Transgender Dad Chestfeeds His Son After Giving Birth To Him

Photo: Elinor Carucci for TIME
Buzz, Family


In a recent TIME article, Jessi Hempel talked about her brother's pregnancy, medical insurance challenges, and what it's like for him to breastfeed, or chestfeed as trans men call it.

In 2003, Evan Hempel started taking hormones to become a transgender man, and even though he was transitioning he never lost the desire to carry a child and to give birth.

His sister says, "Evan, who was born female, had wanted to be a parent since he was very young when he played with dolls a bit longer than the other kids."

Hempel decided against having the top surgery: the double mastectomy that many trans men have. He knew that one day he might want to nurse a baby. Instead of getting rid of his breasts, he wears a two-compression tank bind.

Five years ago, Hempel and his partner made the decision that Hempel would discontinue his testosterone injections and start artificial insemination using donor sperm. In April 2016, after several rounds of artificial inseminations, Hempel, 35, gave birth to his son.

While there have been a few others, there's very little research on transgender pregnancies and Hempel didn't know exactly how he'd feel reconciling his feelings of masculinity versus the traditionally females only domain of childbirth.

"It was a gamble," Hempel told TIME. "I didn't know how I'd feel, but it turns out I just feel like it's really cool that my body can do this."

The biggest challenge that Hempel faced was his medical insurance, as it refused to cover pregnancy tests and other procedures because he was registered as male. 

"My sex is female, and my gender is male," Hempel had to explain time after time. After having to call the representatives at each checkup, Hempel was forced to give and change his gender to female with his insurance company. 

By chestfeeding, Hempel creates a special bond between him and his son.

There are many benefits to breastfeeding/chestfeeding, including helping your baby to be healthier. Nursing a baby helps reduce the risk of developing chronic conditions like Type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and Crohn's disease, and it helps reduce the risk of some childhood cancers.

Many transmasculine people feel adrift when comes to putting a baby to their chest to nurse. Many lactation support services and support groups are geared to nursing mothers, which can sound exclusionary to men and non-binary individuals.

Hempel was able to find a Facebook private group, Birthing, and Breast or Chestfeeding Trans People and Allies, for answers about questions regarding trans-friendly pediatricians, pregnancy and labor, and chestfeeding.

Hempel is currently chestfeeding his child, but when the time comes and the baby is weaned, he'll start taking testosterone again and his breasts will shrink back down.

All photos: Elinor Carucci for TIME

For now, Hempel can enjoy the feeling of feeding his child in the most natural and beautiful way possible, and hopefully, no one will take issue if he should happen to chestfeed in public — the way they do sometimes with cisgender women.


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