As a transgender man, Trystan Reese feels “profoundly blessed” to be able to carry his first biological child with partner Biff Chaplow.
Reese is 35 weeks pregnant, and says the experience “has been beautiful.”
“The actual idea of growing and gestating a baby has been just really exciting and fun, and sharing that with the kids and with Biff has been a wonderful experience for the entire family,” Reese, 34, tells PEOPLE.
The Portland, Oregan-based couple have two children, Chaplow’s niece and nephew, whom they adopted in 2011 after his sister was unable to care for them. Because they had to go through a difficult court battle and face high legal fees to officially adopt the kids, Riley, 9, and Hailey, 7, they chose to consider a biological pregnancy when it was time to expand their family.
“While I would do that over again a thousand times if I had to, I think we wanted to try to grow our family in a less stressful way,” Chaplow, 31, says. “We decided to see if we could make a baby biologically, and because Trystan is transgender, he was born with a female body.”
Reese had been taking testosterone treatments for years, but they learned that if he stopped, his cycle would begin again and they could safely become pregnant.
“We decided that we wanted to grow our family and that this would be a really good way to do it,” Chaplow says. “We could do it together, and not be surrounded around so much pain — well, emotional pain. I’m sure there will be lots of physical pain shortly [laughs].”
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Reese became pregnant last year, but miscarried after six weeks. He says the experience was “difficult,” but it made him appreciate this pregnancy even more.
“I try to be much more present, and enjoy this day of the pregnancy as opposed to continually looking forward,” Reese says. “I don’t know what tomorrow brings, so for now let’s just enjoy this particular stage and appreciate it.”
“The whole process of just gestating a baby I find fascinating,” he adds. “It’s really incredible what our bodies are capable of doing. I think it’s actually really phenomenal that I get to be part of this process of growing a kid and of being a man at the same time.”
The partners say that the Portland community has been “incredibly supportive” during Reese’s pregnancy, partly because it’s not uncommon there for a transgender man to carry a baby.
“We know dozens of transgender men who have gone through this exact same process, and there is now quite a bit of medical evidence that shows that this would be a safe and healthy thing for us to engage in, medically speaking,” Reese says. “So even though we’ve been a little more public than other transgender couples, parents, people who are carrying babies, we are certainly not amongst the first to ever do it.”
“When I was coming out as transgender to my parents, I really thought I was choosing between living my authentic life as a transgender man, or finding someone who would love me and having a family,” he says. “And I chose to live authentically and I thought I was giving up all these other things.”
“My hope is that we’re continuing to help young, LGBT people see that there are a million ways to be a family, there are a million ways to live your authentic life, and if you choose to have kids and get married, that route is available to you.”