Saturday, 23 March 2013

Sperm banks and transsexual babies

It's a standard question (quite rightly asked) when contemplating feminising hormone treatment: would you like to use a sperm bank? And not only asked orally. The same question was in a written statement of understanding that I jointly signed with Dr Richard Curtis before treatment actually began. I've just looked at my copy. No mistake: there it is. It was an important matter, for of course the hormone treatment would in time make me sterile.

However, I didn't want to bank any of my sperm. I thought that (a) I had been a step-parent in the 1980s, and had enjoyed it, but I'd never wanted to create children of my own, and wouldn't want to in the future; (b) for all I knew, I had always been sterile, or had always had a uselessly low sperm count; and (c) I was, in any case, now too old to embark on future parenthood on any basis - too old to cope well with the role, and too old to be an active and inspiring parent while any future child or children grew up.

I think all of these were good reasons to feel content with the inevitable self-sterilisation. And it was 'self-sterilisation': it was my own decision to seek medical help with my gender issue, and it would be my own decision to commence treatment and continue with it. Nobody was forcing me to do anything. I hadn't been 'brainwashed'. I knew the consequences, and had made my own mind up about them.

There were other things I could have thought about.

Perhaps my sperm could be donated and used by a childless couple desperate to have children. Was it right to prevent that? But then, surely there was no onus on me to donate in that way, any more than any other male-bodied person. And besides, might not my sperm generate transsexual children, a horrifying prospect for some people? In fact, probably not, as the best bet theory on what causes transsexuality points to overexposure to testosterone in the womb, affecting only one particular child. A one-off situation. In other words, there is no 'trans gene' to pass on. And indeed my younger brother never showed signs of being transsexual himself, though we came from the same womb. Nor do trans women who have fathered children before they transitioned seem to have sired a generation of trans children.

I know this isn't in any way 'proof' that sperm from a transsexual person is 'uncontaminated'. There will be some fearful people who will demand that trans people ought not to reproduce, and I'm surprised there hasn't been a tabloid newspaper crusade on this subject. These are the same people who would say that anyone with a characteristic they don't like should be banned from reproducing, because it will lead in time to the Breakup Of Society As We Know It. (Perhaps, who knows, they would be among be the first casualties)

Some might say there is a divine imperative, or at least a moral or social imperative, not to render oneself useless for reproductive purposes. This might carry some weight if the human species were on the verge of extinction through lack of numbers - say in a post-apocalypse situation - but that isn't the case at present. The world is hugely over-populated, and Food Wars might become a reality in the future if we do not act sensibly now. It seems essential for the survival of a healthy, decently-fed and decently-housed world population that people are encouraged not to have children - nor to facilitate the birth of children with sperm donations - if they don't wish to. Individuals who can voluntarily forego reproduction should certainly not be criticised for it.

At the level of nations, there might be pressure to keep the birth rate high, so that armies will always have recruits (or conscripts) to sustain them, and stay effective as aggressive or defensive forces. In those countries, rendering oneself infertile might be considered unpatriotic or even treasonable, certainly a matter for punishment. But this is a local or 'tribal' attitude that ignores the wider picture. No question, the size, mix, state of health and proper aspirations of the human population on planet Earth needs to be looked at globally. Nationhood is an old-fashioned concept that often gets in the way. I don't mind being distinctively 'British', but I'd also like to be a world citizen with world rights and expectations, and a good future.

Getting back to my main theme, how do I now feel about being forever incapable of generating a child? Perfectly happy. It helps that one is that much older, moving steadily into senior citizenhood, and if you like beyond the call of duty. I will never now be conscripted to fight in a war. Equally, I will never now be expected to create babies. Rather, young soldiers will be asked to die so that their weaker elders - such as myself - can live. And if they survive their battles, they will produce the children.

And what about the yearning to produce a child from one's own womb, that is supposed to crush male-to-female transsexual persons because it is an impossible dream? This isn't a myth. Some certainly do feel this yearning, and acutely, to the point of tears. But I'm afraid I haven't. If that makes me a pale transsexual, with no mother instinct, then so be it: but it's still not an issue for me.

8 comments:

  1. I don't think it is wrong to self-sterilise if that is what anyone wishes as long as it isn't to maintain a life of fornication!

    Shirley Anne x

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  2. And by fornication you mean having sex? But why not, it's one of life's pleasurable options, surely. And self-sterilisation might be quite a responsible thing to do, if you had a compulsive desire to have sex all the time, in order to prevent unexpected pregnancies and such things as abortions (but let's not go there).

    Lucy

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  3. I was in my late teens when I first went seeking medical help for my medical problem only to be told that I would never get help in this lifetime. When I asked to at least be sterilised to ensure that I was never responsible for bringing another into this lunatic world the doctor became literally hopping mad! I was given a rant about my responsibility as a bright university student to mate and reproduce with another such creature to produce superior babies for the motherland!! All this nonsense about being born in the wrong body would pas and I would be grateful that I had not given in to such foolishness.

    I had long thought my own existence the proof of the non existence of a god and now I could not even believe indictors whom I had been told had sworn to help and never harm... he clearly had no idea about PTSD...

    People have always been surprised by how well I got on with their offspring from when they were babies until now when they are in their thirties and have stayed my friends. I have no regret that I never reproduced but that has a lot to do with my disgust at this world...

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  4. Darn, I was supposed to be saying that I knew of many students who paid their way through university by making donations. I was starving with bones showing but would never have gone against my principles and helped over populate this planet especially with half clones of myself...

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  5. One more thought and that is it...

    Years ago when I first read Transblogs a common thread was storage of sperm prior to the commencement of hormone treatment for possible future test tube reproduction, no word has been said on this subject for several years...

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  6. In practice, sperm banks seem to be fraught with difficulties. Supposing you change your mind, for instance. Can you insist on the destruction of your 'officially registered' sperm, which is not of course an embryo, but nevertheless living tissue that in combination with a female egg could form a baby. It could smack of murder to some. Or is it ethical to let it be used for medical research? And wasn't there a court case where a woman wanted to use her husband's frozen sperm to conceive a child? From memory, I think he had died, but what if he were still alive but unwilling to be the father? And so on. It's not easy.

    Lucy

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  7. How can that be murder Lucy? That would mean masturbation was murder. Having said that Scripture indicates that a man should find himself a wife
    1 Corinthians 7
    [ Concerning married life ] Now for the matters you wrote about: ‘It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.’ But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfil his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.

    There are several references in 1 Corinthians 7 to virgins, marriage and passion worth the read. The inferance is that it is better to marry than have to suffer sexual urges which you cannot control. Fornication being a sin, marriage is the only option unless self-control is possible. Well how many priests fail on that one I wonder?

    Shirley Anne

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  8. Oh, I'm not myself asserting that destroying sperm is murder. But you know how some people hold strange views.

    I don't feel like pairing-off with anyone, let alone marrying them, whatever the authority for it. But it does suit an awful lot of people.

    Lucy

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