Before he was pregnant with his son, Bennett Kasper-Williams said he hadn’t seen many images of other trans-masculine people carrying their own children. So while he always wanted to start his own family, Bennett had never considered becoming pregnant himself until he met his husband.
“I had always wanted kids, but I assumed I'd adopt, or have them some other way,” he said.
Bennett, a trans-nonbinary lawyer based in Los Angeles, got married to interior designer Malik Williams in May 2019. Within a year, Bennett had stopped the hormone treatment he had been on since 2014, and became pregnant with the couple’s first son.
When asked why he chose to carry his own child, Bennett, who affectionately calls himself the “seahorse dad,” said it was largely due to the increased visibility of other trans men who had carried their own babies, who led the way for him.
“I’d seen more visibility among trans men who carried children, so it didn't seem like such a strange concept to me,” he said. “Earlier in my transition I didn't have that sort of visibility, so it wasn't something that entered my mind.”
In addition to seeing more masculine-trans people as pregnant, Bennett said he also started thinking more deeply about what his body could do.
He realized his ability to carry a child was pretty rare among queer couples that are made up of two masculine partners, and he considered what that physical ability could mean for him and Malik as they considered ways to start having kids.
“I fell in love with my husband, and I imagined having a family and being co-parents with him. I convinced myself carrying a child was just something my body could do,” he said. “It’s something that some bodies can do, and some bodies can’t do. I learned to divorce the notion of gender from it entirely. I switched my perspective to thinking that I’m a masculine person who is lucky enough to be able to carry my partner’s child.”
Bennett started documenting his journey through pregnancy as a trans man in early 2020. He started posting photos of his pregnant belly on Instagram, with the aim of using what he called “his privilege as a cis-passing white person” to further increase the visibility of other trans-masculine folks who carry babies.
“I have a lot of privilege generally in society, and I wanted to be able to be visible to help normalize the concept so those who come after me, especially those who may not have the privilege of having a welcoming community around them, may benefit from my being out there,” he said.
Throughout his pregnancy and the birth of baby Hudson in October 2020, Bennett said he was fortunate enough to find medical providers who at least had some baseline knowledge and competency around transness.
“That made my journey pretty good,” he said.
While having access to inclusive healthcare made the pregnancy a little easier, Bennett said there were still plenty of issues that popped up during those nine months.
For example, when he had to go to a clinic to get an ultrasound, he would have to go to a “women’s clinic.”
“I would say the notion of pregnancy and child rearing is so overly connected with notions of femininity and womanhood that it was sometimes really taxing to participate in the community of pregnant people, because it's so overly gendered,” Bennett said. “It can become tiring over time.”
Historically, the world of pregnancy has been entirely focused on women and female-presenting people. But trans people have been carrying children for as long as humans have been around, and Bennett said he would like to see more inclusion for trans-masculine people like him who carry children too.
“It’s facilities, pregnancy wear, the language around who carries children and what those bodies look like,” he said. “If all that were all a little more inclusive and relied less on the identity of womanhood, the act of carrying a child as a trans man would be so much easier.”
After Bennett gave birth to baby Hudson last fall, the couple moved Malik’s mother out to join them in L.A. That means Hudson gets to spend lots of time with his grandmother, despite the ongoing pandemic. And although they haven’t been able to visit many friends yet, they have been introducing everyone to Hudson’s adorable facial expressions on Instagram.
“He is super cute,” Bennett beamed. “He is very expressive!”
Bennett is now part of a huge online community of thousands of trans people, dozens of whom he says have either had or are having their own kids. And, he said, that community is growing by the day.
“As time goes on, and we become more visible and normalized, there will be more people who are on this journey and are open about it,” Bennett said. “The new community of people who are masculine-presenting and who do this publicly as a trans dad is on the newer side, and I think it's growing faster and faster.”