Transitioning supposed that Freddy McConnell ultimately felt comfortable in his skin. Then he started a pursuit to conceive and carry his very own child

Freddy McConnell takes out his phone and shows me a film of his infant snoring contentedly. Jack is gorgeous, through blond hair, blue eyes and heavy eyelids, and also McConnell is the classic doting dad – albeit an ext hands-on than most. It’s plenty of months since he offered birth to Jack, an experience he describes as life-changing. He has additionally made an intimate and also moving film about that experience, native the decision to have a baby, v pregnancy and the delivery. Every little thing is documented in close-up, consisting of Jack’s arrival in a hospital birthing pool.

You are watching: First man to give birth in the world

You might expect McConnell to it is in an extrovert; an exhibitionist, even. In fact, the Guardian multimedia reporter is reserved and also private in a fairly old-fashioned, stiff-upper-lip English way. Therefore why on planet would he want to expose himself favor this?

McConnell admits the whole thing is counterintuitive – that he, too, cannot think the a human being less likely to placed his exclusive life on screen. But, he says, he additionally felt a duty to tell his story. The talks around how sensationalised film and TV documentaries around trans human being have often tended to be, and also how the subjects have invariably felt betrayed. “Production suppliers will say, ‘It’s going to be dubbed something sensitive’ and also it ends up being dubbed something favor Trapped Bodies obtain Sliced Up!” so McConnell chose to rally his very own team, and then hand over creative control come the manager Jeanie Finlay. The result is Seahorse (so called due to the fact that the masculine carries the young), a soft – and also rather wonderful – documentary around love, family, breakups, fallouts, raging hormones and the complexities the identity.

McConnell resides in a seaside city in the southern of England, near to whereby he thrived up. He states he feeling safer below when he to be pregnant than he would have in London. “People looked the end for me. The small. I’d never have actually felt comfortable being pregnant at work.”

He’s right: the town is small. Within 2 minutes that walking right into the center we possibility upon McConnell’s father, a local shop owner. Choose his son, he is well-spoken through a army bearing. His dad doesn’t appear in the film; their relationship was among the fallouts indigenous the pregnancy. Initially, the couldn’t understand why Freddy had battled so hard to end up being a man, and also was currently doing the very thing that appeared to define womanhood – having actually a baby.

Today, it’s very different. The exchange between the two is warm and loving. His dad asks just how Jack is, lock hug and also make babysitting plans. That course points are various now, McConnell says: his dad is no longer struggling through a philosophical ide – the simply has actually a grandson to love. What provides the movie so person is that McConnell struggles himself through what he is doing, and also asks self the very same question, around why he desires to carry his baby. The answer isn’t simple. No one is the process he goes with to do it happen.

McConnell, 32, started taking testosterone at 25 and had “top surgery” to eliminate breast tissue a year later. He taken into consideration a hysterectomy, but never went through with the – partly due to the fact that he had actually not ruled out the opportunity of having children. In the film, us see exactly how discombobulated McConnell becomes once he stops taking testosterone as he tries to conceive, using a sperm donor, and also his body, in effect, goes right into reverse. That starts having actually periods again (“I don’t prefer the idea the I’ve got tampons in my bag,” the winces); his face hair gets wispier, his hips broaden, his ship softens and also he starts to speak much less from his chest and much more from his throat. “Every time i think about it, ns think, what the crap am ns doing?’” the says. At one point, a tearful McConnell sobs right into the camera in the center of the night: “I feel prefer a fucking alien.”

Throughout, that is motivated by his mother, Esme, who tells him: “I loved being pregnant. Everybody must experience the – particularly men.” McConnell speak me she provided to speak this come him as soon as he to be a child, long before she had any type of idea that her son was trans. Top top screen, his mother supports him through a mixture of tender loving care and the odd no-nonsense kick up the arse. Occasionally, when he’s feeling sorry because that himself, she loser patience: “Why room you making together a fuss? that what girlfriend wanted.” climate she relents. “But, actually, it’s not as an easy as that. It’s together a brave and amazing thing to do. I’m in awe of him, basically.”

It’s a ferociously windy day, and we head in the direction of the coffee shop on the pier overlooking the north Sea and also the Channel. McConnell orders pancakes and bacon with maple syrup, and tells me the point he many wants the film to do is normalise trans people. “It sounds wishy-washy, but I believed it could be a great opportunity to spread empathy. Ns think empathy is key in convincing people that trans civilization are actually fairly normal, and live lives that room not sensational or scary.”


