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A Transgender Birthmom's Complex Life with Jack MacCarthy - Ep 105

Unraveling Adoption

Release Date: 08/07/2023

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A Transgender Birthmom's Complex Journey with Jack MacCarthy

Amidst the backdrop of their conservative upbringing, Jack's path of self-discovery and acceptance unfolds, revealing the profound impact of a chance encounter with a queer girl at a Catholic youth group retreat. From exploring gender through the lens of art to navigating the complexities of their identity within the adoption community, Jack's story is a testament to resilience and the power of embracing one's true self. What unique challenges await a trans and/or non-binary birth parent? How can we best support LGBTQ+ people within the adoption community in general? Stay tuned to discover the chapters of Jack's remarkable tale for the first time in an adoption-specific context on this episode of Unraveling Adoption podcast.

“I think what is difficult about words, labels, boxes, is trying to find the balance between too open and too closed. So a word has to, almost by definition, exclude something in order to have any meaning. But you also don't want people who are feeling resonance with that word to be left out, even if they don't necessarily fit the "definition" of it perfectly. And definitions are a slippery concept anyway because words really just mean how people use them.” - Jack MacCarthy

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My special guest is Jack MacCarthy

Jack MacCarthy is a compelling artist with a background rooted in theater – both as a writer and performer. Jack has always looked to push boundaries and challenge societal norms. Even before recognizing himself as transgender, his works have often explored gender, creating an impact that his personal journey would later radiate. A founder of a theater company in New York, he juggled financial struggles with a zeal for creativity and self-discovery. A decade ago, he navigated the complexities of becoming a birth parent and choosing adoption, leading to unique insights into parenthood, identity, and the intersection of both.

In this episode, you will be able to:

  • Illuminate the significance of LGBTQ representation (or lack thereof) within the adoption community,

  • Recognize the distinctive hurdles specific to trans/non-binary birth parents,

  • Navigate the tangled intricacies of the adoption system, and their impact on birth parents, no matter their gender

  • Explore support structures for trans and non-binary children and their families,

The resources mentioned in this episode are:

Other Resources:





Unraveling Adoption is produced and hosted by Beth Syverson

Music written and performed by Joseph Nakao

Email questions or comments to [email protected]

Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube

Support Unraveling Adoption on Patreon: Patreon.com/UnravelingAdoption



Challenges for Trans and Non-Binary Birth Parents
Trans and non-binary birth parents, like Jack, navigate unique hurdles within the adoption system. These challenges can range from alienation in birth parent support networks due to lack of understanding of gender identities, all the way to systemic socio-economic issues that contribute to the decision for adoption. To address these concerns, it is essential to establish safe and accepting spaces that respect diverse gender expressions, and work towards systemic changes that reduce financial and emotional burdens on these birth parents.

Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:01:42 - Background and Theater,
Beth asks Jack about his background and theater experience. Jack shares that they are a writer and performer and that theater was a place where they explored gender before exploring it in real life.

00:05:20 - Family Acceptance,
Jack discusses their family life, which was Catholic and conservative but supportive of artistry. They mention having a gay uncle and a gay friend in high school, but not openly discussing these identities.

00:07:12 - LGBTQ Community in College,
Jack talks about their college experience and how they encountered more LGBTQ individuals, especially in the theater program. Many of their peers have since come out as trans or non-binary.

00:12:16 - Unexpected Pregnancy and Adoption,
Jack shares that their pregnancy was a complete surprise and that they decided on adoption due to financial circumstances and their career aspirations. They clarify that they are pro-choice but personally chose not to have an abortion.

00:16:24 - Jack's Choice to Place their Child for Adoption,
Jack consciously chose adoption and was not coerced. They don't feel manipulated by the adoption agency. Their decision was based on their life circumstances and the belief that it was the best option at the time.

00:17:10 - Open Adoption and Relationship with the Adoptive Parents,
Jack has an open adoption and maintains a connection with their son, seeing him once a month. They chose the adoptive couple from a book of profiles. Jack feels it was meant to be and has a good relationship with them, as they have common interests and a queer identity.

00:18:53 - Choosing the Gay Couple as Adoptive Parents,
The adoptive parents were chosen by Jack from a binder of profiles. Jack felt a connection and a sense of fate when their profile was dropped off just as Jack was looking at families. They have found it to be a good choice overall.

00:21:23 - Challenges in Birth Mother and Adoptive Mother Relationships,
Jack discusses the potential for competition and resentment between birth mothers and adoptive mothers, especially in relation to societal expectations of motherhood. Jack feels fortunate not to have experienced these difficulties in their relationship with the adoptive parents.

00:23:08 - Jack's Transition and Relationship with their Son,
Jack shares that the adoptive parents took time to adjust to Jack's transition, but they are accepting and supportive. Their son has also adapted well, though there have been some challenges with name and pronouns.

00:31:19 - LGBTQ Birth Parents and Adoption,
The guest discusses the lack of consideration given to birth parents, especially if they are LGBTQ, in the adoption process. Queer individuals tend to romanticize the idea of adopting a child without fully understanding the emotional toll it takes on birth parents.

00:32:29 - Rebuilding After Relinquishing,
The guest shares her personal experience of relinquishing her son and the emotional aftermath. She emphasizes that the process of rebuilding oneself after such an experience is incredibly challenging and not something she would recommend lightly.

00:33:43 - Cynicism Towards Adoption System,
Beth and Jack expresses some cynicism towards the adoption system, particularly its tendency to take children from financially disadvantaged parents and place them with wealthier individuals. They suggests providing financial support to birth parents could be a more compassionate approach.

00:34:27 - Supporting Trans and Non-binary Children,
The guest offers advice to parents, grandparents, or individuals who may have a trans or non-binary child coming out to them. She encourages them to view it as a gift and to do their own research and seek support from organizations like PFLAG and the Pride and Joy Foundation.

00:35:42 - LGBTQ Resources and Queer Family Making,
The guest recommends several LGBTQ resources, including the Outwards Archive, Gender Spectrum, and the Chosen Family Law Center. She also mentions her own book, Squad, and Kindle Original, My Boy, Their Son, as additional sources of information.