An ad from Calvin Klein on Mother's Day featuring a pregnant transgender man and his trans partner has sparked a wave of backlash on social media.
“Today, in support of women and mothers all over the world, we’re spotlighting the realities of new families," the company wrote in the caption of a Sunday Instagram post highlighting the campaign, which features three nontraditional families — including Brazilian reality stars Erika Fernandes and Roberto Bete.
“Erika Fernandes and Roberto Bete are expecting parents from Brazil. Roberto is due to give birth to his and Erika's son Noah any day now,” the caption continued alongside images that show Bete visibly pregnant, in Calvin Klein underwear, as his wife, wearing a CK sports bra and bottoms, clings to his arms at their bedside.
“We can reproduce biologically or from the heart…our place is to love and be loved,” the couple is quoted as saying in the ad.
Below, click through to see the ad as posted by Calvin Klein, in position No. 4:
The post has since gone viral, and while several users have praised the fashion brand for its inclusive messaging, a slew of transphobic comments quickly drowned them out. Many of them threatened to boycott the brand, attacking the ad as a “woke campaign.” One user even wrote, “Time to ditch you, Calvin Klein.”
Conservative talk show host Steven Crowder turned the ad into the butt of a joke, writing: "We have a huge baby formula shortage! The Left says men are the root of all problems, so it's only fair to blame pregnant men right? I wonder what Calvin Klein has to say about this. #calvinklein."
We have a huge baby formula shortage! The Left says men are the root of all problems, so it's only fair to blame pregnant men right? I wonder what Calvin Klein has to say about this. #calvinklein pic.twitter.com/cReKkxxikt
— Steven Crowder (@scrowder) May 12, 2022
Calvin Klein has since released a statement defending its campaign, confirming that the company will always stand up against hate.
“We embrace this platform as an inclusive and respectful environment for individualism and self-expression,” the statement read. “At Calvin Klein, we tolerate everything except intolerance — any intolerant commentary will be removed, and any accounts issuing hateful statements may be blocked.”
Related video: Trans man gives birth to baby boy after surprise pregnancy
Yes, trans men can have babies
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent survey, at least 20 millions adults in the United States could be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — representing nearly 8% of the total adult population. Of that number, more than 1% (or over 2 million) identify as transgender. There is currently no data on how many transgender men give birth.
Dr. D Ojeda, senior national organizer at the National Center for Transgender Equality, which advocates to change policies and to increase acceptance of transgender people, says that trans men have an array of options when it comes to starting families, but due to their specific needs being vastly under-researched and underreported, that message often doesn't translate to society at large.
"We assume that because you're on testosterone, you can't get pregnant, when in reality there's a good chance you can," Ojeda, who uses they/them pronouns, tells Yahoo Life. (It should be noted that not all transgender men use testosterone, just as not all keep their uteruses.) Furthermore, due to the lack of education, they say trans men often gather false information about their own bodies and reproductive health.
"There are a lot of trans men, transmasculine, nonbinary people who actually pause their hormones so they can get pregnant," Ojeda explains, adding that this step is sometimes unnecessary and suggesting that trans men seeking pregnancy should always speak to their doctor before pausing their hormones.
Dr. Maddie Deutsch, associate professor of Clinical Family & Community Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, and medical director for UCSF Transgender Care, elaborated on the topic further on UCSF's website in an overview about hormone therapy and the reproductive system.
"Testosterone may reduce your ability to become pregnant but it does not completely eliminate the risk of pregnancy," Deutsch wrote. "Transgender men can become pregnant while on testosterone, so if you remain sexually active with someone who is capable of producing sperm, you should always use a method of birth control to prevent unwanted pregnancy."
Adding to that point, Deutsch says that while on testosterone, a trans man's periods may change its normal cycle and that it may become difficult for ovaries to release eggs, depending on how long they have been on hormone therapy. In these cases, the piece points out, "you may need to consult with a fertility specialist and use special medications or techniques, such as in vitro fertilization, to become pregnant."
Of course, these treatments are not always covered by insurance, and can be expensive.
Why inclusivity matters
Ojeda, whose organization has placed pressure on health insurance companies to better cover the needs of trans folks through its latest campaign, Protect Trans Health, argues that when families like Fernandes and Bete are visible, it's an opportunity for trans people to know they're just as deserving to have a family as anyone else is.
"I applaud Calvin Klein for being that intentional because that language shift is so important," they say. "It could improve the way we view people, especially when it comes to access to health care and family planning."
Fernandes and Bete have since had their baby, documenting the birth and sharing the moment on their Instagrams.
"There's a lot of stigma that comes with being trans," Ojeda says in regards to family planning. "There's this assumption that we're anti-children or anti-family. I think that's part of the vitriol that has been perpetuated all the way from the attacks on gender affirming care … to abortion care."
Ojeda adds that the "urgency" for men in power to "control bodily autonomy," an idea that's been particularly present in recent days following the potential reversal of Roe v. Wade, doesn't just include women — but affects trans people and trans families as well.
"People see a family they've never met before, and never had an understanding of, and that makes them uncomfortable," they explain of the transphobia arising from the recent ad.
"What Calvin Klein is doing is amazing," they continue, explaining that a lot of trans people out there really do want to start a family but seldom feel empowered to do so — something they hope the ad can help change. "It's going to have a lot of positive impact, especially for health care and when it comes to reproductive services."