Freddy McConnell with his son. ‘I needed to figure out precisely who i was prior to I had actually a kid.’ Photograph: Manuel Vázquez/The GuardianIs there lot convincing that needs to it is in done? “Yes, definitely. An especially at the moment, with the increase in transphobia. It just so happened that the time I to be trying to conceive and carry corresponded with the increase of anti-trans rhetoric roughly reform that the gender Recognition Act.” The UK’s sex Recognition plot 2004 allowed people to legally change gender v a sex recognition certificate. Critical year, the federal government opened a publicly consultation top top proposed changes to the act the would allow trans world to self-identify (bringing the UK into line with nations such as Denmark and Ireland). This would average that a person no longer needs to undergo one arduous and also expensive process of presenting proof to one anonymous gender recognition panel; they would merely sign a statutory declaration, akin come an oath. Some enemies of the proposed alters have suggested this would boost the possibilities of males pretending to change in order to accessibility “women-only” spaces, such together prisons or refuges. Conversely, infectious diseases worldwide equality campaigners point to the fact that, when emotive, there is tiny evidence because that this risk; business providers have argued that ancient safeguarding steps are in place to keep all breakable women safe. The consultation period ended in October, and also the federal government has however to do an announcement on what happens next.

In the same month, the federal government published numbers showing that, end the previous 12 months, anti-trans dislike crimes had actually risen by almost a 3rd (from 1,248 in 2017, to 1,651 in 2018). McConnell believes much of the antipathy has been sustained by i can not qualify bedfellows – the “alt-right” and also some feminists, who argue the biology is destiny and therefore infectious diseases world fashion women space not yes, really women and trans guys are no really men. “Many of these human being haven’t met a trans person, and the monstering and caricaturing is not based on reality,” McConnell says. “Not anyone gets a opportunity to meet a trans person – yet that is regularly what transforms everything for someone who can’t gain their head about it. Therefore I assumed this film could be in lieu of meeting somebody – you can spend an hour and a fifty percent with me.”

What drove him to placed himself v so much, physically and also emotionally? “I’ve constantly loved kids. Before I transitioned, ns considered coming to be pregnant – since I’d to be told transitioning would certainly make me infertile.” yet he decided it was irresponsible to have actually a baby then; if he was unhappy and also confused, how can he offer a baby the love the needed? “I thought, ‘I require to change for mine own mental health, therefore to end up being a parent now would not be a an excellent idea.’ I essential to number out specifically who i was prior to I had a kid.”

I think empathy is an essential in convincing world that trans human being are actually quite normalHe recalls signing the consent type to start testosterone and also being called it would certainly leave that infertile. “It was favor saying, ‘Yes, I expropriate I will never have my very own children’ which seems really unfair currently I understand the truth. Trans males are still not being provided the right information about their options, including exactly how to carry their own kids safely. We’re told we can’t, and it’s assumed us don’t want to.” before transitioning, McConnell to be told if that wanted children he should think about freezing his eggs and surrogacy. However such a course is expensive, facility and the chances of success space small.

McConnell found there to be trans males in America that were having babies, and spoke come his doctor around becoming pregnant. Even then, he to be still battling with the idea. That worried the he might be ridiculed or attacked; that world would think he to be transitioning into a woman; that as a guy carrying a infant he was having his cake and also eating it.

“I went earlier and forth for ages. Yet for me, having actually that genetic connect is something ns felt I essential to have. It took me so long to feeling OK about wanting kids, because there’s a stigma attached to it,” that says. “It took me a lengthy time come separate identity from biology. I’m simply using mine hardware to execute a thing. The pragmatic.”

There space no definitive numbers when it comes to how countless transgender males have given birth worldwide, or in Britain. While that is still rare, it is not rather as rare as is sometimes claimed. In 2017, the sun hailed Hayden Cross together “Britain’s very first pregnant man”. When Scott Parker acquired in touch to say the he had given birth a couple of months earlier, the file awarded the the honour and also relegated cross to 2nd place. In an interview v the Guardian last year, Jason Barker, who gave birth come a son eight years ago, quipped the in brother alone “there have been about six ‘first pregnant men’”. According to numbers compiled by Medicare for Australia, among the few national surveys, 75 civilization who determined as male provided birth normally or via C-section there in 2016, and also 40 in 2017.


