The Modern Family

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

The notion of the “happy ending” is burned into our minds from childhood. All based on the stories we read as children. More recently we’ve been able to see those stories come to life on the big and small screens, and the quest to find our own prince or princess to live happily-ever-after, can become what could be a lifetime of living up to what our society deems to be the norm. For the millions of children growing up LGBTQAI, these classic childhood stories tend to have different endings but everyone wants their “knight in shining armor” with a beautiful palace to call home. And while growing up trans may add an even more complex ingredient to the mix, the storybook message is still there: find love, find happiness, and fight whatever stands in the way of your happy ending.

For Tina Montgomery and Junior Brainard, their happy ending is coming in October. While their story may be different from the traditional fairy tale, it brings to light some of the new variations of “family.”

Junior met Tina at club XO. “I was one of five people in the audience at a show where Tina was performing.” said Junior Brainard, a young man: caucasian, 30’s professional who teaches at Philadelphia Community College, and who happens to be a trans.

“He grabbed me by the waist and said, ‘I have you all to myself,’ in the most flirtatious way,” said Tina Montgomery, an African American woman in her late 40’s, and who also identifies as trans. Tina has been performing in Philadelphia for over twenty years at drag shows all over town. “I went to the dressing room, my friend said, ‘go for him! He was flirting with you!’ I said no I don’t want to date a white man. My friend told me to try something different. When I came out from the dressing room I gave Junior my card. He called me for dinner about a week later.”

Tina and Junior shared their story from Tina’s large showroom full of dresses and shoes; pictures of Tina from her shows adorn the walls of her large house on almost every floor, as well as pictures of her large family. Tina and Junior share their home with Tina’s mother Ruth, and Tina’s daughter from a previous relationship, Cione.

Junior is currently in his third trimester, with their baby due October 20 and with the couple celebrating their eight-year anniversary. After two years together, the couple started thinking of having their own family. Tina wanted a biological child and asked Junior how he felt about it. After they made the decision, Tina stopped taking her hormones. When asked how long the couple needed to be off of the hormones, their answer was that there is not a lot of consensus for how long that time period needed to be. They both knew of trans men who were off hormones for a month and still became pregnant. “Also, you can be on testosterone and get pregnant,” said Junior.

The couple sought out a fertility doctor for help. “The first doctor refused to help,” said Tina. “Junior and I both heard what the doctor said to us, but we both heard it differently. The doctor thought we were more of a risk and that our sperm was no good because I had been on hormones. They suggested we go to New York City.” Junior added, “Trans people have been having kids for a long time. Someone may not be in our exact position, but it has been done; the quality of sperm and eggs, the uterus, age. There’s just a lot of factors.

“We found a second doctor at [Thomas Jefferson University Hospital]. They had a few trans men as patients. Our doctor, Dr. Jacqueline Gutmann, took our situation from a more medical perspective. She was honest with us about the  things she didn’t know. We did [In Vitro Fertilization] (IVF), with that you have as many eggs and you can, inject sperm into those eggs and see what happens, as opposed to a regular cycle with one egg… This could have taken several years.” said Junior.

After the first hospital visit, Junior did not want to go through the process again. Junior’s father passed away, and around the same time, Tina’s sister passed as well. The couple felt they were not in a place to pursue their dream of having a family at that time. “It took until 2013… A lot happened.” Tina added.  “We had to try a few times. With IVF you do a cycle and we didn’t have any embryos to freeze. The second cycle Junior had a miscarriage.”

But determination to have this family paid off. The third cycle was where Junior became pregnant. “Once the baby was in him, we got more comfortable, then his stomach got bigger.” Tina said with a huge grin and placed her hand on Junior’s stomach.

“I was worried I would feel uncomfortable in a pregnant body but that hasn’t been the case.” Junior said. “In terms of my gender: it feels really good and ok growing a belly. I do not attach pregnancy to femininity; its been exciting. It hasn’t felt like a super feminine experience. Being pregnant is not like anything else before transitioning. It’s a totally different experience. The whole mainstream world of pregnancy is very heterosexual and focused on women. That world doesn’t match up with our experience. “

When asked, who will be “mom” and who will be “dad,” the couple made a very clear point. “I don’t think mom or dad comes into play. I know how I want to raise my child, I don’t have any role models for this, my mom did her thing, I am gonna do mine. Your child will call you whatever you are comfortable with them to call you. It’s what they decide.” Tina said.

Junior added, “That’s the question I have a problem with. If any person knew me as Junior for years, why would I present myself as a man and ask my child to call me mom? That would be strange. Whatever my child calls us doesn’t come from gender roles and terms. We just want to be parents. The baby isn’t going to want to call us anything unless we tell it what to call us. The baby won’t say, ‘hey transgender parent!.’”

Tina stated she and Junior do not want to be known as “trans-parents” just parents. “We will not be putting things on Facebook like, ‘hi we are trans-parents.’ If you wanna have a family, have a family. If you want to raise a child, raise the child the way you want to raise the child. Not how other people do, just enjoy the moment… None of it lasts. It’s a different moment every day so enjoy it.”

The couple did not want to reveal the sex of the baby, but Tina let me know, “It’s exactly what I wanted. I couldn’t keep it a secret so my family knows…” Tina said smiling. “Junior and I chose a versatile name and we will keep it at that.”

They say that love conquers all. Whether the relationship is with a man and a woman, two men and two women, black and white; it does not matter. What matters in life and with family is the love that comes from the heart and the determination to let that love shine and flourish in the home. Tina and Junior have found their real life, storybook, happy ending.

Ian Morrison
aka Brittany Lynn, Don of Philly's Drag Mafia

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