NewNowNext: The Precarious Future of Trans Men Giving Birth in Trump’s America
Trystan Angel Reese is used to advocating for his family. In August 2011, Reese’s husband, Biff Chaplow, received a call from a social worker that his sister’s children were going to be placed into foster care unless they were relocated to a loving home by the weekend. They certainly fit the bill. When he first met Chaplow at a trans community brunch in Los Angeles, Reese was immediately smitten. Although Reese had food stuck in his teeth and Chaplow—who is cisgender—was seeing someone else at the time, fate intervened. A year after their first date, they moved in together.
POPSUGAR: How These "Accidental Gay Parents" Are Redefining Family
For Biff Chaplow and Trystan Reese, becoming parents was a lot like coming out. "It's a slow process — and you kind of know it's coming," Chaplow explains to POPSUGAR. "You get to a point, usually long after it happens, where you realize, 'I am a parent.'"
Reese agrees. "It's similar in that there's a lot of self-doubt," he says. "Is this the right path for us? Am I going to be happy on this path? I kept expecting people to say, 'What? You can't be parents!' And all we got was support."
While this call to parenting may sound atypical in how unpredictable it was, that's because it truly was: Chaplow and Reese — a cisgender gay man and transgender gay man, respectively — had only been dating for a year before they adopted Chaplow's sister's children to protect them from entering the foster system. Riley was 3 years old and Hailey was 1 year old at the time — they are now 10 and 7 — and once the papers were signed, Chaplow and Reese famously became "accidental gay parents."
Their unlikely path in parenthood was just beginning, however. The duo decided to share their lives as queer parents online via their website, Biff and I, and their Instagram. In 2017, they opened a new chapter in their story when Reese became pregnant and gave birth to their son, Leo. The experience sparked a lot of questions from the general public, but Reese and Chaplow point out that their journey isn't unheard of.
"It's not a special story," Reese laughs, recalling how many transgender fathers he knows. "But we forgot, truly, how divided this country is and how many spheres of reality there are. For most people in this world, they don't live in the sphere of reality where transgender men have babies. That was a surprise that people were so blown away — so positively and so negatively."
Washington Post: Transgender man gives birth to baby boy. ‘Love is possible,’ he says. So is ‘being a loving family.’
Buzzfeed: What to expect when you're a trans dad expecting
For the past four years, Trystan Reese has lived in Portland, Oregon, with his husband, Biff Chaplow and their two adopted children (Chaplow's biological niece and nephew). Their day-to-day lives are, for the most part, textbook ordinary — school, work, playdates, grocery-store run, repeat. The kids call Trystan “Daddy” and Biff “Dada.”
Recently, Trystan and Biff began to discuss the idea of expanding their family. Trystan, a 34-year-old trans man, would carry the couple's first biological child. After Trystan got pregnant, the couple made the decision to share part of their journey online, but they did not plan on their story goingviral. While a trans man carrying a child is by no means a medical miracle, and Trystan is certainly not the first to do so in the public eye — think Thomas Beatie on Oprah in 2008 — their story has still attracted attention, both negative and positive.
We visited Trystan and Biff at their home in Portland when Trystan was nine months pregnant — on his due date, in fact — to hear more about why they chose to share their story online, what it means to be a trans parent, and what the future holds for queer families like theirs.The following account has been collected from various in-person and phone interviews leading up to the birth of Trystan and Biff’s son Leo.
Trans 101: Beyond the basics. An intro to common terms and definitions used within the trans community. This session includes Trystan’s three-step process for learning gender-neutral pronouns and is tailored for each organization’s specific needs.
This training has been presented in the following formats:
- Emerging Legal Issues for the Trans Community, Lane Powell Law Firm
- Inclusive Classroom Spaces, Agnes Scott College
- Beyond Pink and Blue: The Gender Revolution, Lake Oswego High School
Suitable for any nonprofit, religious organization, small business, major corporation, or government entity.
