Over the past five years I have written a number of journal articles focused on the parenting experiences of transgender people, especially with regard to experiences of discrimination. I have run a survey and conducted interviews with Jennifer Power and Henry von Doussa focused on the parenting experiences of Australian transgender and gender diverse people. I have written about this research for The Drum. I have also examined the media representations of transgender men and pregnancy. In addition, I have written about the experiences of transgender parents in relation to their children’s schools, including in the book Transgender People and Education (2017, Palgrave Macmillan), written with Clare Bartholomaeus.
I am also conducting two new projects about transgender people and fertility/parenting. One of these projects focuses on fertility preservation (with Clare Bartholomaeus). This project explores how transgender and non-binary adults, and parents of transgender and non-binary children make decisions about fertility preservation, and their experiences of undertaking fertility preservation in the Australian context.
The other project is an international study with Sally Hines, Ruth Pearce, Carla Pfeffer, Elisabetta Ruspini, and Francis White about transmasculine practices of reproduction in Australia, the UK, the US, and Europe. This project seeks to gain an in-depth understanding of the practices, experiences, and health care needs of Australian transmasculine people (i.e., transgender men and masculine non-binary people) in relation to pregnancy, both in terms of past experiences and future intentions. More information is available on the project website.
A full list of my research publications on the topic of transgender parents can be found further down the page, and are drawn on in the applications of research findings sections below. I have recently contributed to a new Australian Psychological Society information sheet on transgender people and fertility preservation, available here.
Applications of research findings for practitioners
The research examining parenting in relation to trans and gender diverse Australians found that older participants were more likely to have children and younger participants were more likely to desire to have children in the future. Participants who had children variously gave birth, their partner gave birth, or they became a parent via foster care or step parenting. Three quarters of participants with children said that their children knew they were trans or gender diverse. Participants who planned to have children in the future intended for their partner to give birth, intended to foster or adopted, or indicated that they intended to give birth. The findings suggest that there may be a relationship between support from family of origin and plans to have children. The findings from interviews also suggest that some participants re-imagined parenthood in different terms (e.g. step-parenthood) or by creating different family forms (e.g. co-parented families). These findings suggest that practitioners need to provide support for trans and gender diverse people, as they may not have support from their families of origin and they may view themselves as having limited pathways to parenthood. The findings also suggest that practitioners need to make sure trans and gender diverse people are aware of the many different ways they may become parents, if they would like to. Practitioners also need to provide gender-affirming support, including in relation to prenatal, antenatal, and postnatal care (if relevant).
Trans and gender diverse people who transition later in life may experience a lack of support from their children, and this can have significant ramifications as they age or if they have significant health issues. This is shown in my analysis of KrysAnne’s story as portrayed in the documentary Gen Silent, where the lack of support she receives from her children means it is particularly isolating for her when she has lung cancer and will no longer be able to live on her own. Coupled with this is the fear KrysAnne had of how she would be treated by medical professionals, meaning that she delayed her treatment for the cancer. These findings show that practitioners need to always be affirming when working with trans and gender diverse people, and to outwardly promote that they are affirming so people do not delay medical treatment. In addition practitioners need to be aware that trans and gender diverse people with adult children may not receive any practical or emotional support from their children, and thus may need other avenues to receive this support.
Applications of research findings for (intending) parents and families
The research examining parenting in relation to trans and gender diverse Australians found that older participants were more likely to have children, and had these children via giving birth, their partner giving birth, or becoming a parent via foster care or step parenting. Younger participants were more likely to desire to have children in the future. Participants who planned to have children in the future intended for their partner to give birth, intended to foster or adopted, or indicated that they intended to give birth. The findings from interviews also suggest that some participants re-imagined parenthood in different terms (e.g. step-parenthood) or by creating different family forms (e.g. co-parented families). These findings show that there are many ways for trans and gender diverse people to have children, and suggest people who intend to have children could explore the different options available to them.
Trans and gender diverse people who transition later in life may experience a lack of support from their children, and this can have significant ramifications as they age or if they have significant health issues. This is shown in my analysis of KrysAnne’s story as portrayed in the documentary Gen Silent, where the lack of support she receives from her children means it is particularly isolating for her when she has lung cancer and will no longer be able to live on her own. Coupled with this is the fear KrysAnne had of how she would be treated by medical professionals, meaning that she delayed her treatment for the cancer. These findings highlight that children may not always be supportive of parents who transition later in life, and it may be useful to seek out supports to help build relationships with children as well as seeking out other forms of supports when this isn’t possible. In addition, it is important for trans and gender diverse parents who have significant health issues to seek medical help. Whilst it is understandable that some people delay medical treatment due to fear of how they will be treated by professionals, it may be possible to deliberately seek out medical professionals who are affirming and knowledgeable about working with trans and gender diverse people.
Resources for practitioners
Australian Psychological Society. (2016). Information sheet: Australian Psychological Society recommends mental health practices that affirm transgender people’s experiences.
American Psychological Association. (2015). Guidelines for psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming people. Washington: APA.
Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in Counselling. (2010). Competencies for counselling transgender clients.
Centre of Excellence for Transgender Health. (2016). Guidelines for the primary and gender-affirming care of transgender and gender nonbinary people.
Child Information Welfare Gateway (US) – Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) families in foster care and adoption
Lev, A. I. (2004). Transgender emergence: Therapeutic guidelines for working with gender-variant people and their families. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Clinical Practice Press.
National Resource Center for Adoption, the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, and the National Resource Center for Recruitment and Retention of Foster and Adoptive Parents at AdoptUSKids (US) Strategies for recruiting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender foster, adoptive, and kinship families
Singh, A. A., & Dickey, L. M. (Eds.). (2016). Affirmative counseling and psychological practice with transgender and gender nonconforming clients. American Psychological Association.
World Professional Association for Transgender Health. (2013). Standards of Care, version 7.
Resources for (intending) parents and families
Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority (VARTA) – Transgender and gender diverse people
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Center for Transgender Equality (US) – Protecting the rights of transgender parents and their children: A guide for parents and lawyers
Center of Excellence for Transgender Health (US) – Fertility options for transgender persons
COLAGE (US) – People with trans parents
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (UK) – Information for trans and non-binary people seeking fertility treatment
NHS Choices (UK) – LGBT paths to parenthood
Books/sources with personal stories
ABC 7.30 story about Australian picture book Introducing Teddy
Anderson-Minshall, D., & Anderson-Minshall, J. (2014). Queerly beloved. Valley Falls: Bold Strokes Books.
Beatie, Thomas. (2008). Labor of love: The story of one man’s extraordinary pregnancy. Berkeley: Seal Press.
Becoming us (2015). ABC Family. TV Series
Boylan, J. F. (2003). Stuck in the middle with you: Parenthood in two genders. New York: Crown Publisher
Gus. (2014). Big shoes to fill. In Z. Keig & M. Kellaway (Eds.), Manning up: Transsexual men on finding brotherhood, family and themselves (pp. 107–116). Oakland: Transgress Press.
Huberdeau, R. (2013). Transgender parents. Documentary.
Insight (SBS) – Season 2016 Episode 5 – Love transformed
Rosskam, J. (2005). Transparent. Documentary.
Shattuck, S. (2015). From this day forward. Documentary.
Boenke, M., & Dudley, D. (2004). Carly: She’s still my daddy. The Transgender Network of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
Hall, G. (2012). My dad wears pirate shoes. Expose.
Kelly, E., & Webster, E. (2003). The little boy: A special story about Daddy by Grandma & Mummy. Glebe, NSW: FTM Australia.
Martinez, J., & Winchester, K. (2011). My mommy is a boy. Lulu.
Mossiano, L., & Mossiano, S. (2012). My new mommy. Spun Silver Productions.
Mossiano, L., & Mossiano, S. (2012). My new daddy. Spun Silver Productions.
The Rainbow Owl – Picture books
My research publications
Bartholomaeus, C., & Riggs, D. W. (2017). Transgender people and education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Riggs, D. W., & Peel, E. (2016). Critical kinship studies: An introduction to the field. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Riggs, D. W., Power, J., & von Doussa, H. (2016). Parenting and Australian trans and gender diverse people: An exploratory survey. International Journal of Transgenderism, 17(2), 59-65.
Riggs, D.W., von Doussa, H., & Power, J. (2015). The family and romantic relationships of trans and gender diverse Australians: An exploratory survey. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30(2), 243-255.
von Doussa, H., Power, J., & Riggs, D.W. (2015). Imagining parenthood: The possibilities and experiences of parenthood among transgender people. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 17(9), 1119-1131.
Riggs, D.W. (2014). What makes a man? Thomas Beatie, embodiment, and “mundane transphobia”. Feminism and Psychology, 24(2), 157-171.
Riggs, D.W. & Kentlyn, S. (2014). Transgender women, parenting, and experiences of ageing. In M. Gibson (Ed.) Queering maternity and motherhood: Narrative and theoretical perspective. Toronto: Demeter Press.
Riggs, D.W. (2013). Transgender men’s self-representations of bearing children post-transition. In Green, F. & Friedman, M. (Eds.) Chasing rainbows. Toronto: Demeter Press.
Short, E., Riggs, D. W., Perlesz, A., Brown, R., & Kane, G. (2007). Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parented families: A literature review prepared for the Australian Psychological Society. Melbourne: Australian Psychological Society.
Other research publications (selected)
Charter, R., Ussher, J. M., Perz, J., & Robinson, K. (2018). The transgender parent: Experiences and constructions of pregnancy and parenthood for transgender men in Australia. International Journal of Transgenderism.
Armuand, G., Dhejne, C., Olofsson, J., & Rodriguez-Wallberg, K. (2017). Transgender men’s experiences of fertility preservation – a qualitative study. Human Reproduction, 32(2), 383-390.
Chen, D., Simons, L., Johnson, E. K., Lockart, B. A., & Finlay, C. (2017). Fertility preservation for transgender adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(1), 120-123.
