Reproductive options for women in our community
Anyone considering starting hormonal therapy, orchiectomy
or vaginoplasty as part of a
gender transition should think carefully about the issue of sperm storage prior
to doing these.
Some, including the less circumspect members of our own community, think this
indicates you aren't serious about transition or are using it as some sort of
psychological safety net to hold onto your "maleness." These people
sometimes think of sperm storage as fatherhood or equate it with masculinity,
but this personal view should not be applied in judgment to others.
A fundamental right
Reproductive choice is one of the most private and personal decisions you will
make. It is up to you alone whether you will exercise this option or not, and
it should not have any bearing on your ability to receive transition-related
If for some reason your therapist or gender clinic thinks you shouldn't, remember
that it's your body and that reproductive choices of any kind are guaranteed
in the United States under the 14th Amendment. Don't let anyone try to persuade, threaten, or shame you out of
doing this if you want to.
Reproductive freedom is one of your most fundamental
rights in the United States, and anyone who tries to deprive you of that right
is in direct conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
Sperm storage and the Standards of Care
The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association's Standards
of Care states:
Reproductive Options. Informed consent implies that the patient understands
that hormone administration limits fertility and that the removal of sexual
organs prevents the capacity to reproduce. Cases are known of persons who
have received hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery who later regretted
their inability to parent genetically related children. The mental health
professional recommending hormone therapy, and the physician prescribing such
therapy, should discuss reproductive options with the patient prior to starting
hormone therapy. Biologic males, especially those who have not already reproduced,
should be informed about sperm preservation options, and encouraged to consider
banking sperm prior to hormone therapy. Biologic females do not presently
have readily available options for gamete preservation, other than cryopreservation
of fertilized embryos. However, they should be informed about reproductive
issues, including this option. As other options become available, these should
Many advantages, but also some drawbacks
Reasons to store sperm
If you are planning an orchiectomy or vaginoplasty.
If you are planning to start hormone therapy.
and are unsure about how extensively you want to transition.
and want to try hormones as an experiment first.
and plan to take hormones in hopes of diminishing crossdressing urges.
If you think you may want biological children of your own some time.
If you have not yet had biological children and sometimes consider the possibility.
If you seek a compromise with a spouse or partner who is interested in future
children and is concerned about your taking hormones.
In the event of future scientific advances, such as ex vitro fertilization,
In the event that your sexual orientation or partner may change over the
course of your life.
Using your own reproductive material can mean less legal hassles compared
to lesbian / TS adoption or surrogate parenting.
Cost may not be worth the benefit for you.
Some people's sperm is no longer viable after freezing. Some studies indicate
this may affect one in ten people.
Despite the best efforts, you may be unable to reproduce, despite banking
I decided to do it as part of an agreement with my partner at the time. I do
not see how children would fit in my life right now, but if that changes, it's
nice to know the possibility exists.
To find a clinic or cryobank
Ask your personal physician for a recommendation.
Ask your therapist for a recommendation.
Ask local TSs/support groups for a recommendation.
Most major hospitals (especially university hospitals) have an affiliated
You can sometimes find clinics/banks in the Yellow Pages under Physicians.
Larger cities will have physicians listed by specialty. If this is available,
Some national clinics offer mail-in dry ice kits you
can use at home, but I'd recommend going in to a local clinic if possible. The
kits used at home must be done exactly right in order not to kill the sperm.
However, this might be an option for people who for whatever reason feel they
cannot use a clinic.
The biggest drawback for most of us is that sperm storage is yet another cost
to add to an already enormous financial burden. Sadly, this means that the option
may not be available if you aren't doing OK financially. However,
if you have prioritized your transition carefully, and you find that this is
a very important issue for you, it's important to set aside that money and hold
off on something else. After all, this is usually one of the irreversible
parts of transition.
Usually there is a fee for each deposit, and it's generally reported to be
around $100-150. Mine was $120 for each of three sessions.
After your first session, they will be able to tell you how many doses they
were able to extract from your sample, and many clinics will also do analysis
to determine the viability and general health of the sample. After this, they
will suggest a number of doses you will want to save for optimal results. For
some, one trip will be enough, while for others, several may be required. Depending
on how important this is to you, you may want to do more than they recommend
to better your chances.
