Film Reviews

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth – Documentary Review

Whenever the subject of pregnancy comes up there’s a chance that comments will be made about what things would be like ‘if men could get pregnant’. People joke that men couldn’t handle the pain, that the changes would horrify them, or that if men had to go through it it’d be a lot easier as they’d go out of their way to make it a better process because it’s no longer something that only women can go through. The thing is, men can get pregnant. Men can give birth. And Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth gives viewers an insight into this reality as it follows journalist Freddy McConnell as he gives birth to his son.

Freddy is a trans man, and as such has the capacity to become pregnant if he wants to. With him entering his thirties, and after a long contemplation, he comes to the conclusion that he wants to start a family of his own, and the best way of doing that is to give birth himself. No pregnancy is an easy process, but this is even more difficult for Freddy, who has to begin by stopping his hormone replacement therapy. Stopping this process allows Freddy’s periods to start again, meaning that he can become pregnant; but it also comes with some negative side effects. We see quite quickly how the change in his body chemistry changes his outlook on things, how he instantly feels less himself, more feminine, and how this brings self doubt, and depression along with it.

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Whilst this film is focusing on Freddy’s pregnancy, this moment offers a great insight into how some aspects of gender dysphoria work; how something as simple as the wrong hormone coursing through your body can affect you. For the most part Freddy doesn’t seem to change that much, you still look at him and see a man, yet he feels that’s not true. He feels like his body is reverting, he feels like he’s not getting to be himself anymore, and you can see how much this hurts him, even if it is something he has to go through to reach his end goal.

This isn’t the only hurdle that Freddy has to navigate though; simply being a pregnant man brings with it so much more hardship thn you’d first think. Freddy has to go through all of the pain and discomfort that anyone who’s pregnant has to deal with, but there’s a sense of isolation and loneliness around him because he’s not a woman going through this, and that sets him apart from others. There’s a moment in the film where his family gather together friends and relatives to tell them of his pregnancy, and the people there are trying to be supportive, yet they keep talking about ‘pregnant women’ and ‘women who have babies’.

There is a moment in this scene where everyone around Freddy is chatting and laughing with each other but he’s there in the middle of it, silent, looking withdrawn. It seems that these people, who do support and love him, talking about women’s maternity clothes and if he’d be called dad rather than mum, seems to isolate him further; that it reminds him his pregnancy is something that is making him isolated from the vast majority of other pregnant people.

This sense of having to do it alone is further compounded when Freddy’s partner CJ decides that they no longer want to co-parent with him, and backs out of the process. There’s also a point where Freddy reveals to his father via email that he’s pregnant, and going to be a dad, because he’s too afraid to do it in person due to how he expects his father to react. Considering that shortly after this we see Freddy in tears over the response from his father you can’t help but understand why he never had that discussion with him in person. But it’s not all loneliness for Freddy, as every step of the way his mother is with him.

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Freddy’s mum in one of the best things about this documentary. She supports her son completely, she’s there to hold his hand as he goes for his first scan, she’s helping him prepare his home for his son, and she’s beside him as he gives birth. There’s an interview with her in the film where she describes Freddy and what he’s going through as being one of the the most amazing things in the world, and how in awe of him she is. This is a parent who loves her child completely, who is there for him every step of the way; the kind of parent every trans person deserves to have in their life. Put simply, she’s wonderful.

I know that – with how much hatred there is for trans people in the world right now; with how constant the attacks against us are; and how people are actively fighting to take our rights and protections away from us – there will be people who look at this film and scoff. They’ll say that it’s ridiculous, that men can’t get pregnant, that Freddy isn’t a man, or that trans people shouldn’t be allowed to have children. But they’re wrong. They’re completely and utterly wrong, and I don’t believe that anyone could for a second watch this movie and say that Freddy isn’t a real father, that what he did wasn’t amazing, and that all people like him not only deserve support but should receive the utmost respect for what they do.

Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth is available to watch for free on WaterBear.

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