I cannot imagine ever experiencing anything as incredible or as transcendent as that. He talks about how lucky he was throughout his pregnancy, the support he received from family, friends and NHS staff. The self-questioning, second-guessing quietened down. Can he describe how it felt? M ore than anything, Seahorse is a love story — or a series of love stories.
We had really intense imaginary worlds that we would disappear into. He looks surprised at the question. On screen, his mother supports him with a mixture of tender loving care and the odd no-nonsense kick up the arse. When Scott Parker got in touch to say that he had given birth a few months earlier, the paper awarded him the honour and relegated Cross to second place.
He talks about how sensationalised film and TV documentaries about trans people have tended to be, and how the subjects have invariably felt betrayed. In fact, the Guardian multimedia journalist is reserved and private in a rather old-fashioned, stiff-upper-lip English way. Like his son, he is well-spoken with a military bearing. He laughs when I remind him of this now, all the tears and drama. He worried that he might be ridiculed or attacked; that people would think he was transitioning into a woman; that as a man carrying a baby he was having his cake and eating it.
After the horrors of the pregnancy, McConnell says, the actual labour was wondrous. We walk to their home — a leaky, year-old, two-bed Georgian terrace McConnell bought from his great-aunt.
My brother's pregnancy and the making of a new american family
Jack is gorgeous, with blond hair, blue eyes and heavy eyelids, and McConnell is the classic doting dad — albeit more hands-on than most. Next to the door is a large photo of a gorgeous, blond, blue-eyed baby, a carbon copy of Jack. According to figures compiled by Medicare for Australia, one of the few national surveys, 75 people who identified as male gave birth naturally or via C-section there inand 40 in I ask McConnell why it was so important for him to carry his own child and he replies with a question of his own: why does anybody want ? In a moment of glorious bathos, McConnell tells the camera, Garbo-like, that he wants to be left alone.
What makes the film so human is that McConnell struggles himself with what he is doing, and asks himself the same question, about why he wants to carry his baby. But the gender dysphoria disappeared. People read gender in less than a second — so if I had a beard, it would not matter what the rest of my body looked like, they would read me as male.
I think empathy is key in convincing people that trans people are actually quite normal, and live lives that are not sensational or scary. He recalls ing the Man to pregnant woman tf form to start testosterone and being told it would leave him infertile. Particularly at the moment, with the rise in transphobia. Some of that has to do with transition, and some has to do with getting older and understanding myself better. It just so happened that the time I was trying to conceive and carry coincided with the rise of anti-trans rhetoric around reform of the Gender Recognition Act.
Last year, the government opened a public consultation on proposed changes to the act that would allow trans people to self-identify bringing the UK into line with countries such as Denmark and Ireland. McConnell cuddles his son, checks that everything has gone well this morning he has only recently returned to part-time workand hooks the baby into his carrier.
He considered a hysterectomy, but never went through with it — partly because he had not ruled out the possibility of having children. I was a very anxious child, maybe partly because of the trans-ness, maybe something else. There are no definitive figures when it comes to how many transgender men have given birth worldwide, or in Britain.
But he meandered and moped through his early 20s — almost ing the prestigious Sandhurst military school he had been in the cadets at school and was a good shottravelling in the US, Yemen and Afghanistan, where he combined teaching with skateboarding, rock climbing and journalism. But McConnell never did, and the older he became, the more intense the dysphoria. What drove him to put himself through so much, physically and emotionally? At the beginning of the film, CJ and McConnell are living together as best friends and partners.
All I know is testosterone and my transition changed everything and made life not just livable, but enjoyable. He says he felt safer here when he was pregnant than he would have in London. He was a bright. But they were very happy memories. Is there much convincing that needs to be done? McConnell lives in a seaside town in the south of England, close to where he grew up.
'he' becomes 'she': husband's transformation into a woman
Too personal? On the way there, he tells me how content he is. Does he want more children?
Did he get any abuse from strangers? The exchange between the two is warm and loving. In the film, we see how discombobulated McConnell becomes when he stops taking testosterone as he tries to conceive, using a sperm donor, and his body, in effect, goes into reverse. McConnell admits the whole thing is counterintuitive — that he, too, cannot think of a person less likely to put his private life on screen. This would mean that a person no longer has to undergo an arduous and expensive process of presenting evidence to an anonymous gender recognition panel; they would simply a statutory declaration, akin to an oath.
Meanwhile, the withdrawal of testosterone is playing havoc with his hormones.
Chloe prince: 'everything's changing'
McConnell discovered there were trans men in America who were having babies, and spoke to his doctor about becoming pregnant. But such a route is expensive, complicated and the chances of success are small. I slammed the door and it smacked him in the head. He went on to study Arabic at Edinburgh University, and then fancied toughing it out as a war correspondent.
The pictures brought back unhappy memories, he says, particularly the photographs taken during puberty and his teenage years. His living room is dominated by a huge play area for Jack. The consultation period ended in October, and the government has yet to make an announcement on what happens next.
While it is still rare, it is not quite as rare as is sometimes claimed. Was he ever happy as ? Why was it so important to be genetic parents? This is my story of starting a family — so what on earth has my old name got to do with it? Trans men are still not being given the right information about their options, including how to carry their own children safely. His father asks how Jack is, they hug and make babysitting plans.
Yes, he says, of course he worried about the birth being filmed, but that soon faded. The result is Seahorse so called because the male carries the younga tender — and rather wonderful — documentary about love, family, breakups, fallouts, raging hormones and the complexities of identity. Of course things are different now, McConnell says: his father is no longer struggling with a philosophical concept — he simply has a grandson to love. We see the two of them sitting on the sofa with their laptops, looking at sperm donor sites. It was a huge relief.
Yes, of course, he says — he was lucky to have an understanding family, and has many good memories. But, he says, he also felt a responsibility to tell his story. She had to put up with me.
F reddy McConnell takes out his phone and shows me a film of his baby snoring contentedly. Then he began a quest to conceive and carry his own .
Transitioning meant that Freddy McConnell finally felt comfortable in his skin. Nor is the process he goes through to make it happen. So why on earth would he want to expose himself like this? Did he speak to people about feeling he was in the wrong body?
In the film, we see McConnell and his mother reminiscing over photographs of him as — tomboyish, blunt-fringed, energetic. I was bullied and teased for being too boyish. He was followed everywhere by that cosmic toothache.
In the same month, the government published figures showing that, over the past 12 months, anti-trans hate crimes had risen by almost a third from 1, into 1, in So I thought this film could be in lieu of meeting somebody — you could spend an hour and a half with me.
But I would speak to friends. Even then, he was still battling with the idea. We walk from the beach to fetch Jack from nursery. He became obsessed with the 70s and gender-fluid rock stars such as David Bowie and Brian Eno, convincing himself he had been born in the wrong era. Is that deliberate? McConnell orders pancakes and bacon with maple syrup, and tells me the thing he most wants the film to do is normalise trans people.
He has also made an intimate and moving film about that experience, from the decision to have a baby, through pregnancy and the delivery. You might expect McConnell to be an extrovert; an exhibitionist, even. But halfway through the film, CJ decides not to parent with McConnell. But for me, having that genetic link is something I felt I needed to Man to pregnant woman tf. Conversely, trans equality campaigners point to the fact that, while emotive, there is little evidence for this risk; service providers have argued that longstanding safeguarding measures are in place to keep all vulnerable women safe.
Everybody should experience it — especially men. The idea of being a solo parent is a different prospect, and initially he is full of doubt: what is he doing to his body, is it safe, is he capable of bringing up alone? McConnell smiles. He blushes.