By Alex Temblador
Meet Cole Carman, an 18-year-old transgender teen, who just underwent a rare surgery and possibly the first of its kind for trans teens: egg retrieval. Last year, Cole decided to transition from female to male through surgery and hormone therapy. But before completing his full transition, Cole was determined to be able to have kids one day, kids that would biologically be his, hence the egg retrieval surgery. Cole told Yahoo Parenting his reasoning behind the decision: “I’ve always known I wanted to have kids of my own, so when my endocrinologist talked to me about it, it was a no-brainer.”
Egg retrieval surgery isn’t an uncommon surgery, however in this case, it is because most doctors have not historically discussed fertility preservation to trans teens or adults once they’ve made the choice to transition. Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a fertility specialist in San Ramon, Calif. explains the importance of this:
“Some transgender people who realized after gender reassignment surgery that they wanted kids of their own had no chance, because they already had their reproductive organs removed.
Others who didn’t have ‘bottom’ [sex-reassignment] surgery still had difficulty, because after years of testosterone therapy, their ovaries would shut down and would not reawaken to create any viable eggs, or the eggs would be low quality.”
Thankfully, Cole waited to undergo hormonal treatment and surgery so that he could have his eggs retrieved. But what about those teens and adults who have started hormonal treatment? Dr. Samuel Pang, the medical director at IVF New England, stated that, “I have had transgender men who have been on testosterone therapy for up to 18 months, and when we stopped his testosterone therapy he began ovulating and menstruating, which then allowed us to stimulate his ovaries and retrieve his eggs.” However, stopping hormone therapy can be psychologically distressing which is why it so important for trans teens and adults to know that egg or sperm retrieval can and should be done prior to transitioning.
Still transgender teens who may be younger than Cole or who started treatment before puberty may present some problems when it comes to egg and sperm retrieval. If the child is post puberty, eggs or sperm can be retrieved and frozen. However, Pang said, “The biggest obstacle would be where young boys or girls are given medications to suppress puberty. A trans girl would be given drugs to prevent her from undergoing puberty so her penis and testicles won’t grow and she won’t produce testosterone. If they don’t undergo puberty that would prevent a huge challenge for fertility preservation.”
Both Cole’s parents who adopted Cole as a child and Dr. Eyvazzadeh have been supportive of Cole’s decision. His mother stated, “When we realized this was an option, we went for it.” Similarly, Dr. Eyvazzadeh started a fundraising page for Cole with the hopes of raising $3,000 to cover a one-year storage fee. They have currently raised $360.
Cole’s story is an inspiring, and more importantly, an educational story for trans children and teens and their parents. By knowing that they have the option to have a biological link to their children one day, trans teens can take the steps to preserve their eggs or sperm. Furthermore, we hope to see more doctors explaining this option to trans teens that they treat. All in all, we are glad to see that Cole is happy in planning a future for his modern family, even if kids aren’t on the table for another “8 or 10 years.”