Fay Purdham is in a unique position because of scientific advances. Fay, who was born a boy, along with hormone treatments, has had sexual realignment surgery to create a woman’s body. Fortunately, socially progressive attitudes are accepting of the medical condition gender dysphoria. This is where a person can feel very strongly they do not mentally fit the body they are in. During Fay’s transition process, sperm from her male body was frozen. This will be used by a surrogate mother to father a child. Fay wants to become the first person in Britain to be both the mother and father of the same baby. That is not possible. There are many ways in which the parental roles can overlap but nature and society is such that they are not completely interchangeable.
Fathers and mothers, prepare children for life differently. This is because of the way we are wired. We share the same neurochemicals, but in varying measures. The pathway for processing these chemicals is not the same either. A study by Cambridge University revealed differences between the brain structures of the sexes. There are also contrasts in processing information, blood flow and brain activity.
These affect how we behave as a mother and a father. For instance, men and women play with their children differently. Mothers tend to teach when playing whilst fathers, are adventurous. Both provide valuable lessons. Genetically women are primary nurturers and emotional guardians. Professor Kyle Pruett, says fathers ‘hold their children differently and have a different kind of patience and frustration cycle than mothers’.
Being a woman is more than the physical body. It is a chemical and a social state of existence. Historically, societies are patriarchal and we have not yet reached a point of equality. This experience contributes to a woman’s role as mother. A mother teaches her girl how to maneouver in an unequal society. Women understand the raging hormones of teen girls because they are equipped to deal with it. Then there are the shared experiences from menstruation to menopause. Equally, they help their sons with the softer skills and crucially, the mother-son relationship affects boys’ adult behaviour. A University of Reading study found a strong mother-son bond, gives rise to strong, independent men.
This does not mean that men or transgender individuals are incapable of mothering, but they cannot be a ‘mother’ in the biological sense of male-female chemistry and social history. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that, nature has arranged that women bring a womanliness to motherhood and men a male-ness. That precludes a redefinition of ‘mother’ to include male or transgender parents. Perhaps we should start to look at new terms to explain parenting besides mother and father, because it does not cover all the dynamics. Thus, one cannot be a father and mother to a child.