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Recently, someone reached out to me to see if I would be interested in writing an article about him and his husband—specifically about the impending birth of their child. Gay men having children isn’t exactly news anymore—but the person reaching out to me knows this, so I was intrigued.
“What’s the hook?” I asked. “Why will this be of general interest?”
“So, Michael's pregnant,” Brandon Thomas answered, referring to his husband, Michael Finch. I had a flashback to our cover featuring Matt Riddlehoover, who at the time was shooting Paternity Leave, a movie about a pregnant man. I scheduled the interview.
A couple of weeks later, Brandon and Michael walked into a Starbucks in Antioch. Michael wore loose fitting clothes, and I could easily have interpreted the stomach as weight gain. But I knew Michael to be unmistakably seven months pregnant.
While the phenomenon of pregnancy among transgender men has received some press over the last decade, there is a definite shortage of information on the topic generally, of scientific and statistical data in particular.
One study, "Transgender Men Who Experienced Pregnancy After Female-to-Male Gender Transitioning," published in the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists highlighted the lack of awareness, services, and medical assistance available to pregnant men. Pregnant men face a lack of understanding on the part of medical professionals, adding to their risk, and the experience of pregnancy can exacerbate the gender dysphoria many transgender men face.
What has pregnancy been like for Michael? “I haven't had a chance to talk to a bunch of people about it face to face, because I started working from home right after,” Michael said. “So, it's been a very solitary experience, other than all of the doctors’ appointments.”
But, first, the backstory.
“I'm from West Nashville,” Michael said. “I don't have a ‘traditional’ transgender narrative, and I think it's because I'm a queer man. I'm more gender nonconforming, so when you grow up playing with Barbie dolls and loving puppies, and not really minding when your parents put you in dresses, it's not gonna … the concern didn't come together as quickly.”
“I didn't have the stereotypical clues: I didn’t always want to play only with boys, or in the dirt, and it didn’t bother me want to wear a dress. I was about 15, maybe, when I really started to think about it. It's been relatively smooth sailing. I've always been politically active, and I think that helped me find my people. People also know more about trans people now and understand a lot more. I've definitely heard some ignorant stuff, but it has not been what most people expect.”
At MTSU, Michael’s and Brandon’s paths crossed. “After a LAMBDA meeting, I saw him,” Brandon recalled. “I was like, ‘Oh, he's really cute.’ So, I don't know what happened after that. Somehow…”
“I thought you were annoying at first,” Michael interjected.
After he got elected to SGA, one of Brandon’s major initiatives was to get gender identity added to the SGA non-discrimination policy, and he sought out Michael’s assistance.
“That completely changed how I thought about you,” Michael confirmed, “because it's like, ‘Well, he's not trans, and sexual orientation is already protected, but making sure that trans people are protected means something to him.’ You didn't really have a family member, or something like that—you were just like, ‘These people aren't protected, and I want to do that.’”
Soon, Brandon, opinions editor of the student paper, had Michael helping him out on that front as well. “It was all an elaborate ruse to spend more time with me, but I didn't know that. As far as I was concerned, he was my best friend, and as far as he was concerned, I was his best friend, but he was on a path that I knew nothing about.”
That changed on Saint Patrick’s Day on 2011, at Chameleon’s lounge. Brandon’s friends, who had heard of his interest in Michael, helped push them together by suggesting that they kiss. What followed that first kiss was an anxious day of worrying that they had messed up a beautiful friendship, but the next day they confessed feelings for one another. They’ve been together ever since.
In 2015, they married, shortly after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in Tennessee. A metro councilwoman, with whom they connected via TEP, officiated their impromptu ceremony in Centennial Park.
When it came time to think about having children, Brandon said, “I always wanted biological kids. It's probably upbringing… Just thinking about the legal ramifications of trying to adopt in Tennessee strengthened that feeling.”
While Michael didn’t share Brandon’s deep want of a biological child, he added, “Just thinking about the idea of having this baby that's a part of me and a part of Brandon—once I knew how much it meant to him and started thinking about it that way—I can definitely see why he would prefer that.”
This began a process. “It went from no, to probably not, to I'm willing to figure out if this is something I could do, and that was when I joined the Facebook groups,” Michael explained. “Then it very quickly became, ‘Okay, let's do it.’”
Seeing other men who had made the decision to bear children, and the positive responses they got from the community they shared it with on Facebook, was a factor in helping Michael get over that mental hurdle. It was through these groups that Michael learned the story of Trystan Reese, the trans man who had a child with partner Biff Chaplow.
“I think Trystan had the baby the same month that I got pregnant,” Michael recalled, “so while we were going through the process of figuring out how it was gonna work and how to start, he was going through being very visible in his pregnancy and talking about what that was like, and how he was keeping himself safe, and how it was being seen by people around him.” Seeing someone successfully navigate the process was very empowering.
The other big factor in allowing Michael to come to terms with the idea that he could be pregnant and hold onto his identity as a man was his top surgery. “Once I had top surgery, that was when I knew that I could be myself… That was when I started thinking I might be able to get pregnant now. I might be okay with this.”