McConnell while pregnant. His mom used to tell him “I loved gift pregnant. Everybody should experience it – especially men.” Photograph: Jeanie FinlayI asking McConnell why it to be so essential for him to carry his own child and he replies v a question of his own: why go anybody want a child? “Straight world don’t gain asked, ‘Why didn’t you adopt? Why to be it so important to be hereditary parents?’ so why perform gay and also trans civilization get request that?” He claims it has actually taken the a long time to different being trans indigenous what his body looks like. “It is no something the I have the right to choose, or leaving behind, or change. It’s no something predicated on my physical state. The a thing, it’s component of me. Therefore if ns pregnant, it doesn’t adjust me gift trans.”

In the film, we see McConnell and also his mom reminiscing over photographs the him together a child – tomboyish, blunt-fringed, energetic. “When i look earlier at stuff choose that, I watch a small boy,” McConnell says now. The photos brought back unhappy memories, that says, an especially the photographs taken during puberty and also his teenage years. “All I can see is somebody that is so uncomfortable in their skin.”


‘I look forward to sharing every little thing with my son. I’m going to be completely open at every stage.’ Photograph: Manuel Vázquez/The GuardianHe was a shining child. In one more scene, that looks through an old school report the reads, “McConnell is a an extremely able pupil. She is plainly highly opinionated” and says: “It’s yes, really weird being faced by mine old name.” yet we never discover what the name was. Is the deliberate? “Yes, definitely, because it’s such a trope of infectious diseases worldwide storytelling. This is mine story of starting a family members – therefore what on earth has mine old name acquired to carry out with it?” at moments prefer these, McConnell is a funny mix the old-fashioned courtesy, diffident restraint and pugnacious certainty.

Was he ever happy as a child? the looks surprised in ~ the question. Yes, of course, he claims – that was happy to have actually an understanding family, and has many an excellent memories. “I would certainly play make-believe through my friends at major school. We had actually really extreme imaginary worlds that we would disappear into.” He defines how he and also a friend developed a fictional male crime-fighting duo. “His dad make us company cards through our names on.” What to be those names? the blushes. “I nothing think i could deal with having the specific details in publish for ever! however they were really happy memories.”

Throughout his childhood, McConnell experienced gender dysphoria – though he couldn’t put a surname to it earlier then. Can he define how it felt? “I once heard it described as a cosmic toothache, i beg your pardon is quite apt. And I’d felt the ever since the period of three or four. I was a really anxious child, possibly partly due to the fact that of the trans-ness, maybe something else.”

Did the speak come people around feeling he was in the not correct body? “I talked around it an extremely rarely, yet quickly realised as a young boy it wasn’t an OK thing to talk about.” Why? “Because people don’t favor it when little kids use terms like ‘sex change’, and they call you to shut up.” Who? “Kids in ~ school. Ns not sure I ever before spoke to mine parents around it. However I would speak to friends. I was bullied and also teased for being too boyish. Mine mum knew ns struggled with being seen as a girl, and also she just told me it would be OK ultimately – the I’d prosper out the it, and I believed her.”

But McConnell never ever did, and also the older the became, the much more intense the dysphoria. He came to be obsessed with the 70s and gender-fluid absent stars such together David Bowie and also Brian Eno, convincing self he had been born in the wrong era. McConnell smiles. “But i was obviously spring in the wrong place.”

Testosterone and also my change changed everything and also made life not just livable, but enjoyableOne job he chose he’d had enough of gift picked on and fought back. “This male was 14, 15, and also he was calling me names, and also we walked past a minibus that had a back door open. Ns slammed the door and also it smacked the in the head.” McConnell to be shocked in ~ his reaction then, and also he still sounds shocked today. “I soon regretted it, since it fed right into this narrative of me gift this weird, manly…” the trails off.

He walk on to research Arabic in ~ Edinburgh University, and also then fancied toughing the out together a war correspondent. However he meandered and also moped with his beforehand 20s – nearly joining the reputation Sandhurst army school (he had remained in the cadets in ~ school and also was a great shot), travel in the US, Yemen and also Afghanistan, wherein he merged teaching v skateboarding, absent climbing and journalism. He to be followed anywhere by that cosmic toothache. “I hated my beforehand 20s. I just didn’t understand what was going on. I don’t think it’s possible to explain what gender dysphoria is like to somebody who doesn’t feel it. Every I recognize is testosterone and my change changed everything and also made life not simply livable, however enjoyable. The self-questioning, second-guessing quietened down. The didn’t walk totally, since that’s just component of that I am. Yet the gender dysphoria disappeared.”

