Another NetGalley read, I did intend to read this in June for Pride Month but my reading schedule got a bit full – and this was one of those ones you can’t send to your Kindle, but have to read on the NetGalley Shelf App, which makes it harder to highlight passages and means I have to read it on my tablet – first world problems but things that mean I’m not quite so encouraged to read the book. Anyway, I’ve read it in July and I’m glad I found this fascinating and heart-warming story to read.

Trystan Reese – “How we do Family: From Adoption to Trans Pregnancy, What we Learned about Love and LGBTQ Parenting”

(May 2021, NetGalley)

Sure, we loved each other. But was that love enough to carry us through this crisis? We were both about to find out.

Trystan is a trans man, based in various parts of the US, and, like Juno Dawson in “The Gender Games“, he shares just as much of the particular gender part of his journey as he wants to, being good at setting boundaries. An interesting point that this raises immediately is his assertion that the trans community has promoted sharing the stories of trans women, because they are more at risk in society than trans men. He specifically states this on p. 142 of the book, so it’s there in print, not an assumption I made. I didn’t realise this and am not qualified to comment on it; it’s just interesting. Anyway, he felt he needed to tell his story, against at first his husband’s wishes, because he wanted to encourage other trans men to understand how they can create a family and how, in many cases, they can become pregnant. He does point out the gaps in knowledge on this and calls for more research on trans folk and childbearing in general.

But before he talks about getting pregnant, with us or with his husband, we’re hearing the story about how they, as a fairly new couple, together only a year and barely living together, find themselves taking in his husband’s niece and nephew, after being tipped off by a supportive social worker that they are about to be taken from his sister. In this open and honest book, there is a lot about the issues around Biff’s “chaotic” family and Trystan’s attitude towards it, with him admitting a somewhat middle-class and entitled view of poverty and troubling decisions. I loved this honesty through the whole book, sharing learnings and changes he made to his views.

As the story progresses through chapters entitled “How we do …” (family, kids, communication), alternate chapters give bits of advice or information in “Notes from Life in Our Family” – starting off with understanding trans language. These talk about parenting children from difficult backgrounds and all sorts of other stuff, and extend the book from the specific to the general – anyone can find pointers here that will help. There are some very good sections on toxic masculinity, for example, and how that feeds off parents trying to push their children into too strict gender roles. He’s nowhere trying to force parents to dress their girls in trousers and boys in skirts, but offering up the idea that letting children explore roles is healthy.

So it’s a book for people in the LGBTQIA+ community who want to see themselves and learn about families and parenting, but it’s also a book for people not in their specific situation to learn. I love all the allies Trystan finds in his journey through family – although he doesn’t gloss over the horrible comments, transphobia, homophobia and abuse he receives from those who obviously don’t want to learn, he also meets some wonderful individuals, from the gynaecologist who asks him to recommend a facilitator to train her clinic on trans inclusion to the surgeon who offers an alternative caesarian scar to de-gender the mark he will leave on Trystan’s body (while I was marvelling at never having thought about this before, it was reassuring that Trystan also needs to have it explained at the time).

An honest and open (the pregnancy and birth section is very honest and open, raw, even) book that will hopefully draw people in (not least with the charming family portrait on the front) and explain a few things to people who need it explaining – not least that a loving family is a loving family; love is love, whatever it might look like.

Thank you to publisher The Experiment for giving me access to this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.