Deconstructing tradition: Trans reproduction and the need to reform birth registration in England and Wales

Liam Davis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Background: Trans reproduction is often met with reproach when compared with the norm of the cisgender, heterosexual, nuclear family (referred to here as the ‘traditional’ family). This is notably seen in birth registration where a ‘traditional’ family is more likely to access, and agree with, the terms provided on the birth certificate (that is, ‘mother’ and ‘father’).

Aims: This study aimed to explore the differential treatment between ‘traditional’ and trans families in England and Wales within birth registration in case law, legislation, and primary research.

Methods: Case law and legislation were analysed to identify any differential treatment within birth registration, particularly how parental statuses are ascribed. An online survey (with 310 responses) was conducted, seeking views on constructions of ‘mothers’, respondents’ reactions to trans families, and understandings of sex/gender and parenthood generally.

Results: Themes developed from the survey data focused on the significance of the ‘traditional’ family as the optimal structure, manifesting in the need to ensure ‘coherency and certainty’ of the birth registration system regarding how parents should be registered. This need for coherency and certainty functioned to undermine trans families (who were presumed to be discreet about their child’s conception), and also raised concerns that the child might not be able to locate their (biogenetic) ‘origins’.

Discussion: The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the research for the acceptance of trans families in law and society, and suggests the need to unmoor the birth registration system from its (cis-hetero)normative underpinnings, allowing trans parents to be registered as they wish on the birth certificate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Transgender Health
Early online date19 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Nov 2020


  • transgender
  • gender
  • reproduction
  • birth registration
  • Birth Certificate
  • family law

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Deconstructing tradition: Trans reproduction and the need to reform birth registration in England and Wales'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this