Michael explained that worries about whether people would notice his binder, and the discomfort of it, “took up so much of my mental energy and was the source of the majority of my discomfort… Once that wasn't an issue anymore, I was so much more comfortable with myself that I could actually focus on other things.”
At that point, they began the process of getting pregnant. “I didn't even know if this was something that I could do, or even if I could get pregnant,” Michael explained, referring to his lack of knowledge about the long-term effects of the testosterone he had stopped taking years earlier. “So I wanted to figure that out before we even tried anything. I didn't want to find out that I could get pregnant, but not stay pregnant, and then have to deal with that.”
“I reached out to Vanderbilt Center for LGBT Health and said, ‘Do y'all know any providers who have any kind of experience with this?’ The provider they recommended is at Vanderbilt at 100 Oaks, and she's been great.”
“We had that consultation and then got prescribed some pills,” Brandon explained. “I expected it to take a while, and it did not—just a month.”
Michael didn’t surprise Brandon with the news, but they did surprise both of their families. “I went into my parents’ kitchen, tossed a Honey Bun into the oven, and closed it. My mom looked at me like I was crazy, until my dad said, ‘Is there a bun in the oven?’ I said, ‘Yes, there is,’ and then my mom cried a little bit.”
Brandon’s mother was no less pleased, but she was a great deal more shocked. “Brandon’s mom did not know that I was trans,” Michael explained, “until he told her that I was trans and pregnant with her grandchild. I was not there for that conversation. I said, ‘You go do that. I will stay at home and take a nap. You can give me the edited version.’”
“She said her prayers had been answered,” Brandon said. “We’re both only children so I know both families felt that way.”
Moving forward, Michael’s doctor’s visits at 100 Oaks have presented some personal challenges. “I can understand that, for many of them, I'm literally the only trans man that they've ever interacted with, because this place is literally called the Vanderbilt Center for Women's Health. They're on autopilot,” he explained. “Even my doctor can be on autopilot, saying things like ‘with pregnant women,’ but she usually catches herself.”
In the office, Michael said, “They stare at the chart, and then stare at me, and then they're like ... Sometimes it's ma’am, sometimes it's Miss Finch, sometimes it's some version of Michael. There is one nurse who called me Mr. Finch the other day, because she has figured it out, and God bless her…”
“It does hit me sometimes, like … when you send a message through the patient portal, you send it to your doctor, but then, really, anybody who works for her might reply,” Michael said. This is one place where mis-gendering often occurs. “I'm sitting in my own home, on my own couch, and I have to open up this message where somebody has called me ma'am, when they really didn't need to use any kind of gendered address in any way.”
Michael is normally read visually as a man, so mis-gendering isn’t something he commonly experienced prior to pregnancy. But pregnancy has brought him into a milieu that is constructed almost entirely around the concept, ‘woman.’
“At my last workplace, only one person even knew I was transgender,” Michael said, “and then she got to be the one person who also knew that I was pregnant. Nobody else did…”
Even at seven months pregnant, most people still don’t read Michael’s belly as a sign of pregnancy—because the concept is so foreign to the common notions of manhood. “The only person who has noticed in public that I am pregnant was at a gas station downtown… I was just standing there, sideways, so I think my stomach was really obvious… She did mis-gender me… I was just like, okay, I'll never see this lady again in my life. Brandon said we should have educated her and just blown her mind, but then if she says something stupid, then that's a whole day ruined.”
“It usually doesn't really get to me,” Michael said. “I would love to have the energy to be like, ‘That's not right, and let me explain it to you…’ If somebody else comes after me, I would like if I had been able to make it easier for them. I think in some ways I probably have, because definitely some people have figured what's going on or have been in the room when me and my doctor are talking about it, and kind of know a little bit more now.
Given that so few people know about the pregnancy, and that a relatively select group of people are aware that Michael is transgender, why did they want to share their story so publicly? It was reading about Trystan Reese’s story that empowered Michael to begin this journey and they want to pass that gift along.
“I have heard from a lot of trans men, like me, who had thought about doing this before,” Michael explained, “but didn't know anybody in this area had ever even done it. That Facebook group, and all the pictures, really inspired me to see that I could potentially do that for other people.”
Other social interactions, such as Rutherford County Democratic Party events and Rainbow Rutherford, made Michael, “feel like, okay, there are people who get this, and it is nice to be able to talk about it with people who understand what's going on, or can at least be respectful about it.”
“We recently even had a baby shower hosted by Rainbow Rutherford,” Brandon said. They had only recently joined the group to solicit recommendations for an LGBT-friendly pediatrician, and the group welcomed them with open arms. “That was just amazing. We weren't expecting a lot of people, because we don't really know a lot of people in Rainbow Rutherford, but they showed up, and provided everything that we probably need.”
Given this momentous shift in their life together, it would be natural for Michael and Brandon to be concerned: they are about as different a family as a two-parent, atomic family can be. Is Middle Tennessee the best, or safest, place to put down their roots?
They are committed to this place—they believe in it, and they believe it can grow to meet them. “This is our home and we want to stay here and fight for it, make it better,” they affirmed. We must all work to broaden our understandings, and help introduce the changing face of the gay family to the world around us, in order to facilitate that.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.