Trans Women as Pregnant Women: A Story of Two Technologies

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This article recounts two moments in which revolutions in assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) opened clinical questions and public debate about whether transgender women should receive doctors’ help to become pregnant. The first took place in Australia in the 1980s when advancements in in vitro fertilization and the accident of a full-term abdominal pregnancy opened the potential that people without uteruses could become pregnant. Critics of reproductive technology used the figure of “the pregnant transsexual” to represent the dangers of science and scientists run amok. Now nearly 40 years later, some advocates argue that trans women could receive uterus transplants to become pregnant. Critics have seized on this suggestion to ask whether all women deserve complex reproductive assistance. Based on archival research and interviews with specialist surgeons, I compare these two moments to examine how the figure of the pregnant trans woman has shaped debates about ARTs and how the possible use of ARTs has shaped discussions of the maternal status of trans women. Consistent across these moments is a recognition of ARTs as themselves gender-confirming technologies. The power of their use to confer a fundamental femininity has pervaded anxieties about trans women as beneficiaries of ARTs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)513-530
Number of pages18
JournalWomen's Reproductive Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022


  • Assisted reproductive technologies
  • IVF
  • kinship
  • transgender
  • uterus transplant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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