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The first transgender man to give birth and seek to be called the child’s father has lost a high court case to protect his privacy despite warning that he and his child could be victimised and bullied as a result.
Fred McConnell, 32, a Guardian multimedia journalist who transitioned from female to male before giving birth in 2018, can now be named as the first person to give birth who wants to be registered as the child’s father.
McConnell had been living as a male for several years, including taking testosterone from the age of 25 and undergoing chest reshaping surgery in Florida, before he sought to get pregnant, which required him to stop taking testosterone.
Prior to attending a fertility clinic he applied for a gender recognition certificate, which was granted before he gave birth. This meant he was legally male when his child was born. But when he went to register the birth and insisted he should be registered as the father, the registrar said he could only be registered as the child’s mother.
McConnell sought a judicial review in the family division of the high court of that decision and during the case, which has yet to conclude, his identity and that of his child were protected by an anonymity order.
However, media organisations requested that order was lifted, arguing that McConnell had been cooperating with a documentary about the conception, pregnancy and birth of his child, using his real name, and that he had been interviewed about his experiences in the Guardian.
The judgment on whether he should be allowed to be called the child’s father is expected later this week.
Lawyers for the Telegraph Media Group, Associated Newspapers, News Group Newspapers and Reach PLC said McConnell had “put himself at the forefront of the debate on transgender rights” and it was legitimate for them to want to name him as claiming the right to be called the child’s father.
They said there was public interest in the question of how the law should recognise transgender parenthood and that it was artificial for the public not to make the link between the man in the documentary exploring the reality of giving birth and the man in court challenging the law.
McConnell’s lawyers had argued that linking his name to the case was unfair given the amount of adverse comment including “insensitive and sarcastic” reporting in Mail Online’s coverage of the anonymised hearings. They warned that he would be the subject of online trolling, doorstepping by the media and other distressing behaviour.
Lawyers representing his child also argued that if the father’s name was known the potential for the child to “be the target of playground bullies was all too plain” and that reporting about the case would not benefit from naming McConnell, while the consequences for the child would be “extreme”.
Responding to the ruling, McConnell said: “Protecting my child has always been and will always be my number one concern. This was the purpose of the anonymity order. Now that my anonymity has been lifted, I embrace the opportunity to draw focus on to the need for equality in this area of the law. All children should be able to have their legal parents correctly and accurately recorded on their birth certificates.”
His legal team said the UK’s system of birth registration does not treat families equally and that unless it is changed McConnell is being forced to register as “mother” on his child’s birth certificate. They said this was the case for all transgender fathers, whether or not they carry their babies, and for transgender women, who are forced to register as “father” in all circumstances.
His lawyer, Karen Holden, said: “Having an accurate birth certificate is vital as it stays with someone for their entire life and forms part of their identity. We took on this case to support changing a part of UK law that denies equality, creates inaccurate documentation and fails to serve multiple groups with the LGBTQ+ community”.
When McConnell was born, his registered gender was female. He realised he was trans in 2010, aged 23, and lived as a male, starting testosterone treatment in April 2013. In 2016, he sought advice from a fertility clinic about getting pregnant and his hormone treatment was suspended, his menstrual cycle restarted and he became pregnant in 2017 through artificial insemination using sperm from a donor.
His case demanding to be registered as the child’s father was heard at the high court in February, but the court reconvened in May after it emerged that McConnell was co-operating with the documentary Seahorse, about the conception, pregnancy and birth, which had been shown at film festivals and is set to be broadcast later this year by the BBC. Throughout he is openly named, but there was no reference to his claim to be registered as the child’s father.