A Trans Man as a “Gestational Parent”: Trans Parenting and the Best Interests of the Child

Author: Brigitte Clark

ISSN: 1996-2193
Affiliations: BA LLB (Rhodes) (cum laude) LLM (Cantab), PhD (Rhodes), Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of KwaZulu Natal; Senior Honorary Research Fellow, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford
Source: Stellenbosch Law Review, Volume 32 Issue 2, 2021, p. 234 – 252


The understanding of gender identities has evolved in response to legislative, policy, political, cultural and social change, but despite these shifts, transgender issues remain under‐explored, and marginalised in South African law and society generally. Transgender is an umbrella term for a person whose gender identity, and gender expression, do not conform to that normatively associated with the gender they were assigned at birth, and for persons who are gender transgressive. Transgender parenting constitutes a direct challenge to normal notions of family as transgender parents challenge traditional assumptions about families. Although some jurisdictions have moved beyond gender categories to broader categories of gender‐inclusive parenting, there is no legislative provision in South African law for transgender parents who conceive after having legally transitioned but not having undertaken gender reassignment surgery. After an analysis of recent case law in England and advances in reproductive medical science in this area, this article focuses particularly on whether the registration of trans parents in their chosen legal gender (or as a genderneutral parent) conflicts with the best interests of their children in relation to the lived reality of their childrens lives, the rights of trans parents and children to privacy and family life, and the childrens rights to know their genetic origins. After considering whether the rights of trans parents should be limited in the interests of their children, the article argues that South African legislation and case law should advance beyond the gendered, heteronormative concept of the family currently in operation so as not to limit the rights of trans parents. An administratively coherent system of birth registration that is in the best interests of children could be realised by changing the legal nomenclature to reflect the biological role of the trans parent without the binary connotations of gender.