Jake and Hannah Graf have revealed their excitement about becoming parents. They are the first set who are both transgender in Britain
Jake and Hannah Graf are brimming with delighted anticipation, bursting to impart the happy news that they will become parents of a baby girl in April.
‘I’m so excited! I love little babies,’ says Jake, who had started to prepare for parenthood four years before he even met Hannah.
‘Within a week of our first date Jake was asking if I wanted kids,’ smiles Hannah. ‘He wouldn’t have taken the relationship further if I’d said “no”. I did want children but I never thought I’d end up having them. I thought I’d never have a boyfriend, let alone get married.
‘But here we are: I’m going to be a mum!’ Even now she seems mildly incredulous. She tells me the foetus — ‘22 weeks today!’ — is about ‘the size of a papaya and the weight of five tangerines’. They have downloaded an app that charts their baby’s growth.
You may think there’s nothing exceptional about a couple in their second year of marriage making such an announcement. But Jake and Hannah’s path to parenthood has been uniquely convoluted. For they are set to be the first parents in Britain who are both transgender.
Hannah, 32, now in a civilian job in finance, was — until she left the military last year to prepare for her new life as a wife and mum — the highest-ranking transgender officer in the British Army.
Accepted by her fellow officers and soldiers alike, the then Captain Winterbourne went on to be awarded an MBE for her work with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) army personnel.
The couple’s baby is being carried by a surrogate whom they do not wish to name, and is genetically linked to Jake by eggs he had harvested when he temporarily stopped taking testosterone for six months several years ago
Meanwhile, Jake, 41, an actor, writer and director who most recently appeared in the film Colette, alongside Dominic West and Keira Knightley, began gender reassignment in his late 20s, having known with absolute certainty that he was ‘a boy inside’ from the age of two or three.
And now, in an exclusive interview with the Mail, they reveal a miraculous twist in the remarkable story of their baby.
The Grafs’ little girl, who is being carried by a surrogate whom they do not wish to name, is genetically linked to Jake by eggs he had harvested when he temporarily stopped taking testosterone for six months several years ago.
Growing up in an affluent household in West London with his mum, who raised him and his younger sister while their father ran the family’s theatrical costume business, Jake was a miserable child, ‘humiliated’ by the girl’s body in which he felt, through some anatomical accident, he’d been forced to live.
Hannah’s mother paid the £17,000 cost of the fertility clinic in London because she knew her daughter ‘always dreamed of having children’
He started taking the male hormone testosterone in his late 20s but stopped temporarily in his mid-30s so he could have eggs harvested, anticipating the day when he would want to have children.
He is loath to talk about the procedure, which happened when he was 36: ‘It was invasive and unpleasant. I found it quite emasculating,’ he says — but he decided to freeze a batch of his eggs because it was his only hope of potentially having a child one day who was genetically linked to him.
He explains: ‘I’d been on testosterone for a good six years and I was very happy living as myself, but I didn’t want to miss out on kids and there was only one way I could be certain of being a father.
‘So I stopped taking testosterone for six months and went to a well-known London fertility clinic. They were very frank. They said they had no statistics to show how successful it was likely to be. They’d never done anything like it before.
They said: ‘We’re just being the happiest version of ourselves we can be. And we also want to support other trans people.’ ‘If our little girl likes pink, she’ll have pink!’ confirms Jake. ‘But if she prefers blue, that’s fine as well’
‘But they agreed to try to harvest some eggs and my dear mum, who had been super-supportive throughout my transitioning, paid the cost of the procedure — about £17,000 — because she knew I’d always dreamed of having children.’
In the event, five eggs were harvested ‘and the clinic said to me, “They have a lot stronger chances of becoming pregnancies if they are fertilised,” so my next step was to choose a sperm donor.’
In a serendipitous twist, Jake chose an anonymous donor who was uncannily similar to his future wife, whom he hadn’t even met yet.
‘I’m quite short and artistic, rubbish at science and logic, and I wanted a sperm donor to balance that. So I chose a tall, sporty, brown-eyed engineer,’ explains Jake. ‘I picked someone just like Hannah!’
Jake (pictured left) and Hannah (right) before they transitioned. The pair said their families have been ‘entirely supportive and loving’ about their decision to start a family while an old school friend said their decision for surrogacy is ‘utterly wrong’
Hannah smiles: she is a long-legged, sports-loving, brown-eyed blonde with a master’s degree in engineering who served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) during her ten-year Army career.
