Proudly labeling himself "Seahorse Dad," Rubén Castro is Spain's first well-known transmasculine person to give birth. From learning he was pregnant to welcoming his baby, this is Rubén's unique story.
This Is Rubén
Meet Rubén Castro, born in Spain and, at the time of this article, residing in Madrid. Rubén is a child educator and currently studying social education. But this person's identity goes way beyond his job and degrees.
Castro identifies as a non-binary, transmasculine person. "I wasn't 'born a woman,' it was assigned to me," he explained. "I... believe in diversity of bodies and identities." Rubén's perspective on life helped him find a way to achieve two of his biggest dreams that some might not initially think compatible.
He Always Wanted a Baby
Before we get into the various aspects of Rubén's being, it's crucial to understand this: he always wanted to carry and birth his own baby. Despite having never felt comfortable labeling himself a woman, Castro knew that he wanted to experience pregnancy, a role typically associated with women.
"I'm a trans person, and ever since I could reason, since I was little, it was always very clear to me that I wanted to experience the process of carrying my baby," he explained. Little did Rubén know, his child-carrying journey would be far from simple.
"The Most Important Thing in My Life"
Castro wanted to carry a child and raise the little munchkin for as long as he could remember. "In fact, in my life plan, from when I was younger, I always planned to get pregnant when I was 22 or 23 years old maximum," the now 27-year-old shared. But, as is often the case with life, things didn't go as planned.
With his many intersecting identities, getting pregnant would prove challenging. "Then you grow and realize that the world in which you live doesn't make it easy," he added, "This [pregnancy] was the most important thing in my life." But another priority was feeling more at home in his body. Could Rubén do both?
Could He Still Transition?
Long before fighting to achieve his pregnancy dreams, Castro was focused on a different battle: having his trans identity legally recognized by Spain. The picture below captured the then approximately 23-year-old with his new and approved documentation that better represented him.
"Today I begin existing legally," Rubén said at the time. "After 7 months of waiting, of paperwork, obstacles, unpleasant situations... but being even stronger thanks to everything I had to fight along the way." But this was only one step in Castro's transition process - the future would bring more complications.
Fertility Desires Affected His Process
To help Rubén's physical appearance better fit his identity, he began hormonal treatments. But always with one goal in mind: still being able to carry a child in the future. "Because of that, I've always been very careful on the [transitioning] journey," Casto explained.
"I've always preserved my fertility and any choice I've taken has been affected by this," he continued. "And so I've modified my transition to accommodate my dream of carrying my baby." So what exactly did Rubén do to assure his fertility while also transitioning?
One of the most important things Rubén had to do was freeze his eggs before beginning the hormonal process. But that proved to be quite the challenge. "It's an unnavigated topic bureaucratically," Castro explained. Many doctors didn't have experience in helping a trans person stay fertile.
And that wasn't the only thing up in the air. "And if I get pregnant and give birth, what labor maternity/paternity law will be applied to me?" Rubén said, explaining just how uncharted this territory was. But Castro would not give up on making his childhood dreams a reality.
He Froze His Eggs
Finally, Rubén convinced enough people that he had a right to identify as a non-binary, trans person and simultaneously carry a child. "On the 27th of February of 2017 I was the first trans person to access the freezing of eggs through Madrid's social security," Castro excitedly shared.
Rubén later opted not to remove his breasts surgically while transitioning; something Castro might have otherwise done had he not wanted to bear a child. "I want to live the experience of lactating, which is very important for me," Rubén explained of this decision. The road to pregnancy was only beginning.
People Said They Couldn't Help Him
A few years after freezing his eggs and having already started the hormonal process, Rubén sought access to artificial insemination. But despite Madrid having recently passed a law that guaranteed reproductive public health rights to trans persons, Castro was met with a lot of rejection.
"In some places, they had no idea [about the new law], they told me that they couldn't help me. In other consultations, they would give me a clue: 'Go look at this hospital...' and so that's what I did until I finally found a doctor," Rubén said. But that wasn't the end of it.
Facing an Ethics Committee
The public health aspect and fighting for his reproductive rights were some of the hardest parts of Rubén's fertility experience. "There's a lot of lack of knowledge in many areas. Starting with the health aspect," Castro shared. Once he found a hospital, the determined trans person faced an ethics committee.
"I had to pass through an ethics committee in a public hospital for them to decide if I can access reproductive assistance," Rubén said. Would the group of health and moral experts vote to help Castro make his reproductive dreams true while honoring his other identities?
The Fertility Treatment
Ultimately, years after freezing his eggs and beginning a hormonal transitioning process, Rubén won the fight for artificial insemination. "This is the treatment they gave me for [artificial insemination]," he said of the products shown in the shot below.
"It may seem like something simple but it involves sacrifice and a lot of emotional and mental strength," Castro added. "I look at this photo and I get goosebumps. It transports me to the beginning of a complicated road that I've had to travel." Rubén finally had access to the treatments, but he was about to face more hardships.
