Cole Carman, 18, became the first transgender teen to have a surgical procedure that will give him the opportunity to have a genetic link to the kids he knows he wants one day. (Photo: Cole Carman)
When 18-year-old Cole Carman made the decision to transition from female to male late last year, the San Francisco-area teen knew that he would be in for major surgery and hormone therapy.
That didn’t stop Carman, a recent high school grad set to start college in the fall, from signing on for another potentially risky medical procedure: egg retrieval. It’s a fairly routine (yet still major) surgery, typically undertaken by egg donors and some women undergoing in-vitro fertilization.
But Carman may be the first transgender teen to have his eggs successfully harvested before transitioning — preserving his ability to have children that he’ll be biologically related to, whether he chooses to carry a child himself or turn to a surrogate. “I’ve always known I wanted to have kids of my own, so when my endocrinologist talked to me about it, it was a no-brainer,” Carman told Yahoo Parenting.
The surgery, which was done at the end of May, wasn’t so simple. It required 10 days of hormone shots, and it left him dealing with side effects like bloating and cramping. During the procedure, a doctor used a needle to harvest as many egg follicles as possible, freezing them so they can be thawed and fertilized at some point in the future.
What makes Carman’s situation so groundbreaking is that up until recently, doctors didn’t routinely talk about fertility preservation to transgender teens or adults who were planning to transition.
“Some transgender people who realized after gender reassignment surgery that they wanted kids of their own had no chance, because they already had their reproductive organs removed,” Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a fertility specialist in San Ramon, Calif., told Yahoo Parenting.
“Others who didn’t have ‘bottom’ [sex-reassignment] surgery still had difficulty, because after years of testosterone therapy, their ovaries would shut down and would not reawaken to create any viable eggs, or the eggs would be low quality,” she said.
Because Carman was so certain fatherhood was in his future, he researched the procedure, talked to his doctors and parents about it, and finally decided to go ahead.
Carman’s parents, who adopted their only child when he was five-and-a-half weeks old, couldn’t be more supportive. “When we realized this was an option, we went for it,” C.J. Carman, Cole’s mother, told Yahoo Parenting.
She says she and her husband were as supportive when Cole told them that he was transgender last November — something he began to realize when he was a young teen.
“The decision to do egg retrieval shows how forward-thinking and mature Cole is, because it’s not something you do on a whim,” says Eyvazzadeh. To help with the cost of storing the frozen eggs, she launched a fundraising page for Cole with the goal of raising $3,000, the fee for one year of storage.
With egg retrieval behind him, Cole underwent “top” surgery in June, a procedure that involves the removal of breast tissue. He’s begun testosterone therapy as well, and he’s already filed the papers to officially change his gender and his first name from Nicole to Coley. “The paperwork will be finalized in September,” he said.
As for the eggs that he put on ice, Cole has no immediate plans to thaw them and become a dad. He’ll be a first-year student at California State University at Sacramento in the fall, and plans to major in kinesiology. Fatherhood is a way’s off, he says, “like in eight or 10 years.” Whatever he decides, Cole at least has the option of someday having kids he’s genetically linked to.