The Sexy Topic of Banking Sperm

In the whirlwind before Katie started hormones, there was the stage of trying to figure out how to ensure we could have children should we choose to. We have had many, long conversations about kids during the time we’ve known each other. Do we? Don’t we? Do we adopt and save a child? Could we be foster parents? Do we give up the life we have now, the flexibility of an income split between 2 instead of 3 or 4? Could we raise a family in Seattle? Could we afford to raise a family in Seattle (the answer to this is 99% a “no”). Who stays home with the kids because I don’t really think I’d be happy doing that? I always used to think that Kyle would make an excellent stay-at-home dad and I was so happy to have a life that defied gender constructs. The irony in reflecting on that now that I know the entire time I’ve known Kyle I was actually married to a woman isn’t lost on me.

I’m not really sure how one answers the “should we or shouldn’t we” kid question. Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing the desire to be a mom. When I imagine having kids, the idea makes me happy. I can’t imagine not having a relationship with someone who is the same as the relationship I have with my mom. I imagine the fights Katie and I would have about raising children and the strength that would bring to our marriage as we work through them. For me, the decision to have kids is more about the kind of life I want to live: do I want a life with kids, or without kids?

In the beginning of the transition, this question became the fore-front of many questions about our marriage. I knew, and Katie agreed, having children right now while our marriage is at a crossroads feels irresponsible for the little humans who would be raised in that environment. I come from a split home and I’m not ready to give up on having kids in a home that doesn’t become 2. I have always wanted that for myself and for my hypothetical kids. I think the most heart-breaking part about this journey has been mourning the loss of what I imagined my life would look like. I wanted the American dream. The house, the kids, the husband. We had planned on seriously talking about next steps for our family when my IUD was due to be replaced, when I turned 30. 30 seemed like a responsible age to have kids. The timing felt right. I distinctly remember during The Outing, thinking that I’m turning 30 this summer and that family planning was about to be redefined because I’m not married to man anymore like we thought I was. I’m married to a woman. I felt the image I had of my life was dissolving. Where were we supposed to go from The Outing? How did I get here?

Over the next few months, as we discussed the “do we, don’t we” question, the financial cost of how to have children also weighed heavily on both of us. Trust me when I say it is not easy to find quotes about this online. $800-$1,000 up-front to ensure testing of the sperm is completed and there are no red-flags, whatever those are. That’s the low-end quote which seemed to be impacted by Not-for-Profit versus For-Profit banks. After the first down-payment, there is an additonal $300-$600 for each deposit. At the high-end, we were looking at $8-9k. There are storage costs for keeping sperm safe at a bank and some places charge this fee monthly or annually. The higher-end banks wanted $400/vial to process and store Katie’s little soldiers. These costs don’t even take into account the actual procedure of paying someone to put the sperm in me or in a petri dish or whatever needs to happen when/if we decide it’s time. There are options to bank sperm through an online services which makes this process cheaper, but neither of us were fully comfortable with that. There are 3 banks in Seattle that we could find from online research, but there are no prices listed on their websites. The doctor provided 8 additional banks that are not listed online anywhere (if they are, they weren’t easy to find), because they were fertility clinics which are different. It took several calls and emails to get responses from any of them and none would give us a quote over the phone, Katie had to make an appointment. Overall, it took us 2 months to finally find a place where the prices were reasonable, and by reasonable, we still had to get very strategic on how we were going to pay for it. I feel compelled to acknowledge now that I am aware of how lucky Katie and I are to be white and middle-class. We can afford what many transgender people must prioritize as luxuries: therapy, new clothes, banking sperm, an apartment centrally located in a city, a car, food. According to a 2015 survey by USTransSurvey.org, 29% of Transgender people report living in poverty, versus 14% of the general population. 30% of Transgender respondents reported being homeless at some point in their lifetime, 12% in the past 12 months. As a society, we have a lot of work to do for this community.

The Men’s Fertility Clinic at the University of Washington charged $475 for the first banking session which covered genetic, mobility and count testing. Now, another question for me in all of this is how many “banks” do we make to ensure the best odds of having a child? 3? 4? Is it 1 vile per kid? What if the first vile breaks? These are all questions we cannot answer, no matter how many vials we bank. We could bank 8 vials and not have any children. I could be infertile. We chose to bank 3 additional samples which will generate 4-20 vials total. The goal is to get 10-20 million sperm in a vial. Each additional sample was $435. Total, we spent around $2,000, including a $200 administrative fee. All of that covers the first year of storage. Storage fees after are $430/year. I can’t help but think in all this that science is pretty cool. We are lucky to have this option to buy us time, to potentially buy us a family. I’m sure there are resources out there, but I couldn’t find any non-profits that help the Transgender community family plan. I think this is because it’s difficult to family plan when you’re facing obstacles like not getting harassed while walking down the street or facing 3x the normal unemployment rate, but that’s just an uneducated guess. It should be noted that insurance does not cover male fertility costs, yet 1 of many examples of where our society has really messed up ideas about what gender norms look like.

I felt a need to write about this because it was so hard for us to find information or concrete prices. I know I say this all the time, but I still don’t understand how I’ve gotten to this place, this step in my life where I’m married to a woman and she’s taking hormones to physically become one. It still feels like I’m watching my life on tv. I am so proud that I have made it this far.

4 thoughts on “The Sexy Topic of Banking Sperm

  1. someone

    Many insurances don’t cover female fertility/infertility costs either, or only cover a very limited aspect of them. I’ve heard it depends on the state one lives in and the insurance coverage one has (if any). I have limited coverage, but not for procedures like IUI of IVF (aprox. $15,000 –for one attempt!!– where I am). As someone experiencing the female infertility side of things, I feel your frustration and anger at the system.
    Congrats at making decisions and taking steps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for those insights! It’s definitely one part of my life I took for granted before we tarted going through this transition. Maybe I am being too lofty to hope one day it will be different.

      Like

  2. someone

    clarification: fertility costs for a person with a uterus and ovaries. I identify as (cis) female, and was speaking from my experience, but I’m not trying to assume identity of anyone seeking infertility treatment. I should have simply stated prices for procedures and didn’t need to label them as “female” infertility costs. Apologies if I offended! I’m still learning.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. C. Johns

    I just went through / am going through this process myself, it’s what’s been holding me back from hormones and coming out fully. It took me about 9 months to get to a point mentally and fiscally to where I could put down $2000 for the first deposit / appointment down in Berkeley, CA. It was a 3-hour drive for me each way, and literally the closest location.

    It’s hard to know how many you want to do because there’s still a chance for failure later, no matter how many you deposit, and even though in vitro fertilization makes the chances much higher to get pregnant with a viable partner, it’s easily $15k+ to do that (vs. the much-cheaper traditional method).

    Liked by 1 person

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