There is usually an annual storage fee as well, often around $200-400. Mine
is $350. Costs can be considerably higher, though. A rader notes:
The bank I called recommended 5 deposits per perspective child (compared to ~3 for 2 children reported by another girl), and requested $700 lab fees + $300/deposit and $200/yr/deposit storage fee - so, for 5 deposits (their recommended value) it would be $2200 + $1000/yr. This was about 3x the cost others on your website reported, and as a student, I decided against it ultimately.
Tips and recommendations
The procedure is pretty straightforward: go into a room and masturbate into
a sample cup. They often supply pornography, but I suppose you could bring
your own arousal method.
They usually require no sexual activity for 24-72 hours. The longer you wait,
Tight clothing and tucking can decrease sperm production. If possible, avoid
tight clothing for a period of time prior to storage.
Notify a friend or relative that you've done this, and outline your wishes regarding stored sperm in a legally
Be sure to contact the storage facility after
your legal name change to ensure your
sample is not lost and you receive annual payment notifications.
Other women's experiences
Be sure to read a first-hand experience from GenderPsychology, and here are a few other submissions.
A reader writes:
You might want to note on your banking web page that it's dry masturbation.
I was required to wash my hands and genitals and was not permitted any lubrication.
I was pretty raw when I was done. Had I known, I might have brought something
sheer like a sterile silk, satin or fur cloth.
I think its also important to emphasize that even though fertility might
come back after stopping hormones, that there is evidence of increased sperm
deformities afterwards. This may or may not lead to an increase in birth defects.
Personally, I would not be willing to take a chance. Once I started hormones
I assumed that all sperm produced thereafter would be tainted.
Marilyn writes in two posts I've
Since my wife and I "really" want children
one day, I toddled down to the local bank and made my deposit against the
day I would lack fertility. It cost $660US to make three deposits ($220 per
visit - they check the first batch to see if there are enough viable sperm
to bother continuing) and there is a yearly maintenance cost of $200US. According
to the fertility clinics I have checked with, insemination will run about
$300US per try and the success rate is about 30% if my sperm is any good.
In three visits I saved up enough for 10 tries - hopefully two children.
Why? We both would like kids and she wants to birth
them herself. Granted, there are a pretty good range of volunteers around
who would be happy to father for us, but with our luck, the father would want
to share in the raisin'. She probably wouldn't sleep with anyone who wasn't
of that cut anyway. So then there's legal crap to put up with, which if we
use my genetic material, no questions.
My wife had a tremendous emotional investment in her
vision of the family we would have together - losing that life dream was a
BIG ONE for her. A few days ago I found that she was able to see that her
family ideal was based on the dysfunctions of her own childhood. It was an
illuminating discussion. From my point of view, it is also comforting to know
that we have passed that issue.
I actually could care less whose genetic material makes
up my children. There is no evidence that I have any special evolutionary
advantages to pass on. Perhaps the biggest reason that we saved some was so
that my wife could carry a child - that aspect is important enough to her
to spend the money. If what we saved is not enough however, we can adopt.
There are plenty of children, particularly ones with special needs, who need
a home and unconditional love.
A good question is whether I would continue to take
up space in Duke's freezer if Michelle and I broke up. My answer is no if
my next pair is a man. If it is a woman and she wanted to have kids and thought
that was the best way to handle it, then OK. However, I'm getting old. In
a few more years I'll be past the age when children are a reasonable option
lifestyle wise. I can't really see ^starting^ a family after 45. I'd like
to retire some day.
Just some things to think about.
This is really the only thing that gives me pause. I don't want children
now, but as I said on my web site, I've surprised myself by getting broody
feelings from time to time - they usually last until I see some harried mother
trying to deal with a petulant screaming toddler! But anyway, the doubt I
have is no more than if I was just going for a vasectomy. It's not the specific
equipment I'm attached to (well, it *is*, that's just the problem of course,
but you know what I mean...), but the permanent loss of the ability to pass
on genetic material.
