News (World)

This trans couple had a baby & made history

Zia Paval and Zahad Fazil, trans parents who made history in India
Photo: Screenshot

On the morning of February 8, Zia Paval waited anxiously outside the labor room as her partner, Zahad Fazil, underwent a cesarean section inside a government-run hospital in the southern Indian state of Kerela. She could not control her emotions. The moment she heard the baby’s first cry, she said on Instagram that “tears of happiness” gushed from her eyes.

Birth of the newborn to Fazil, 23, and Paval, 21, hogged headlines across the globe as they became India’s first biological transgender parents. “When I held the baby in my hands. I felt so proud and happy,” Paval told LGBTQ Nation. “I can’t explain in words the feeling of holding the baby in my hands. It can only be felt and experienced.” 

“Becoming a mother without experiencing the labor pain can’t be described,” she continued. “It’s a different feeling, and it can’t be put into words. Many people held us close with their prayers, it is with those prayers that we are blessed now.”

Paval was assigned male at birth and now identifies as a woman, and Fazil was designated female at birth and identifies as a man. Paval said the couple feels “very proud” to become the country’s first biological transgender parents. 

They have since been sharing their experience raising their daughter, Zabiya, with their thousands of social media followers.

Journey to Parenthood

Paval, a Muslim, and Fazil, a Christian, live in Kozhikode, a coastal city about 230 miles north of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. 

The duo discovered their trans identities at young ages and embarked on the gender transition process, something that is not encouraged by families in the South Asian nation given the social stigma attached to it.

Fazil’s mother accepted his new identity after resisting at first, but Paval did not have the same experience. She was reportedly shunned by her Muslim family and even warned of “hellish consequences” in the afterlife, according to the South China Morning Post.

The couple, who has been in a relationship for over three years now, initially wanted to adopt a baby, but they gave up the idea due to the complex legal procedure involved.

Around a year and a half ago, the couple learned from their doctor that Fazil could still conceive, but that he had to pause his gender transition process to do so. 

Fazil’s breasts had already been removed by then, and he was undergoing hormone therapy. 

But his reproductive organs were still functioning, and eventually, he stopped gender-transitioning treatment to try for a baby. 

“When the doctor told us that Zahad can still conceive, we both were so happy and immediately stopped the gender-transitioning treatment,” Paval said, adding that they were scared of the idea initially as they knew of no other transgender couple that had done it before. “We eventually overcame our fears and decided to conceive.” 

Fazil, who works as an accountant, is not only the first out trans person in India to give birth to a baby, but he is also the first out trans man to become pregnant.

Now, Paval has assumed the role of the baby’s mother, and Fazil is the baby’s father. They have already given a letter to the government hospital where the delivery took place.

After the couple shared the pictures of Fazil’s pregnancy on social media, Paval said a lot of people wrote negative comments about them, which was disheartening.

“Some people have written some nasty comments on social media and maybe that’s why people never did this before. But then we realized that these people don’t provide for our living, so why do we care about what they say about us?”

But when the news of the baby’s birth went viral on social media, it also attracted a flurry of congratulations.

The Kerala state’s social justice minister R. Bindu tweeted that the birth opens doors “to a new, more inclusive, gender-aware world”.

“It’s heartening to hear that trans couple Ziya Paval and Zahad Fazil are now biological parents,” Bindu wrote. “Let the birth of their child – whose very existence subverts society’s obsolete and rigid cisgender dichotomies – open doors to a new, more inclusive, gender-aware world.”

Love Has No Gender

Trans rights advocates are filled with joy for Paval and Fazil. 

“The couple itself is very vivid evidence of love having no gender and I would appreciate the step they have taken up. We cannot just rely on our identity with our biology,” activist Santa Khurai told LGBTQ Nation.

Khurai, who is herself a trans woman, doesn’t know if the couple’s experience will bring any change for the trans community in terms of economy or human rights. Nevertheless, she said that trans people can now see more clearly the possibility of becoming parents.

Another transgender activist, Shaman Gupta, told LGBTQ Nation that Fazil’s willingness to embrace exactly who he is will inspire many in the trans community.

“The amount of self-acceptance that person [Fazil] has already gone through, to be able to call yourself a man and still be confident enough to bear a child, that was something even trans people struggle with a lot.” 

Gupta, a trans man, said even trans people are challenged by self-stigma and biases and that when you see such examples of people continuously breaking them down, it gives you more confidence in being yourself. 

“This will have a huge impact on the trans community and the way we perceive ourselves and feel confident about ourselves. This particular incident will act as an educator for a lot of people.”

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