Interview: I Donated My Eggs as a Trans Man
We rarely hear about egg donation from a trans individuals’ perspective, so WAED invited member Jayson to share his experience.
We Are Egg Donors: Tell us about yourself.
Jayson: I’m a 25-year-old clinical psychotherapist based in New York City, serving youth in the foster care system. Over the last few years, I’ve donated six times to at least seven families that I am aware of. Some of my interests outside of my work include watching musical theater, live performances, gardening, community and grass roots activism, volunteering in LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Queer, Intersex+) community spaces, and making art.
I identify as genderqueer but masculine of center, which falls under the transgender (or trans*) umbrella in the LGBTQI community. For ease of writing, I will use “trans” to encompass transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary, two-spirit, agender, gender fluid and gender-neutral identities.
We Are Egg Donors: Why did you decide to become an egg donor?
Jayson: I first heard about egg donation process as an undergrad, and knew I wanted to help people build their families. As someone who doesn’t want to carry biological children, I saw it as if I was “wasting” good eggs with every monthly menstruation that went by. I felt compelled to help somehow. So, at 18, I decided to sign up to be an egg donor.
We Are Egg Donors: Setting up a profile can feel like you're marketing yourself or trying to sell an idealized version of yourself. What was that experience like? Did you feel as though you had to find a balance between being true to yourself, while also trying to get matched?
Jayson: Honestly, it took quite some time for me to actually submit the first application, due to my own insecurities that I would never be chosen due to my gender identity or sexual orientation. To my surprise, I was almost immediately matched and started the process a few weeks later. I had few side effects during my first cycle, so I thought this was something I wanted to continue doing as long as it was possible.
I definitely think I spent more time on my application than my cisgender/heterosexual counterparts. Although I spent a lot of time agonizing over what photos would appear more feminine and “accepting” to future parents, I was hesitant – unsure how I’d be perceived as a queer and trans donor. It felt like I was balancing between who I really am and how I wanted to be seen, while considering what future parents may be looking for.
I’m somewhat ashamed of it now, but I was very particular to only submit adult photos where I was presenting my gender in my most feminine state. I did not outwardly disclose my current identity through photographs as I did not wish to have the agency turn down my application before they even had a chance to work with me due to my more masculine appearance. I hoped that the future parents would appreciate being able to see what their child could look like if they were raising a girl (my younger photos) or a boy (my older photos). That is, if we had to think in these binary perspectives.
We Are Egg Donors: In your opinion, is it important as an egg donor to disclose gender identity (e.g. during the application process, or on the donor profile)? Why or why not?
Jayson: I’d be open to disclosing my trans status if this information would be readily available on the donor profile. Although, I would feel most comfortable with including it in my profile if the agency had a disclaimer that “trans applicants are welcomed and encouraged to apply”.
I would be interested to know if anyone has transitioned female to male with hormones, then stopped hormones and been able to become an egg donor with a clinic. This case may have come up from family or known donations possibly but I have come across little research on the subject.
If I had the option to list it on my profile, I would have stated it just in the interests of full transparency with the perspective parent(s) and potential child. As I have finished donating within the U.S. one new thought has popped into my head was that if I someday sought out medical intervention such as hormones and/or surgery to transition further into a male identity, and a biological child was to reach out to me in the future – how would they react to find out that the egg from which they were conceived came from someone who identified as a man?
We Are Egg Donors: What has your egg donation experience been like?
Jayson: I struggled with whether or not to disclose my gender identity. Each agency I worked with asked for my sexual orientation, and I was hesitant to be honest (although I decided to identify myself as either bisexual or lesbian depending on the options given). But not a single agency had an option for gender identity; therefore, I did not actively disclose. Throughout my donation process, I asked that people use my name when referring to me, but did not specifically request that they use male (he/him) or neutral (they/them) pronouns.
After my application was accepted, I was afraid I would be turned down right away by the agency. Even though I donated in liberal cities like San Francisco and New York City, I was afraid that I would be unable to donate in the future if I did disclose being trans. I also was not sure how my identify would affect how I was treated by staff. This fear is not specific to donating eggs, as it comes up in any medical space where my chances of receiving adequate medical help and intervention may be at risk if the treating physician is transphobic or disagrees with my identity due to their “moral beliefs.”
During a psychological screening I encountered the question “have you ever wanted to be someone of the opposite sex/gender?” I did respond yes. The staff psychologist didn’t mention by answer in the follow up interview so I figured it slipped under their radar or was overlooked based on the strength of the rest of my application. The clinics told me that my blue eyes, college background, high egg count and successful previous cycles meant that I had a strong profile.