He Was Continually Misgendered
After navigating legal and bureaucratic battles, one might think that the hardest part was over. But Rubén was about to face quite a few public health workers who misunderstood his identity and made him feel uncomfortable throughout the fertility treatments.
Castro was continually addressed in feminine terms despite identifying as transmasculine and using he/they pronouns. "When I had to show part of my body for an ultrasound if the treatment had been male at some point... it automatically became female," Rubén said. "It is very uncomfortable, especially in a medical consultation."
And that wasn't the only mentally and emotionally draining part of the process. There was also the pain every time a pregnancy effort didn't work. "This path has not been easy because there have been [pregnancy] attempts that have failed," Castro said of the fertility treatments.
According to the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, artificial insemination success rates per individual cycle are about 15.8% for people under 35 years old. Rubén knew that having to try over and over again was common, but it was still challenging.
A Dream Come True
After what seemed like countless artificial insemination cycles, Castro's life-long wish finally came to fruition. One of the fertility treatments proved successful, and, according to the little lines on Rubén's pregnancy tests, he was finally pregnant! It felt unreal.
"When the positive result arrived, I couldn't believe it; I could only cry," Castro said of the exhilarating moment. "I felt a lot of uncertainty. I was scared that anything that I'd do, like eat or think, could cause me to lose the baby." Rubén soon started experiencing all of pregnancy's... joys.
Symptoms of Pregnancy
As many know, carrying a child isn't always easy. "It's been a rollercoaster. There are good days and less good days," Rubén said after finding out he was with child. Castro encountered some of the many symptoms of pregnancy, from vomiting to exhaustion.
"I've had to deal with nausea and morning sickness in the beginning," he disclosed. "I went from falling asleep at every corner to, in the last trimester, being even more tired... not sleeping more than three or four hours in a row." Still, Rubén didn't regret a thing. In fact, he had a sweet nickname for his pregnant self.
For a long time, Rubén looked at seahorses as an example of his greatest dreams. Being non-binary and transmasculine, the aquatic animal combined qualities that Castro related to but rarely saw reflected in other humans. What exactly do we mean by that?
Well, in seahorses, it is the male who carries the babies. According to National Geographic, a male seahorse can carry as many as 2,000 babies in pregnancies that last up to 25 days. That obviously differed from Rubén's experience, but the nontraditional gender roles did not. To celebrate that, Castro even got a seahorse tattoo.
Going Against the Law
But while Rubén felt ecstatic to be carrying a child, he still felt like the odd one out. The transmasculine person explained how growing up, the idea of being non-binary, trans, and still fulfilling his pregnancy dreams was a mystery to him. Now, as a determined adult, it still felt lawless in some ways.
"Me going through this process, I always say, goes against all written law in this country," Castro explained. "There's nothing to regulate legally that there's someone registered civilly as a man and that goes through with this process." While Rubén was a man by law, he emphasized the uniqueness of each trans experience.
Every Trans Person Is Different
Rubén explained why public health officials and others were perplexed by the multiple aspects of his identity. "People have a hard time understanding it and getting it because of everything that's believed about trans people," he said. "There's a collective imagination about trans people that thinks we hate our bodies."
Castro continued, "Or our bodies are wrong when it's not like that at all. There are a lot of trans people, and each one lives their transition how they want... And in my case, this [fertility] came first, before any bodily modification or necessity." Fortunately, Rubén eventually found a group of people who understood him...
Finding a Diverse & Accepting Team
"The truth is that I have been struggling throughout my pregnancy," Rubén said. Constantly being misunderstood and misgendered took its toll, so he decided to transfer his care from public healthcare to private. That way, Castro had more autonomy over the people who treated him.
"Once I got pregnant, I went private. I have found an incredible team that is committed to diversity. They treat me great, they understand that language is very important, they listen to me," Rubén revealed. "Completely different [from before]. That's how I dreamed of living it." But still, the haters abounded.
Some People Disagreed
A quick scroll through social media shows some people disagreed with Rubén's decision to transition and identify as a trans person but still birth a child. "With that, [he] demonstrates [he's] a woman, always was, always is," said one user about Castro's pregnancy.
Others questioned how he could be a trans person but still want to be pregnant. "If you've changed your gender, why have you wanted to do something that only corresponds to a woman? Because carrying and birthing a child only women do," wrote someone else. So how did Rubén respond?
It's Not a "Regression" in His Transition
For Castro, the human experience was too complex and unique to fit into a small number of boxes. He believed that each person lived in their own reality and had a right to form their own set of unique identities. And for those who questioned the coexistence of transitioning and bearing a child, Rubén shared his words of wisdom.
To him, pregnancy and being a trans person could perfectly go together. "Despite what a lot of people might think, that this means a regression in my transition, for me, it's all an advance because it's where I've always wanted to be," Castro shared. But did the haters ultimately take their toll on Rubén?
