The U.K. Will Now Define 'Mother' as a Man or Woman Who Gives Birth

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Since 2018, Freddy McConnell, an English trans man who gave birth to a child after a brief cessation of testosterone treatment, has been fighting his way through the British court system to have his parental records labeled according to his gender, “father.” But courts have ruled that McConnell will be labeled a “mother” on his baby’s birth certificate—despite the fact that UK law has recognized him as male, BuzzFeed reports.

After a grueling legal battle, Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the U.K. high court’s family division, ruled that transgender men who conceive will be forced to identify as the “mother” on the child’s birth certificate, even if they were recognized as a man prior to the pregnancy. According to the Guardian, McFarlane’s ruling has established “the first legal definition of a mother in English common law,” one that stipulates “motherhood” to be “about being pregnant and giving birth regardless of whether the person who does so was considered a man or a woman in law.”

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The ruling has an obvious and chilling effect on the definition of gender norms: while transgender people can be recognized, in most instances, by their gender identity and not their assigned gender, in parenthood this identity becomes streamlined into a rigid definition based on body parts.

According to BuzzFeed, McFarlane argued that “there is a material difference between a person’s gender and their status as a parent,” so therefore refusing McConnell’s right to be labeled as a father on his child’s birth certificate, the judge was simply recognizing and reinforcing an idea that “motherhood” doesn’t mean “woman.” He argued that there can be “male mothers and female mothers.” It is some galaxy brain-level logic.

He continued:

“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’.”

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While this argument McFarlane is a departure from the cis-centric family structures, it offers a nefarious, confusing definition that presents a gendered roles as non-gendered based solely on biology. 

This ruling reads like McFarlane has forgotten all about The Gender Recognition Act of 2004, which became the first law in the world that allowed a person to change their gender without surgery. Of course, that might very well be the point.

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BuzzFeed reports that McConnell will appeal, as he very well should.

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About the author

Maria Sherman

Day Job: Senior Writer, Jezebel