The eggs were duly fertilised, resulting in five embryos which the clinic froze and stored, one of which was implanted into the womb of their surrogate. ‘We might not want five children but we’d certainly like another, if not two more,’ says Jake.
They are sharply conscious, too, that although their families have been ‘entirely supportive and loving’, they have already faced unsolicited judgment. And they are bracing themselves for the vilification they know is sure to follow their public announcement.
‘We had a very upsetting message from an old schoolfriend I hadn’t seen in 20 years who said she felt surrogacy was “utterly wrong”,’ says Jake. ‘Yet she was speaking as a mum fortunate enough to have three children, and we felt it wasn’t her business to comment.’
Hannah adds: ‘The trouble is, people have strong opinions about surrogacy, as they do about people being transgender, without taking the care to understand.’
‘We’ve even heard people say we want to raise a trans baby. Why on earth would we choose that for our child?’ says Jake, aghast. ‘We know how incredibly hard it is to be transgender and we want the exact opposite for our daughter.
‘Some people see it as an ideology we’re trying to force on others. But nothing could be farther from the truth,’ agrees Hannah. ‘We’re just being the happiest version of ourselves we can be. And we also want to support other trans people.’
The couple, pictured at the Rainbow Honours 2019 at Madame Tussauds on December 4, met through a mutual friend in 2015 and pretty much fell in love instantly
‘If our little girl likes pink, she’ll have pink!’ confirms Jake. ‘But if she prefers blue, that’s fine as well.’
Jake and Hannah, who met through a mutual friend in 2015, fell pretty much instantly in love. Close friends and family gathered to celebrate their wedding, in March 2018, at Chelsea Register Office: Hannah, elegant in a strapless, figure-hugging dress of ivory lace, exchanged vows with Jake, handsome in charcoal morning suit and grey silk tie.
Even then, they reveal now, they had started to save towards the cost of having a child, via a surrogate, through IVF.
‘We knew the whole venture would cost around £45,000, which we are funding ourselves,’ says Jake. ‘So we had a very minimal wedding — we didn’t blow more than £5,000 — and instead of gifts we asked guests to contribute to our surrogacy fund.’
Although British law dictates that UK surrogacy must remain an altruistic endeavour, with only expenses of around £15,000 paid to the surrogate, medical and IVF costs add to the total bill.
They found their surrogate through the National Fertility Society: ‘It’s a little bit like dating,’ says Hannah. ‘You need to have shared values and the same outlook, and I think our surrogate — who is a very warm, practical person with children of her own — got the sense that we were a happy couple who love each other; that we’ll be good parents.
‘After all, that’s what all surrogates are looking for, isn’t it?’
‘We’ve met her lots of times,’ adds Jake. ‘She calls our baby her “little lodger”. She loves being pregnant and she felt strongly that she wanted to help a couple who’d had to overcome prejudices.
‘Right from the start she was very open and down-to-earth. When we first met we felt we’d known her for ages, we got on so well.
‘She’s given us the ultimate gift with no expectation of anything in exchange. We’ll stay friends — as you would with anyone in these circumstances — but she’s busy with her life. We are with ours.’
‘Maybe she’ll have another baby for us,’ puts in Hannah.
‘She is always careful to make sure I am referred to as the mother during appointments,’ says Hannah, ‘because when our surrogate has been referred to in that way, it has left me feeling superfluous.’
Soon-to-be father Jake says the couple ‘will always be honest with [their daughter], too, and tell her, in an age-appropriate way, about how she came into the world’. His only wish is that she is happy
The couple reveal they were both present at the clinic when their embryo was transferred into their surrogate.
‘We were at the head end,’ laughs Hannah. ‘I got quite emotional knowing that in the syringe were our hopes of being parents. I cried.
‘I was like a cat on a hot tin roof; worried that we only had five embryos. But the clinic told me, “That’s more than most people dream of!” I tried hard not to get too hopeful. But we were lucky!’
Ten days after the embryo was transferred came the wonderful news that this first attempt had been successful: their surrogate was pregnant.
‘We Skyped and she showed us the positive test from a home pregnancy kit. Two red lines on the stick,’ says Jake. ‘I said, “Is that real?” I was blown away. I wanted to make sure. I said, “Do another test!” and she came back and showed me another stick and said, “I’m still pregnant!” and I went, “Yayyy!”’
Hannah’s response was, typically, quieter: ‘We were sitting next to each other on the sofa. I felt relief, joy and a strong sense of closeness to Jake.’