It Was Worth It
There's no doubt Castro faced endless obstacles throughout his life as a trans person, and even more so once he embarked on his fertility journey. "It's been a process in which I've had to face a lot of closed doors: in health and socially, too," Rubén said.
He continued, "Spaces where this isn't contemplated or this lifestyle is degraded or directly denied. I knew it would be difficult, but when you want something, there's nothing that can mess with it." For Castro, it was all worth it for the ultimate goal: holding his baby.
"It's Been Incredible"
And despite many legal battles, fights, and like plenty of tears, Castro gratefully described his pregnancy journey as "incredible." When asked how it felt to make his lifelong dreams come true, Rubén didn't hold back his joy at the prospect of becoming a dad.
"It's honestly been incredible," Castro said. "Despite all of the difficulties on the way, for me, seeing myself like this, which is how I always wanted to see myself, has been incredible." Rubén felt pride and happiness as he saw his growing baby bump in the mirror. But the actual birth brought a whole bunch of new questions.
Getting pregnant wasn't easy, and being a trans father likely wouldn't be either. "When my baby is born, I'll have to register them. And obviously, since I have my legal documentation changed, I should be listed as a father," Rubén said. But he knew doing so would make things complicated.
"That's a battle I'll have to fight once the baby is born and see what obstacles they will put on me," he added. "In the bureaucratic aspect, there's a lot of lack of knowledge and nothing that legislates a person who's not a mother, but is a father, that has given birth to their baby."
Getting Ready For the Big Day
Putting those post-birth worries aside, Castro tried to focus on prepping for the baby's arrival. He prepared the child's room and bought all of the necessary supplies. As for actually raising his future kid? Rubén wasn't too worried - the future dad had plenty of experience.
"I'm a child educator, and all of my life I've been with kids, and the vision I have, at least now, is that it's going to be simple," he said. "It's not the same to see it as it is to live it, but I don't imagine it's going to be something worrisome in my life - all the contrary."
His Ideal Birth
But before getting to raise his child, Castro likely first experience hours of labor. "I've seen a lot of videos, and I have an ideal birth," Rubén said of the place he picked for the special day. "I've chosen this site because they have a birthing program in water, and I would like for it to be like that."
Castro added, "A conscious and well taken care of birth that ends in water, as little medicalized as possible." Rubén also hoped not to have an epidural. "That's the intention, but what I'll end up needing or whatever ends up happening will be okay," he said. Finally, after a long nine months, it was time!
Welcome Baby Luar
On May 1st, 2021, Rubén welcomed the baby he had long been awaiting. Castro chose not to know the baby's medically assigned gender before the birth and didn't disclose information on it at the time of this article's writing. But we do know the newborn, named Luar, has a cute button nose and adorable little hands.
"Luar has arrived," Rubén shared on social media. "[Luar] finally decided that May 1st was a good day to come out... It has been the most difficult and desired thing I've experienced until now. The adventure is only just beginning." And luckily for us, Castro planned on filming it all...
Documenting It All
Before Luar's arrival, Rubén decided to document every part of his pregnancy and post-birth journey in a film titled Papá Gestante, Spanish for "Pregnant Dad." "From the very first moment, I wanted to have it documented because I think there's a lot of... knowledge missing, and so we're recording it," Castro explained.
"We'd also like for it to serve... people who work with other people," he added. "If they meet a trans person, they'll have a base and know what's important in these cases. It's about paving the way for the rest and make it known in society because it's a very unknown reality." But just like Rubén, this doc would be unique.
A Different Kind of Film
According to the documentary's fundraising page, this film won't be like others. "The whole process has been realized in a self-managed manner and without the collaboration of big companies so as not to have any censorship or directive at the time of telling the story," the filmmakers wrote.
Plus, Rubén would take a more active role than other film subjects sometimes do. "We support the protagonists in being much more than that and in forming part of their own narration," the page described. And while some thought the documentary would shed light on Spain's first pregnant trans person, Castro said otherwise.
Rubén Says He's Actually Not the First
According to Rubén, he is not the first trans person in the country to experience pregnancy. "It's actually not the first case. I feel that in terms of visibility, the other people I know haven't made themselves visible because of everything that comes along with being more visible," Castro explained.
He continued, "In the end, we face a lot of hate, from a lot of parts, and putting yourself in social networks and media is complicated." Having said that, the question remained: was making his dream come true worth all of the hardships? And would Castro do it again?
Would He Do It All Again?
Rubén faced battle after battle as a trans person (legally defined by Spain as a man) trying to become a pregnant father. But he always maintained that the many obstacles were worth it. In other words, the ends justified the means. But would Castro do it again?
"I don't know," he admitted. "I have no idea; I wouldn't be able to answer that. I'll leave it in the air... at this moment, I'm focused on this experience." We wish Rubén and baby Luar all the best! Interested in following their adventures? Follow @papagestante on the Gram.