A Womb Of Their Own

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

A Womb Of Their Own
"This is a film about solutions and a film that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit."

Trans men giving birth to babies: it's a thing. If you rely on tabloid news reports you may get the impression that it's a thing that keeps happening for the first time over and over again, but the reality is that there are thousands of parents out there in this situation. There are also lots of non-trans men who say that they'd do it if they could. As one of the interviewees in this film puts it, it's one of the most awesome things that the human body can do - to grow another person inside itself.

Beyond the hype, beyond the hand-wringing and the frantic TV debates, what is life actually like for men (and masculine people more widely) who go down this path? A Womb Of Their Own gives six such people the space to tell their stories, with input from family members and sometimes from the children themselves. It explores issues around personal and political identity, social perceptions, the bodily changes caused by pregnancy, breastfeeding (or chestfeeding, as some prefer to term it) and parenthood itself. The diversity of the responses will itself shatter many illusions. Only one thing clearly unites these disparate individuals, and that's the joy that parenthood brings.

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Cyn Lubow's film touches upon some sensitive issues but has an overall atmosphere that is decidedly upbeat, supported by lots of bright colours and celebratory music. This approach could be criticised as airbrushing, but on the other hand, when the news focuses disproportionately on tragic stories, it's important to find space for the positive ones. Even where it deals with painful issues like dysphoria around unwanted breasts, the high cost of transition surgery and the way some (but not all) of the men found the physical feminisation caused by pregnancy distressing, this is a film about solutions and a film that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

What emerges will resonate in a lot of ways with people who have approached pregnancy in a more traditional manner. A host of familiar problems are discussed here, social as well as practical. One man talks about his frustration with not being able to do DIY any more and the weirdness of having strangers rush to his aid when he had a problem with his car. Many women may feel the same way but, due to differences in gender expectations, find it harder to get their feelings on such matters taken seriously.

Opening up space for conversation like this makes room for a host of challenges to existing ways of thinking about pregnancy. Why is it seen as soft and super-feminine when it requires so much physical effort? one man asks - or why are women seen as weak? Curiously, despite the focus on masculinity, the film finds a lot of room to build respect for women.

Overall, what makes this work is its focus on individuals finding their own way of doing things no matter what wider society thinks. In the process, it celebrates the passion that leads to reproduction, a final chapter focusing on the parent-child relationships that make all the struggles worthwhile.

Reviewed on: 29 Sep 2017
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Six different masculine-identified people discuss their pregnancies and chest-feeding experiences.

Director: Cyn Lubow

Year: 2016

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

Sqiff 2017

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