Jake is tactile, voluble; protective of Hannah, who is calm and quietly spoken. They sit next to each other, occasionally holding hands, exchanging a kiss and bickering good-naturedly.
When Jake talks over Hannah, she says: ‘Let me get a word in.’ They laugh when I tell them they seem like a couple who’ve been married for 20 years.
They have been involved in the pregnancy at every stage. Just for peace of mind, they paid for tests to check for chromosomal abnormalities in the developing baby — they came back clear — and at the same time learned they are expecting a girl. ‘Not that we’d have minded either way,’ says Hannah.
They attended scans, first at five weeks, then 12, when they saw their baby’s fluttering heartbeat and left proudly with a photo of a tiny foetus, ready to tell their respective parents the glad news.
Captain Winterbourne (pictured right, with Jake Graf) spent her first years in the Army as a man before she spoke about her decision to transition while still on active duty
Hannah had already told her older brother Jeff he was going to be an uncle (he was thrilled). Then she and Jake went to her home town, Cardiff, to tell her parents Wendy, 62, a retired teacher, and Brian, 64, a programme manager, they were going to be grandparents for the first time.
‘I bought a little card saying “Thank you for your support” and put a scan photo inside,’ says Hannah. ‘I’d written, “You’re going to be grandparents!” and they were so excited.
‘Mum said, “My gosh, isn’t that wonderful? Congratulations, love!”’
‘And I videoed the whole thing,’ smiles Jake.
Hannah adds that her parents had been unfailingly loving and kind throughout her transition, and thoughtful in their preparations for their new role as grandparents.
‘When I came out as trans they re-wrote their wills, so any children I had who were not genetically linked to me would be treated equally to any other grandchild.’
Jake’s mum — his father died before Jake transitioned — has similarly stood by her son every step of the way; supporting him emotionally during the dark days when, as a miserable adolescent, he was ‘full of self-loathing’ in his female body.
‘Mum came with me to the appointments (when his eggs were harvested) and I think she didn’t believe it would work.
‘When Hannah and I went over with a card and the scan photo, she said, “What’s this?” I gave her her glasses. She said, “How did this happen?” And then we explained and she was overjoyed. There were congratulations and lots of hugs.
‘My sister has three children, so when our daughter is born Mum will be Nana for the fourth time.’
‘We’ve already decided: Jake’s Mum is Nana and mine is Nanny,’ explains Hannah, beaming.
‘We will both be at the birth. Absolutely!’ says Jake. ‘It will be in a hospital with lots of nurses and doctors around. And we’ll be holding the baby first, skin-to-skin, bringing our little bundle home safely very shortly after the birth.’
As is the law for all such births, the surrogate will be named as ‘mother’ on the baby’s birth certificate, then Jake and Hannah, who will apply for a parental order, will both be listed as ‘parents’.
As Jake works from home, writing for much of the time, he says he is the ‘natural’ choice to be the stay-at-home parent raising their child: ‘And we’ll rely on the kindness of grandparents and friends to help out occasionally.’
Hannah will take her statutory maternity leave, then return to her job in finance. She also remains an Army reservist.
Jake, who worked as both a nanny and then a manny in his teens and 20s, confesses he has never looked after a newborn. Now they are thinking about antenatal classes ‘so when the baby arrives we can be the best parents,’ says Hannah.
‘We do worry about people saying something rude or nasty when we turn up without a visible pregnancy,’ she adds. ‘But there must be lots of male gay couples who go to antenatal classes,’ counters Jake. ‘Ideally we’ll find a class where no one turns a hair. What we want to learn is how to feed, swaddle and change nappies.’
Actually, you wouldn’t glance twice at Hannah and Jake if you passed them in the street.
Hannah wears her hair in a ponytail. Fresh-faced and free of make-up, she is pretty in an understated way; slim and tall with an enviably tiny waist. Jake, neatly barbered, works out to hone his athletic torso and dresses smartly.
Even so, they are keenly aware that their daughter could encounter prejudice because of them.
‘I know there is hatred levelled at people like Jake and me and I want to protect our daughter from that,’ says Hannah. ‘But I am also hopeful. Younger generations are more inclusive.’
‘Our little girl will always have our support and love,’ says Jake. ‘We will always be honest with her, too, and tell her, in an age-appropriate way, about how she came into the world.
‘We just want our little girl to be happy. That’s all we wish for her.’