Jeanie Finlay’s emphatic documentary about Freddy McConnell a determined Brit trans man who wants to give birth is a remarkable testament of faith by McConnell in allowing the cameras to film every part of his extraordinary journey. To avoid the story becoming the slightest bit sensationalized McConnell had assembled his own crew to be able to tell his story and then entrusted Finlay to take over. It turned out to be the perfect call.
McConnell had just finally become comfortable in his own skin after he transitioned and although he had an overwhelming desire to be a parent, he was extremely apprehensive of now stopping his testosterone and how that would affect him both physically and emotionally.
He had planned to include his best friend CJ, another trans man, as a co-parent and they even went as far to seek out sperm for a black donor so that the child would look like CJ too.. However that relationship ended McConnell moved out of London and back to his mother’s house in the small seaside town of Deal.
There on his second attempt McConnell became pregnant and his strong-willed mother became his biggest support and protector. Throughout his pregnancy which was playing hell with his hormones, he verbalised a great deal about his mood swings and his concerns about how his body was taking on more of its old feminine aspects. However no matter what worries he raised about the whole journey, the one thing that remained unshakable was his determination to be a parent.
He had to think long and hard about how he shared the news of his pregnancy so that he could avoid the unusual aspect of this scenario becoming fodder for any sensationalization. McConnell’s relationship with his own father who had left the family home when he was just 8 years old was very unpredictable, so he broke the news in an email as fearing a face-to-face meeting would not end very well. Asides from that his mother and he only told a handful of very close friends but even so one of them simply could not let own inbred prejudices upset the McConnell and the rest of the family one sunny afternoon in the garden.
Any doubts that McConnell (and anyone else) were beginning to harbour about the whole concept of a trans man giving birth completely dissipated when Jack was born. The sheer joy on McConnell’s face said it all, as had the very close bond son and father quickly formed.
It takes an enormous amount of courage for people like McConnell to challenge the status quo of a system that is totally geared around cis woman. He did so unapologetically and with charm and charisma, and as such gave us this film about the strength of the love and commitment of a happy family that simply by existing challenges the norm.
At the end of the journey McConnell expresses concern about his own naivete about the full physical and emotional extent of reactions. but he professed that regardless he had not one single regret. And neither did we.
P.S. The film produced by the BBC and The Guardian takes it’s title from the fact that the Seahorse always carries the young.