April 24, 2024

Transgender man loses court battle to be ‘father’ on birth certificate

Parliament has not decoupled ‘mother’ from gender

Freddy McConnell and child 

A transgender man working for The Guardian has failed in his attempt to be described as the father of his child on the birth certificate. Freddy McConnell, 34, was born female but started to live as a man about 10 years ago. He began taking testosterone in 2013 and had a double mastectomy in 2014. His passport and health records were amended to show his gender as male. In 2017, after suspending his hormone treatment to reboot his female reproductive capacity, he gave birth to a child. This was chronicled in a film, Seahorse (a fish whose males gestate the young).

He then applied to be called the father.

However, the UK Court of Appeal ruled this week that the right of a child born to a transgender parent to know the biological reality of its birth trumped the right of the parent to be recognised as the gender of their choice.

“It is not possible simply to say that Parliament has ‘de-coupled’ the concept of ‘mother’ from gender,” the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett, wrote.

Social and scientific developments over the last half century have meant that Parliament has addressed the status of a person who gives birth to a child but who is not genetically related to them, either because there has been a surrogacy arrangement or because there has been a method of conception such as in vitro fertilisation (“IVF”). In those contexts, the policy choice of Parliament is that the person who gives birth to a child is always described as the mother of that child, even if (for example) it was not her egg which was fertilised. Moreover, the law is clear that a child only ever has one mother, although there may be more than one “parent”. The commissioning parents will be described as “parents” but never as “mother”.

McConnell was disappointed by the decision. “I have never heard any birthing trans man saying they would want to hide their children’s origins from them,” he told The Guardian. “There is an assumption that trans people feel shame which isn’t the reality.”

Michael Cook is editor of BioEdge

Creative commons