Transgender man who gave birth to boy loses legal fight to be recognised as father

·Freelance Writer
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Documentary subject Freddy McConnell attends the "Seahorse" screening during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at Village East Cinema on April 27, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Transgender man Freddy McConnell wanted to be registered as father or parent (Getty)

A transgender man who does not want to be described as the “mother” of his baby on a birth certificate has lost his legal fight to be recognised as the father.

Freddy McConnell, a multimedia journalist who works for The Guardian, wanted to be registered as father or parent of his child.

A judge on Wednesday ruled against him after analysing argument at a High Court trial in London.

"There is a material difference between a person's gender and their status as a parent," said Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the Family Division of the High Court, in a ruling.

"Being a 'mother', whilst hitherto always associated with being female, is the status afforded to a person who undergoes the physical and biological process of carrying a pregnancy and giving birth.

"It is now medically and legally possible for an individual, whose gender is recognised in law as male, to become pregnant and give birth to their child.

"Whilst that person's gender is 'male', their parental status, which derives from their biological role in giving birth, is that of 'mother'."

A lawyer who represented Mr McConnell said an appeal was being considered.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Documentary subject Freddy McConnell attends the "Seahorse" screening during the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival at Village East Cinema on April 27, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
Mr McConnell gave birth but did not want to be described as the child's 'mother' (Getty)

"As a firm that champions equality, we are of course disappointed at the judgment and it highlights how the law is slow to keep up to modern society," said Karen Holden, founder of A City Law Firm.

"Freddy is legally a man and his legal papers display the same. In the UK he has the right to change his gender on his own birth certificate so why not his child's? Surely if you are going to move with modern times, the law has to finish the journey it has started.

"Equality shouldn't have to come at a price, but this case has taken three years, hours of work and manpower, public attention and yet the courts still failed to help this family set out its actual family structure correctly in terms of its legal status.

"A birth certificate will stay with a child for life and it will be factually and legally inaccurate under current rules.

"Freddy is considering whether he wishes to appeal, and we have no instructions on that at present.

"We hope though others will pick up the chalice as well and look to bring UK law in line with other more progressive countries."

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Mr McConnell, 32, who had a child using a sperm donor, claims in the documentary Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth that pregnancy would be taken more seriously if more men gave birth.

In the film, which portrays his fatherhood journey over three years, he says: “If all men got pregnant then pregnancy would be taken so much more seriously and talked about.”

He adds: “F***, it’s f***ing awful. If men had to go through this all the time you would never hear the end of it.”

Lawyers said the child would be the first person born in England and Wales not to legally have a mother if Mr McConnell won his case.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/09/13: An exterior view of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.  The Royal Courts of Justice, commonly called the Law Courts, is a court building in London which the High Court and Court of Appeal of England and Wales. The High Court also sits on circuit and in other major cities. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A judge delivered the ruling at the High Court in London (Getty)

They say other transgender men have given birth but been registered on birth certificates as mothers.

Sir Andrew heard how Mr McConnell is a single parent who was born a woman but now lives as a man after surgery.

Mr McConnell was biologically able to get pregnant and give birth but had legally become a man when the child was born.

A registrar told him that the law required people who give birth to be registered as mothers.

Mr McConnell took legal action against the General Register Office, which administers the registration of births and deaths in England and Wales, after complaining of discrimination.

He said forcing him to register as the child's mother breached his human right to respect for privacy and family life.

Sir Andrew heard argument from lawyers representing Mr McConnell, the child, the head of the General Register Office, Department of Health and Social Care ministers and Home Office ministers.

Barrister Hannah Markham QC, who led Mr McConnell's legal team, told the judge that it was in the child's interests for Mr McConnell to be registered as father or parent.

She said many children were growing up in "rainbow families" and said a child had a right to have a parent's gender "appropriately identified" on their birth certificate.

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