Experiences of parenting – hosted by Mermaids

Pink News held a three day conference on the issues faced by the trans and non-binary community.  They called this a Trans Summit, which is just another way of saying Peak Trans if you think about it.  It was a full agenda which mainly revolved around employment in the corporate sphere.  The main sponsor was IBM, an American multinational technology company with operations in over 170 countries.

Although most of the sessions focussed on corporate activism, there was a group psychotherapy workshop for gender-identified people to take part in, and this session run by Mermaids called ‘experiences of parenting’.

About the event

Thinking about a child’s gender identity is an important part of a parent’s journey. In this session, we explore ways of making gender non-conforming children feel unconditionally loved for who they are.

Additionally, we acknowledge that parents also need support from a variety of sources, such as: their employers, family or schools.

Join us as we discuss the vital advancements needed to ensure the voices of all parents are heard equally.

Award winning director, writer and actor Jake Graf joins Mermaids representatives in a discussion about parenting.

Blurb for event from Pink News

Representing Mermaids was their patron Jake Graf, volunteer William Cox, and full time employee and legal strategist Alex Woolhouse who moderated the discussion.

Parenting stories

Jake Graf – the patron

Jake Graf told us that she knew from the age of about 14 that she wanted to be a parent and had worked as a nanny prior to starting testosterone. She never believed that she could be a parent but after six years on testosterone she stopped taking it, and began the painful process of hormone treatment to induce egg expression. Nineteen eggs were taken (so around double the safe amount to take in one go), which resulted in 5 fertilised embryos which went into frozen storage. Graf was told this was a very good result but only 5 out of 19 being viable sounds to me that the genetic material had been adversely affected, but it goes without saying I am not an expert on IVF.

A year later she met her partner Hannah Winterbourne (a trans identified man). She says she always knew that she would find it too dysphoric to experience pregnancy herself and therefore sought a woman to gestate her baby.

I was fascinated to know what Graf’s ‘before’ photos were like and found a couple of them tucked away in this Mirror article, in one she wears a pink shirt. In an article in the Sun, here, we see a photo of her wearing a skimpy dress with a feather boa looking gorgeous, probably in her early 20s. This is at odds with her claims that feminine clothing trigger her dysphoria.

Graf has also shared the photo below, eyebrows clearly plucked, alleging that she was so butch that she used to get shouted at and thrown out of the ladies. I wouldn’t describe her as butch, but notwithstanding there’s no way someone would mistake her as a man. Surely at some point, and I say this without any satisfaction, her house of cards is going to collapse.

How did she live as a butch woman for 15 years, when she transitioned aged 28?

William Cox – the volunteer

William Cox told us that she had also known from a young age that she wanted to parent, but could not see herself as a mum and definitely did not want to experience pregnancy. Then she met her now wife, who had three children already from a previous relationship, and Will stepped into the role of step parent. The youngest child is ‘trans’.

Cox avoided giving any details about her own transition, or the child’s, but interestingly the details she did give matched so closely to a trans-identified female who has an extensive quote in Juno Dawson’s recent book What’s the T?. The statement stuck in my mind because it was so appalling.

The similarities between the two stories are striking. One is called Will and the other is a William, both work as diversity consultants, both have three children with the youngest being a ‘trans girl’. Cox said she met her wife when the youngest child was 3 months old, ditto for the Will in the book!

WILL’S STORY

Will and his family are somewhat unique in that Will is trans and so is his daughter.

[…]

I’ve always wanted a family, to be a dad, but that was confusing for me growing up – I wanted a family, but there was no way on this earth I was ever going to give birth. […] She had three kids from her previous relationship when we met and they were all very young, the youngest was only three months old. […]

I transitioned during my relationship with [my wife], after a particularly difficult few years following the realisation that our youngest might be trans. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard the term transgender until we went to the GP. This had a massive impact on me at the time as I had always felt sorry for her wanting to be a girl and really empathised how she felt but from the opposite perspective. With the help and support from the consultants at the gender clinic in London, we supported her social transition to become [Sarah] and she and we, as a family, were much happier.

Learning that there was something that described how I’d felt all my life was probably the most profound experience I’ve ever had. I’ll never forget that feeling of ‘That’s me!’ when hearing about and researching trans issues for the first time. Those early years of it all seeming very scary and daunting, telling our friends and family about [Sarah] and then coming out myself a few years later, feels like a lifetime ago – almost.

[…]

WILL, DIVERSITY CONSULTANT

whole quote runs from pages 232 to 235 in Juno Dawson’s What’s the T?

Further in the extensive quote, Will tells us that the child is on hormone blockers but that it has been worth it all because of the inspirational people she now knows.

I have changed the name of the child.

So let’s just be clear here, Cox very likely gave this extensive quote to Dawson and there was a failure to disclose her involvement with Mermaids.

Were they over protective of their kids?

