Tina Montgomery and Junior Brainard met in September 2007 at a nightclub on Philadelphia’s South Street.
“I was coming to do a show. He grabbed me by my waist and said, ’I have you to myself now!’ recalled Montgomery, a legend in Philly’s queer nightlife. “He knew who I was. I didn’t really know who he was.”
Brainard is an English teacher at the Community College of Philadelphia and a secretary with the college’s union. Montgomery has been a local drag sensation since the mid-90s. Both identify as trans.
“I don’t think we were actually planning on staying together this long,” Montgomery told me over a cup of coffee when I met the couple in West Philadelphia. “At first it was just ’I like to date you. No obligations,’”
“He fell in love,” Montgomery said with a laugh. “One night with me? I don’t blame him?”
Soon after they began dating, though, the subject of children came up.
“I had wanted to be a parent for a long time,” Brainard said. “I hadn’t really thought about how it would happen. But more of the conversation that happened between me and Tina was how we would become parents together.”
They began actively looking for solutions in 2010, but had talked about it before then.
“Pretty early on in our relationship, Tina said having a biological child was very important. So that guided the way we approached it.”
“I love it when people adopt children,” said Montgomery. “I just could not do it for me. It was very important for me to have a biological child.”
Both Montgomery and Brainard went off hormone therapy and visited a well-respected fertility clinic at a major Philadelphia hospital. Their goal was for Junior to carry a child that was both of theirs biologically.
But they were turned away.
“[The doctor] told us it would never happen and refused to work with us,” Montgomery said. “We saw two very different things in that moment. I don’t believe she wanted to work with us,”
Brainard, however, said he believed the fertility expert who said it just wasn’t possible. “It was a really hard moment for me.”
It was an emotional blow, but neither Brainard nor Montgomery know exactly why they were turned away. They think a big factor may have been that the hospital’s success rate could have being negatively impacted if their attempt was unsuccessful.
“We wasted a lot of time because they told us no,” said Montgomery.
It took them two years to muster the courage to continue their journey towards parenthood. Montgomery’s doctor recommended they go somewhere else for a second opinion, and she pointed them to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
“I really didn’t want to go. I just felt that we were going to be told ’no’ again. I finally decided to go just so we could have closure on the situation, “ Brainard explained.
They met with Dr. Jacqueline Gutmann, a reproductive endocrinologist at Jefferson. Guttman came off as very positive and optimistic.
“I don’t think they had ever worked with a couple like us, but she was open to it,” recalled Brainard. “She said something like, ’Well, to have a baby you need a sperm, an egg and a working uterus—and it looks like we may have that here.’”
There were several unsuccessful tries and Brainard suffered a miscarriage. “It was very hard for Junior,” said Montgomery. “Very emotional for him. I am not as emotional as he is.”
“It’s different when it’s your body,” Brainard replied. “I would have loved to not be as invested until the first trimester is over. It was hard because we had been through so much to get to that place. We were so close. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to try again—because we had come so close.”
Their third attempt was successful, though, and the couple is eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child this October.
Chatting about the baby, both partners beam with pride. They also continue to exude their love for each other and their excitement on going on this journey together.
“Through the eight years we have been together, I have never felt out of love with him,” Montgomery admitted.
Now that she and Brainard have tackled conception, are they ready to take care of a baby?
“I’m looking forward to the sleepless nights,” Montgomery said. “I am happy about it all. I don’t show emotions the way he does, but the whole thing is great. I don’t want to be in a category as ’trans’ parents. I want to be in a category as just parent.”
The couple knows the sex of the baby but are keeping that information to themselves. Regardless, the name they decided on is gender-neutral.
“The name could be for a boy or a girl. It’s a versatile name,” Brainard said.
“I have had a couple of favorite names all my life and when I transitioned I wanted to take this name myself. But, my Mom picked Tina.”
Brainard and Montgomery hope their story inspires others to create family despite the odds.
“I think there are lots of ways to create a family if that’s what you want to do. People have built families in ways that are much more complicated than our situation,” said Brainard. “We had all the biological material between us.”
He added that he hopes couples are creating families in ways that feel right to them.
“[I hope] they feel good for the situations they are in—and the bodies they are in—with the options in front of them. ”