We Are Egg Donors: What has gone well? And what hasn’t gone well?
Jayson: Overall, my egg donation process has been a positive experience, but there have of course been some hiccups along the way. I have donated the maximum suggested by the ASRM (American Society for Reproductive Medicine) and all six cycles have gone relatively smoothly.
During my fourth egg donation cycle I experienced OHSS for the first time. It was uncomfortably painful and inconvenient as I still needed to get to work. Luckily, I have a job that does not require heavy lifting and I can remain seated for some of the day, but I didn’t want to inform my bosses about my donation I thought it would be seen as “weak” and draw attention to my female body when I had worked so hard to be perceived as male in my work space.
Working with the agencies was a good experience for me, despite being referred to by she/her pronouns and facing the discomfort of being in highly feminine spaces.
Also, I hated being on birth control. My chest size increased while on hormonal birth control which also increased my dysphoria. Some of the clothing that I am most comfortable wearing became tight, especially close to the retrieval when my ovaries swelled, and it made me very aware of my body in uncomfortable ways. I haven’t yet experienced any lasting issues.
We Are Egg Donors: Do you have advice for people who are gender nonconforming and are considering egg donation?
Jayson: Being an egg donor definitely places you in a very female-centric environment, and at times it will feel like all you are is a chicken where people just want your eggs. If you are comfortable with penetration during the transvaginal ultrasound, and being in medical spaces frequently, then I definitely say just do it and apply.
Personally, I do not enjoy medical spaces, but the staff made me feel welcome and comfortable overall, even though I was referred to by female pronouns. This is most likely due to the fact that I had not requested to be called by my chosen pronouns (they/them or he/him) due to my own fear of being kicked out of the donor process. I relied on my ability to shrug of the cringing feeling each time I was misgendered, as it still happens frequently in new spaces.
My other advice is to just be yourself in your profile, especially if you live in a big city or around multiple agencies, because if one place doesn’t accept you then another one will.
We Are Egg Donors: Any advice for people who work in the fertility industry?
Jayson: Please advertise on your clinic pages that you welcome trans folks to apply! The donor pool would grow, and it would offer a wider variety especially for LGBTQI identifying IP’s who may actually prefer someone who is trans* identifying as a donor.
We Are Egg Donors: What are your thoughts on egg donor compensation?
Jayson: I have spoken to trans men (those who transition from female to male/FTM) who have expressed they wish they had known or felt comfortable with applying before starting male hormones so they could have had the experience of helping contribute to someone else making a family, and who could have used the financial compensation to put towards their gender transition. I have put aside some of the money to aid with transition surgery should I decide to go forward with top surgery (mastectomy/breast removal). This is my way of feeling like I have given someone else a new life, while having the chance to make my own life as well.
The first time I donated I was inexperienced and took a lower compensation. The clinic told me they start at $7,500 for the first donation and raise the compensation more afterwards. I was excited to have just been chosen, so I agreed to that amount. After experiencing OHSS in my fourth donation and realizing how much I could be putting my body through again, I attempted to get a higher compensation.
Unfortunately, both NY agencies responded that the ASRM guidelines expresses that $10,000 per cycle is appropriate and therefore I would not be able to request anything higher.
We Are Egg Donors: How can people be more inclusive to gender nonconforming/trans individuals?
Jayson: Language is important. When introducing yourself to anyone, cis or trans, include your preferred pronouns along with your name.
Don’t assume that all people who have donated may identify as female. When people ask if I have or want kids, I tell people I am a non-parent to multiple children though egg donation but do not wish to have or carry my own biological children. I would never call myself a mother nor father to these children, but by using a gender-neutral term I have been able to find the right description for my connection to these children who are biologically connected to me.
Fertility clinics should include space on their applications for “assigned gender at birth:” and “pronouns” to allow for trans* applicants to feel included and respected. This information could be included in donors’ charts. Clinics could also only refer to people as donors and use solely gender-neutral language (just as the WAED’s main web page already does!)
We Are Egg Donors: How can WAED, as a resource, be more inclusive?
Jayson: I think reaching out to acknowledge trans egg donors is a huge first step with this article. Also, it would be great to have available if at some point there is a list of inclusive agencies by state as well as a list of ones that are unsupportive so additional donors (whether trans or not) can stay away until they change their approach.
We Are Egg Donors: Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jayson.
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Thank you, Kaylene Breeding, Liz Scheier and Monica Chen for contributing to this interview.