Cox recalled that the first day that he took ‘Sarah’ to school as ‘socially transitioned’, it was a nerve wracking event for Cox, but believed that it was, ‘the best day in the world’ for her stepson. Cox selflessly held back her nerves, because she did not want to ‘pop that bubble’.

Graf recalled that she had worried about the effect that six years of testosterone may have had on her gametes and worried every subsequent step of the way during the pregnancy. The baby was born during the pandemic by a woman called Laura, so she and Hannah had come up against restrictions visiting the hospital after the birth. Now there are restrictions for meeting up with other parents and babies.

Graf reflected that she and Hannah had been on the receiving end of ‘weird comments from the community’ following the birth of their daughter, with people demanding to know why they were weren’t raising her ‘gender neutral’. These comments appear if they ever share photos of her dressed her in pink clothing. Graf says that she does not like seeing her baby daughter in dresses or skirts, but acknowledged this was her own projection. Graf felt that her and Hannah’s gender issues were their own and should not affect their child in any way.

Graf says that when if she describes her daughter as such, trans people berate her and tell her she mustn’t label the child or use sexed pronouns and that ‘she hasn’t told you who she is yet’.

Obviously we all know, you can’t raise a child as trans.

Jake Graf

It sounds like Graf is coming down to earth, somewhat, as she went on to reflect that most children simply will not be trans.

Graf and Hannah had a documentary aired on Channel 4 earlier in the year which following their surrogacy experience and apparently received thousands of messages of support, including from women to Hannah, commiserating with him that, like them, he also was not able to give birth.

Woolhouse’s parents had also watched the documentary and had reassured him that he too would also be able to have a family. Graf wanted to reassure the audience of the webinar, especially any parents, that your child being trans did not mean that it was the end of any of their dreams of being grandparents, as long as they had their ‘love and support’.

How did you deal with your kid telling you she was trans?

Cox said that initially there was shock and not knowing what to do. The family do not discuss the issue of gender identity much. Obviously Cox’s own ‘unique experience’ has helped during low moments of ‘Sarah’s’ transition. One day the child, following an appointment with the gender identity clinic, was very deflated and burst into tears and said, ‘I just want to be normal’.

Cox spoke as if she had transitioned before the child, which I believe is almost certainly a lie, and said that the ‘unique and special things’ she was able to tell her stepson was that she was ‘really happy and really comfortable and really pleased’ with her life experience because she had met so many ‘amazing people’. Cox says she told her stepson that she used to think that she didn’t want to to be trans, but that it was ultimately a blessing. Cox repeated that she had met ‘some incredible people’.

By incredible, she means A-list celebrities in the gender cult, who are more like Z-list in anyone else’s book. Cox believes the child hearing that he was going to be part of an amazing community was helpful.

What were the challenges you faced starting a family?

Graf recalled that she had done a lot of dating before she met Hannah and settled down. She found it tiring explaining gender dysphoria to them (she didn’t specify whether these were men or women, or both, but on some digging she has said she lived as a ‘butch’ lesbian for 15 years). Therefore it was as a single person that she decided to undergo egg extraction.

They receive messages from trans people all the time who fear that they will be alone forever.

Graf and Hannah often attend Mermaid residentials and advise teens on future storage of their gametes. Graf says that a lot of the girls say ‘I just want phallo[plasty]’ and were very gung-ho to get on with things. One of Hannah’s biggest regrets is that he did not store sperm and apparently chose against this because he believed that he would never find a partner. Again, Graf said that the boys are often keen to get started on oestrogen.

Stopping testosterone to undergo the hormonal treatment and finally an invasive operation was very challenging. Her appearance changed rapidly, even though she had been on testosterone for six years, and she found that she was very emotional. She had to attend a fertility service for women, looking like a man.

When Graf had the procedure itself, she thought of all the ‘guys’ who had had this done before her and that it ‘didn’t make me less of a man’. Woolhouse commiserated and that he had been the only ‘single woman’ when he had visited a fertility clinic to store sperm.

How had being a parent changed their work?

Graf reported that all her films had kids in them. Graf produced a film for Mermaid called Listen. I have watched Listen and it is a 4 minute propaganda film about kids needing ‘puberty blockers’ and boys being bullied by girls in school toilets. The children in the film are all connected to Mermaids as users I understand. Her skills as a filmmaker are undeniable though.

Graf said that a ‘trans’ prisoner in Arkansas had written to her after they were shown the film in prison, saying it had helped explain to the other inmates what they were about.

Now Graf is working on her first feature film, which follows the trials and tribulations of a ‘gay trans man’ who becomes pregnant following a one night stand and described this as the ‘ultimate internal conflict’ – would he be able to go through the pregnancy with all the resultant changes it would do to his masculinised female body?

Graf’s activism had not changed, but she and Hannah have stepped away from Twitter a bit. She doesn’t think it should exist and described it as ‘vitriolic, hateful, awful platform that there is’ and whenever they discuss being parents there is an onslaught of hate.

