Seahorse – a review

‘Seahorse’ is a BBC documentary, recently aired, about Alfred McConnell, a ‘trans man’ who identifies as gay. That’s a person born a woman who believes that they are a gay man. Freddie has been taking testosterone for a while and passes as a man. Freddie likes going to the gym. At some point, for reasons not really explored in much depth in the documentary, Freddie decides to stop taking testosterone for a while and get pregnant.

There is a great summary of the documentary here by Sarah Stuart.

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1171537014136565765.html

__________

An in-depth discussion of the documentary on Mumsnet:

__________

The official site for the documentary is here:

https://www.jeaniefinlay.com/seahorsefilm

__________

And here is a Daily Mail article which touches on McConnell’s fight to be registered as a father on his son’s birth certificate, leaving the child as legally motherless:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-7448551/Transgender-man-gave-birth-son-reveals-pregnancy-f-awful.html

__________

Research shows that high testosterone levels in the womb may affect brain development in boys and make them more impulsive:

http://www.nbcnews.com/id/49698086/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/fetal-testosterone-may-program-boys-behavior/#.XYC6tyhKiUk

__________

So, obviously my perspective on this is about the child concerned. The documentary seems very controlled by Freddie, so there is no interviewer and no uncomfortable questions are allowed. Freddie seems very involved in the process of being someone who has a baby, of monitoring ovulation and buying sperm online, rather than any consideration of what happens afterwards. Freddie likes control. It’s a project. Freddie goes through any documents or advice given, crossing out ‘mother’ or ‘female’. How is Freddie going to cope with having this child in their world? When Freddie’s mother has a dinner party for a group of Mums to give some much-needed advice and support, Freddie sits there, alienated, completely unable to process anything because she can’t cope with any reference to having a female body. All that jolly maternal warmth is rejected. What about the little one; is Freddie’s child going to be allowed around mothers like this, or will Freddie just keep the child away from nurturing women? From the point of view of a Child of a Transitioner, there were several things like this that felt like BIG RED FLAGS.

Freddie has a last dose of testosterone before trying to get pregnant, but the interesting question of whether testosterone might affect the foetus isn’t explored. According to recent research, testosterone levels in the womb may cause psychological issues in boys which emerge in their teens. No one seems to be very concerned about the foetus. Freddie is trying to get pregnant with a friend called CJ, a born female who also believes that she is a gay man.   Neither Freddie or CJ seem particularly grounded in reality. CJ’s family is from Trinidad, and her heritage is something she values.  Freddie (who is white) and CJ have agreed to have a black sperm donor so that it will feel as if the baby is partly CJ’s. We are not shown any thought about how the child’s racial heritage will be respected, and just as I was wondering about how a troubled, controlling woman like Freddie will handle the added dimension of a biracial child if CJ drops out…  CJ drops out. What if CJ had dropped out further down the line? Would Freddie still be supporting a heritage based around Trinidad, on a connection not to the child’s actual ancestry but to a former friend? I really wish someone had asked these questions. Freddie decides to have a white sperm donor instead. You would think that a documentary would explore the wholesale naivety of this endeavour, particularly given that Freddie says at this point that she ‘really didn’t know CJ that well’ but it’s really not that kind of documentary. Freddie felt broody, so Freddie has a baby. Freddie gets what Freddie wants and, as she says at the very beginning of the documentary, she really doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. Freddie now only has her mother for support.

We aren’t projects. We aren’t accessories. We aren’t here to make you feel more male or female. We deserve to be recognised as human beings in our own right. And we deserve to know our heritage.

Freddy says she decided that she was a man after watching Daniel Craig in James Bond. And now she is going to raise a boy. Even Daniel Craig isn’t like James Bond. In fact, much of the Bond film ‘Skyfall’ is about exploring why Bond is so emotionally stunted! It would have been good to hear some kind of questioning of this idea about masculinity, particularly as Freddie doesn’t seem interested in involving either her father (who split up with his mother when Freddie was eight) or her stepfather in raising the child. We are shown other characters that Freddie loved as a teenager – William Wallace in Braveheart etc. This is Freddie’s idea of masculinity.

We aren’t a fantasy. We aren’t someone you can make into your ideal man or woman. We aren’t your gender experiment.

Later, while Freddie is pregnant, she makes a decision to stop contact with her father because she is worried that he will express his concerns about what she is doing. While Freddie’s mother is very supportive, we aren’t allowed to hear from her father. This does not bode well for Freddie’s child. What if there are problems as the child grows up? What if he wants a mother? What if he needs a parent whose view of masculinity is from more than James Bond? (!)

We deserve to be loved unconditionally. We deserve to have our needs met without the expectation that we have to be positive about our parent’s decisions. We deserve unconditional love.

Post-birth, Freddie seems wholeheartedly in love with the baby, and acknowledges some level of naivety. I note that Freddie is pursuing in the courts the right to be the father on the birth certificate. So no mother at all. And no acknowledgement of a sperm donor.

We deserve to know who our mother and father is. We deserve to have accurate documentation. We aren’t your political football.

My big issue with documentaries like this is that they are so focused on the lives of the transitioners that things become imbalanced. It would have been interesting to just ask Freddie some questions to explore the potential future experience of this child. When children are used as accessories to transition, as validation or as an emotional resource, who speaks for us? When people start using their gender identity to control our legal documents, who speaks for us?  When Freddie goes to court, who is speaking for her son?

One thought

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s