and I swallowed the pill whole. I was just so tired of the imbalance I had felt for so long, but I also knew I might be rushing what would surely be a lifelong journey.
For the next month, I held the pills close while mulling over whether my future biological children were worth postponing my transition. I hadn't taken a pill since the first day I got them, and I started reaching out to sperm banks to see how difficult this process would be. At the time, I wasn't close to any other trans women going through hormone therapy, and the only advice I got was from trans women telling their stories on YouTube. Some who never banked their sperm before transitioning were forced to stop taking estrogen and turn away from the comfort years on hormone therapy had brought them in an effort to conceive. Even though the prospect of kids felt so far off in my mind, their stories reminded me that whenever I started my transition, I never wanted to go back to that feeling of imbalance, even for a child. I found an affordable sperm bank just west of Chicago, and in January of 2019, I banked my sperm and officially began my transition.
It's been over a year and I'm still paying to keep my sperm viable. My best chance for biological children is frozen in an egg yolk in a warehouse in Illinois. Its existence is reevaluated yearly based on my ability to pay a $250 bill, and brings with it a reminder that my connection to motherhood is tentative and sterilized. So far I haven't paid my second bill, and I question how long I'm willing to preserve my ability to conceive children. I never truly decided whether or not I wanted kids, only that to deny myself the opportunity felt foolish. Or maybe it's foolish to prolong an inevitable letting go. The only truth I know is that I'm a 22-year-old trans woman on her way to becoming. I have no idea where that journey will take me, but at the end of the day right now, I only have my choices to keep me company. And so far, I'm pretty happy with that.