MeUndies 2019 Pride campaign
Keynotes for Conferences
Based on your audience, Trystan will curate elements of his own trans coming-out story, his adoptive parenting journey, his pregnancy adventure, and how he survived all of it. Whether you’re hoping to create an event that offers CME or CLE credits, want to sell tickets or raise money for your organization, Trystan will work with you to build an event that will keep your attendees on the edge of their seats.
Past keynote audiences include World Domination Summit, Out and Equal Global Summit, Postpartum Support International’s annual convening, and more!
Modern Rascals 2019 Rainbow Families campaign
McDonalds' 2019 Ronald McDonald House campaign
Pampers' 2019 Love the Change campaign
J. Crew and It Gets Better, 2019 Pride Campaign
Consulting by the Hour
Trystan has extensive experience partnering with organizations to create meaningful marketing panels, write content for blogs or other written materials, edit paperwork with an eye towards inclusion, and more!
Keynotes for Universities
Trystan creates powerful multimedia keynote addresses for university audiences all over the country. Join Columbia University, Agnes Scott College, Monmouth University, Portland City College, and many more by bringing Trystan’s incredible personal story to your campus today!
Here’s what past campus partners have said about Trystan’s work:
“Trystan is an absolutely inspiring facilitator, and brought incomparable energy to a room filled with future clinicians and medical students. From the very first contact Trystan facilitated a seamless organization process, and was nothing but timely and amenable in all communications between the collective of Columbia University staff, and students that came together in the planning of our event “The Pregnant Man: Living at the Intersection of Trans Identities and Reproductive Justice.” Students, faculty, as well as community members in attendance were completely captivated by Trystan’s humor, sensitivity and profound knowledge on the subject of sensitivity in LGBTQ health, and when discussing his experiences when encountering healthcare professionals during his pregnancy. He imparted imperative wisdom on all of us, and left us enthused to continue our education, as well as continue to push for the inclusion of sensitive, affirmative and evidence based care for the LGBTQ and particularly trans community.”
“I could not recommend Trystan more highly. Trystan came to our university this spring. He went above and beyond to meet all of our students, spending time with them individually and being his true self, authentic, genuine, vulnerable, truthful and kind. Trystan also spoke more formally in front of an audience of over 100 people. For over 90 minutes, he had each participant at the edge of their seat, attentive, engaged and enraptured. The audience laughed and cried and loved everything about Trystan and his story. The feedback forms were overwhelmingly favorable, several saying Trystan was the best speaker they had seen on campus. I am so thankful to Trystan for coming and speaking with us at Monmouth. We are hoping he can come back again soon.”
Seahorses and Unicorns: Supporting Trans Birth
Every quarter, Trystan partners with Cornerstone Doula Trainings to offer a three-hour intensive on transgender fertility, pregnancy, and childbirth. This interactive, multimedia workshop is for doulas, birth keepers, midwives, and other birthworkers. Trystan will provide evidence-based information on the full spectrum of trans fertility, including how to support trans people who haven’t medically transitioned, what the effects are of medical transition on fertility and nursing, postpartum considerations for trans gestational parents... and more. Trystan will also be bringing his personal experience as a trans gestational parent to the conversation, and includes diverse voices so you can learn how to understand, welcome, and support trans and gender non-conforming pregnant people in your practice.
Here’s what past attendees had to say about this session:
“All of the laughter. What a great speaker! I loved that Trystan was so approachable, humble, honest, and inclusive. He did a great job of being non judgmental. I was truly impressed with his vulnerability and kindness, paired with his expansive knowledge.”
On behalf of Family Equality, Trystan has created online modules specifically designed to support fertility providers who want to learn how to understand, support, and welcome LGBTQ+ prospective parents.
If you work in the field of fertility and are interested in building up your practice’s LGBTQ+ competency, head over to Open Door Professional Training Program to gain critical insight into the LGBTQ+ community’s specific and unique needs.
Join professionals from CCRM, ACRM, RMA IVI, Carrot Fertility, and dozens more esteemed fertility organizations around the country— become an Open Door provider now!