More 보다 anything, Seahorse is a love story – or a series of love stories. There is McConnell and his son, McConnell and also his mother, and McConnell and also CJ. In ~ the start of the film, CJ and also McConnell space living with each other as best friends and also partners. CJ is non-binary and uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they”. “My partner and also I both have actually ovaries,” McConnell defines to the camera. We view the 2 of them sit on the sofa through their laptops, looking in ~ sperm donor sites. “This is like our version of having actually sex,” laughs McConnell. “Talking about having a boy together, and the best donor.”

Seahorse: exclude, trailer because that documentary around the dad who provided birth – video
“It’s very satisfying,” CJ says.

“Then we have a tobacco afterwards.” castle laugh.

But halfway with the film, CJ decides not to parental a son with McConnell. “CJ’s told me they’re not involved any more,” a devastated McConnell speak the camera. The idea of gift a solo parent is a various prospect, and also initially the is complete of doubt: what is that doing to his body, is it safe, is he capable of bringing up a kid alone? Meanwhile, the withdrawal of testosterone is playing havoc v his hormones. In a moment of glorious bathos, McConnell tells the camera, Garbo-like, the he wants to it is in left alone. The laughs when I repeat him that this now, all the tears and also drama. “I feel so bad for my mum. She had to placed up through me.”

We walk from the beach to fetch Jack from nursery. McConnell cuddles his son, check that whatever has gone well this morning (he has actually only recently returned to part-time work), and hooks the baby right into his carrier. Us walk to their home – a leaky, 200-year-old, two-bed Georgian terrace McConnell bought from his great-aunt.

On the means there, he speak me exactly how content the is. “I’m an ext settled, confident, happier 보다 I’ve ever before been. Few of that has to do with transition, and also some needs to do with gaining older and also understanding myself better.”

Men’s bellies sit very an in similar way to the means pregnant bellies sit. Human being read sex in much less than a secondHe talks about how happy he to be throughout his pregnancy, the support he received from family, friends and also NHS staff. Did he get any type of abuse from strangers? “No, due to the fact that I lugged quite little the whole way through. It was a vast relief.” quite than looking prefer a pregnant man, that says, he just looked favor a fat one. “My mum noticed the men’s bellies sit very similarly to the method pregnant bellies sit. So nobody’s going to think she pregnant. World read gender in less than a second – therefore if I had a beard, it would certainly not matter what the rest of my human body looked like, castle would read me together male.”

After the horrors the the pregnancy, McConnell says, the actual labour was wondrous. “All v the pregnancy I thought, ‘Please don’t ever allow me to perform this again.’ yet my birth experience was exceptionally positive. The was just incredibly…” His emotions obtain the far better of him, and also he start again. “There is a solid case to be created it being the peak human being experience, if that goes well. Ns cannot imagine ever experiencing anything as significant or together transcendent together that.”

Yes, the says, of food he worried about the birth being filmed, however that soon faded. “It was a huge room and it to be dark, so i was maybe to overlook the camera, and also the director respected my boundaries. But now i’m so glad it’s captured.” Not least for Jack. “I look forward to sharing everything with him. I’m going to be completely open at every stage – whatever is age-appropriate.”

Does that want more children? McConnell smiles. “I would certainly love come have an ext children, however I’d likewise love come not have to lug them, necessarily. Though ns haven’t ruled it out.” for this reason he has actually ruled out reduced surgery for the time being? “Erm, yeah. Yeah.” that squirms at the question. As well personal? “Ruled out appears strong.”

His life room is dominated by a huge play area for Jack. Nautical paints by McConnell’s great-grandfather Charles McConnell, one of two brothers who began a effective tobacco company, hang on the wall. Alongside the door is a huge photo that a gorgeous, blond, blue-eyed baby, a carbon copy of Jack. “That’s me,” McConnell says. “Look, you can see the same hefty eyelids!”

He is anxious around how Seahorse will certainly be received, but glad to have actually made the film. The feels he has actually done his duty. “I maintained saying, ‘Why don’t we hear an ext from infectious diseases worldwide men?’ and then ns thought, you’ve obtained to placed your money where your mouth is.” What does he want human being to get from the film? “I’d like world to feeling they deserve to relate to whatever bit that the story echoes v their own experience. Hopefully civilization will come away thinking they’ve watched something relatable, a global story about love and family and also wanting to have actually kids.”

As because that McConnell, a component of that would choose to put the movie out, retreat to the margins and live the rest of his life in calm obscurity. Yet a bigger component of that feels his mission has actually only just begun.

Seahorse, do in association with the Guardian, debuts at the Tribeca film festival ~ above 27 April. The will display screen on the BBC Storyville strand later on this year.

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