Cox says that she is mindful what she shares about her family and did not want to expose her ‘trans’ child and didn’t want to put herself into danger.

What kind of support do you need to bring up a gender diverse child?

Cox told us that allyship from other parents and the school was necessary. ‘Sarah’ had had the same best friend throughout his life so far, but reported that it was a common occurrence that he had not been invited to other children’s birthday parties growing up. This had been heartbreaking for ‘Sarah’, however the fact that he had one best friend meant that at least one party invite was assured.

Cox put this down to other parents being worried about saying the wrong thing and that this was the only thing that she hated about being trans.

I suspect that the parents’ reluctance is something else – possibly that they had spotted that Cox transitioned after the child did, and that it simply did not sit right with them.

What can workplaces do to support families?

Cox advised the many corporate attendees that people should undertake Mermaids training. Putting Pride flags in communications was also important. People just need more education in this area.

Woolhouse is responsible for delivering transgender awareness training to law firms on behalf of Mermaids. (On another webinar I learned that Woolhouse was very much a protege of Global Butterflies.)

Graf suggested people offer support and understanding without questioning, though admitted that a lot of people don’t understand the phenomenon. Again, she also felt that Pride flags are very important (probably because everyone links these to complete capitulation).

How important is representation of trans families?

Cox said have depictions of gender diverse families and queer families on presentation slides and stock photos. It was important to show kids that there were ‘lots of different ways of having a family’.

Were attitudes changing?

Graf said that when she and Hannah released their story to the media, the strap-line was always ‘Britain’s first transgender parents’, which Graf claimed they repeatedly asked them not to use (I personally suspect that this was exactly the phrase their agent angled for). They received messages from other trans-identified parents to tell them that they weren’t the first, and that they had been trans parents for ’10 to 15 years’. Graf said that was obviously true, since trans people had been around since the dawn of time, therefore it’s interesting that the timeframe which sprung to mind was as short as 15 years.

Graf says the reason why they chose to be visible is to that they can be role models for kids.

Often at Mermaids retreats it is mostly the parents who say ‘you’ve given me hope for the future’ to her and Hannah. Most of the Mermaid kids were tough and everything was water off a duck’s back, but the kids worried about their parents. Graf wants everyone to know, particularly parents, that there is a future out there and it’s really really bright.

Question and Answer session with audience

Has your relationship with your trans child changed your opinion on the supposed ‘grief’ response of parents?

Cox said that she used to worry a lot about other people’s reactions and that it had really impacted her life, but she had got herself to a place where she doesn’t worry so much. Now, she only needs to worry about how she feels about a situation. She understood that some parents did have a grief reaction that they were losing a child to transition.

I never had that because Sarah has always been Sarah. All we did was change pronouns and the name.

William Cox

I’m a transgender female with three kids. I don’t want to be called ‘dad’ anymore but my ex- won’t allow me to be ‘mum’.

Graf has a friend called Bobbi (presumably this is Pickard, a gender identity activist in the corporate sector) who transitioned later in life. He is happy with being called dad by his children but occasionally finds it embarrassing in certain situations. Graf has included him as a character in her new film. Graf said it was a difficult situation and that we all know that when a family member transitions, everyone transitions, it was a massive readjustment and probably quite scary. Graf advised the questioner to be patient. So many times Graf spoke with intelligence and compassion.

Cox advised the questioner to discuss different scenarios with his kids and go through how they would act in different scenarios.

Woolhouse reflected that it had taken his parents a long time to change his pronouns to she/her.

My daughter is going to university soon, what advise would you give her? She is not keen on joining any LGBT groups.

(The same parent also revealed that they were a Mermaids regular and that his son had frozen sperm. The questioner was worried that the sperm would only be held for a limited time before being disposed of.)

Graf felt that it was not helpful for trans people to live in ‘stealth’ mode and said it was fine if the teen was not interested in LGBT groups. Trans people faced a lot of pressure to be out and proud, she said, and not everyone wanted that, especially those who regarded it as a medical issue which had been sorted. She reflected that she had transitioned aged 28 and didn’t think it was helpful to put pressure on people to be visible.

Cox agreed with Graf and said that she had recently done a degree as a mature student but didn’t tell anyone she was trans until she had made a few friendships a few years into the course.

In my opinion, stealth mode is a particularly hopeful myth that gender identity activists have created. The bottom line is that most people simply do not pass, even with hormones and surgical help, and is a certain impossibility for intimate relationships. Women tend to get better cosmetic results than men, but there are still fundamental anatomical differences which can’t be overcome.


Obviously one of the aims of the Pink News Trans Summit was to create business opportunities for the training consultancies who ran sessions, – Mermaids, Global Butterflies and Gendered Intelligence will all get their extra bookings. However, the business model is not sustainable as concern is growing and will only get bigger as time goes on – Mermaids’ kids in particular. Even at the webinar issues about the deterioration of gametes was a notable concern and these are the propagandists.


The recording of the webinar is now publicly available.


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