It's probably the most urgent reason why I want to transition as soon as
possible. I've been on hormones since November. I want to put myself through
at least part of RLT before my fertility has gone for good. And once it has
gone, there's really nothing further to lose in changing sex as far as I'm
concerned. I might as well go forward as back.
It seems such a remote possibility, that I might, afterwards, find the right
woman for me - and a genetic woman at that, who could, and would want to,
have a child by me. And I'm sure it would cost money. I don't even know how
my sexuality is going to pan out yet. I've always been more attracted to girls,
but I'm no longer convinced it was a sexual attraction, or just envy, or what,
or if I'm actually sexual at all.
I don't think I would ever want to have children - *really* - but the imminent
prospect of losing the ability forever is concentrating the mind somewhat.
This topic was especially important to a former girlfriend
and me. I had orchiectomy in late spring 1996, decided not to save genetic
material as I already reproduced and passed along my DNA. I met her in late
As the relationship progressed, we each found that
we felt the other would make a great mom. We talked of raising children together
someday and we both were upset that I had not saved sperm. We are both Ph.D.
students, in good health with no serious life-threatening habits (moderate
and no alcohol, no dangerous drugs, no smoking, very healthy diets, a little
caffeine and chocolate), and no high-risk genetic histories.
Today, I regret not saving sperm. Chalk it up to deep
enculturation, but children who are genetically related to both of us would
be a wonderful thing. Yes, there is adoption. Yes, we both have male friends
who would make great donors and who would agree beforehand to whatever level
of involvement we would decide upon. But frankly, being two wymyn together
raising a child that is ours genetically is one gift of being TS.
I recommend anyone considering sperm or ovum banking
to do so. After all, one never knows when one will have the opportunity to
partner with someone who would make a great co-parent.
i am post op (mtf) transsexual from germany. i just studied your nice website.
the item sperm storage is very important. maybe you can publish my (negative)
experience too. i started taking female hormones which i obtained in the beginning
without control of a physician. after about one year of feminization i considered
how i could preserve my genes for future fatherhood. so i went to a cryobank
to donate my sperm. however it was to late. even i tried hard but could not
ejaculate any more. the doctors tried to find some useable sperm by surgery;
but also without success. so actually i will never be able to become biological
parent of a child of my own.
= recommended reading
options by Katherine Heather (2002)
Transsexual's Experience Trying to Preserve Her Reproductive Options by
Katherine Heather (2002)
desire to have children and the preservation of fertility in transsexual women:
A survey by De Sutter et al (2002)
Reassignment and Assisted Reproduction by Paul De Sutter (2001)
do transsexual people cope with their wish for a child? by Paul De Sutter
(2000) via GENDYS
LINK: Meeting the Reproductive Needs of Transsexual Women
by Anne Lawrence (1997)
For information only. No endorsements implied. Examples were selected for
the quality of online information, not necessarily quality of service.
of cryobanks in the US and Canada.
LINK: Genome Resources
A reader wites: This is a division or "sperm bank brand" of the company General Biotechnology, LLC (Indianapolis, Indiana). I it has a BBB rating of A+ with no complaints filed in the last three years, has been in business since 1997 and is owned an run by several well educated and trained doctors and receives grands of around $1M (which would require regular audits) for research. In short, it appears to be completely reputable. Genome Resources offers a bank by overnight delivery service for $595 for up to three specimens ($195 additional specimen). Annual storage is $100 for up to 10 vials ($10 per additional vials). This is very reasonable pricing (about $200/specimen) and is much cheaper than most other by-mail banks (additionally, note how low the annual storage fee is). Inquiring by phone, I was told it does all of the typical sperm bank testing (sperm count, determines number of vials, etc. It does not wash sperm - I now understand that this is generally unnecessary at the time of freezing). I contacted the UIC (university of Illinois at Chicago) andrology lab which offers the same overnight banking service at about the same cost. Apparently, this does not significantly affect the samples.
Laboratories has a typical national storage program offers a CryoFly Kit
for at-home use as well as on-site banking.
Fairfax Cryobank at Genetics & IVF Institute is another typical private/commercial
LINK: University of Illinois at Chicago has a typical university
hospital storage program and lab.
Cryogenics, Inc. in the US was suggested by a reader.
Bridge Centre in the UK is known for working with our community.