Church, H. A., O’Shea, D., & Lucey, J. V. (2014). Parent-child relationships in gender identity disorder. Irish Journal of Medical Science, 183(2), 277-281.
Clark, B., Jarin, J., Strang, J., Call, D., Solages, M., & Gomez-Lobo, V. (2017). Transgender adolescent attitudes towards their future fertility. Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 30(2), 326.
Currah, P. (2008). Expecting bodies: The pregnant man and transgender exclusion from the employment non-discrimination act. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 36(3-4), 330-336.
De Roo, C., Tilleman, K., T’Sjoen, G., & De Sutter, P. (2016). Fertility options in transgender people. International Review of Psychiatry, 28(1), 112-119.
De Sutter, P. (2009). Reproductive options for transpeople: Recommendations for revision of the WPATH’s standards of care. International Journal of Transgenderism, 11(3), 183-185.
De Sutter, P., Kira, K., Verschoor, A., & Hotimsky, A. (2002). The desire to have children and the preservation of fertility in transsexual women: A survey. International Journal of Transgenderism, 6(3).
Ellis, S. A., M.Wojnar, D., & Pettinato, M. (2015). Conception, pregnancy, and birth experiences of male and gender variant gestational parents: It’s how we could have a family. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 60(1), 62-69.
Epstein, R. (Ed.). (2009). Who’s your daddy? And other writings on queer parenting. Toronto, ON: Sumach Press.
Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (2015). Access to fertility services by transgender persons: An ethics committee opinion. Fertility & Sterility, 104(5), 1111-1115.
Goldberg, A. E., & Allen, K. R. (Eds.). (2013). LGBT-parent families: Innovations in research and implications for practice. New York: Springer.
Haines, B. A., Ajayi, A. A., & Boyd, H. (2014). Making trans parents visible: Intersectionality of trans and parenting identities. Feminism & Psychology, 24(2), 238-247.
Hines, S. (2006). Intimate transitions: Transgender practices of partnering and parenting. Sociology, 40(2), 353-371.
Hines, S. (2007). TransForming gender: Transgender practices of identity, intimacy and care. Bristol: Policy Press.
James, S. E., Herman, J. L., Rankin, S., Keisling, M., Mottet, L., & Anafi, M. (2016). The report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
Knudson, G., & De Sutter, P. (2017). Fertility options in transgender and gender diverse adolescents. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, 96(10), 1269-1272.
Light, A. D., Obedin-Maliver, J., Sevelius, J. M., & Kerns, J. L. (2014). Transgender men who experienced pregnancy after female-to-male gender transitioning. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 124(6), 1120-1127.
Mitu, K. (2016). Transgender reproductive choice and fertility preservation. AMA Journal of Ethics, 18(11), 1119-1125.
Nahata, L., Tishelman, A. C., Caltabellotta, N. M., & Quinn, G. P. (2017). Low fertility preservation utilization among transgender youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(1), 40-44.
Nixon, L. (2013). The right to (trans) parent: A reproductive justice approach to reproductive rights, fertility, and family-building issues facing transgender people. William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, 20(1), 73-103.
Polly, R. G. (2015). (Trans)forming the family: A narrative inquiry into the experiences of transgender parents. Unpublished PhD thesis, California Institute of Integral Studies.
Polly, K., & Polly, R. G. (2014). Parenting. In L. Erickson-Schroth (Ed.), Trans bodies, trans selves: A resource for the transgender community (pp. 390-405). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Pyne, J. (2012). Transforming family: Trans parents and their struggles, strategies, and strengths. Toronto: LGBTQ Parenting Network, Sherbourne Health Centre.
Ross, L. E., Epstein, R., Goldfinger, C., & Yager, C. (2009). Policy and practice regarding adoption by sexual and gender minority people in Ontario. Canadian Public Policy, 35(4), 451-467.
Stotzer, R. L., Herman, J. L., & Hasenbush, A. (2014). Transgender parenting: A review of existing research. The Williams Institute, UCLA.
Strang, J. F., Jarin, J., Call, D., Clark, B., Wallace, G. L., Anthony, L. G., . . . Gomez-Lobo, V. (2018). Transgender youth fertility attitudes questionnaire: Measure development in nonautistic and autistic transgender youth and their parents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(2), 128-135.
Veldorale-Griffin, A. (2014). Transgender parents and their adult children’s experiences of disclosure and transition. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 10(5), 475-501.
Wallace, S. A., Blough, K. L., & Kondapalli, L. A. (2014). Fertility preservation in the transgender patient: Expanding oncofertility care beyond cancer. Gynecological Endocrinology, 30(12), 868-871.
White, T., & Ettner, R. (2004). Disclosure, risks and protective factors for children whose parents are undergoing a gender transition. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Psychotherapy, 8(1-2), 129-145.
Wierckx, K., Van Caenegem, E., Pennings, G., Elaut, E., Dedecker, D., Van de Peer, F., Weyers, S., De Sutter, P., & T’Sjoen, G. (2012). Reproductive wish in transsexual men. Human Reproduction, 27(2), 483-487.