Transmasculinities and Pregnant Monstrosity: Hannibal Omegaverse Fan-Fiction

Transmasculinities and Pregnant Monstrosity: Hannibal Omegaverse Fan-Fiction

J.T. Weisser


This article explores queer pregnant male embodiment by analysing three works of fan-fiction that feature pregnant men. All three works use the television adaptation Hannibal (National Broadcasting Company) as a source text and take place in the ‘Omegaverse’, a science-fictional universe in which humans possess animalistic traits such as mating cycles, and men classed as ‘omegas’ are able to conceive. Omegaverse fan-fiction often conflates the ability to become pregnant with gender identity, coding the ‘omega’ man as female and thereby reproducing the cissexist discourse that pregnancy is an uncontrollably female and feminine process. However, the Omegaverse’s conflation of pregnancy with gender identity means that choices around pregnancy gain queer potentiality: the omega man on birth control can be read allegorically as a misgendered transmasculine individual who becomes convinced that he can only find happiness by ‘detransitioning’ and starting a non-adoptive family. The bodily changes of ‘detransitioning’ – of reproduction and pregnancy – are characterised as abject and feminine; simultaneously, these changes play on the erotic violence and monstrosity of the source text, allowing for some degree of empowerment that challenges the desexualisation of queer and pregnant bodies. The tension between the Omegaverse’s queer potentiality and cisnormative, restrictive constructions of pregnancy ultimately allows the texts to question misogynistic and cisheteronormative discourses of reproduction, starting important dialogues that challenge the gendering of pregnancy.


Fan-fiction often explores queer sexualities alongside narratives that focus on domesticity and family life. Its portrayals of pregnancy point towards a queering of the pronatalist family and of the pregnant body itself. Here, I use queer and transgender theory to examine this idea by analysing the representation of pregnant male bodies in three works of fan-fiction (or ‘fics’) based on the television show Hannibal (National Broadcasting Company, 2013–2015). All three fics lie within the ‘Omegaverse’ subgenre, a genre which accentuates reproductive biology and its effect on gender identity; the Omegaverse thereby complicates the fics’ presentation of male pregnancy. I argue that the fics explore experiences of pregnant embodiment from a variety of subject positions, many of which are describable as ‘queer’; in this regard, they have a queer potentiality. The fics depict biologically essentialist discourses of queer pregnant bodies, including the idea that pregnancy is an inherently female, feminine experience. By depicting these discourses, the fics reflect the challenges faced by queer – particularly transgender/transmasculine – individuals as they navigate pregnant embodiment. They also highlight areas where queerness and pregnancy face similar characterisations; for example, in the construction of both queer and pregnant bodies as ‘monstrous’.

Throughout this article, I use ‘assigned female/male at birth’ or AFAB/AMAB to refer to assigned sex. ‘Female/male’ refers to gender identity, and ‘feminine/masculine’ refers to gender presentation, although, as I discuss, the distinction between identity and presentation is not always clear. I utilise ‘trans/transgender’ as an umbrella term for those whose gender differs from their assigned sex at birth, while ‘cis/cisgender’ refers to those whose gender accords with their assigned sex. I use ‘transmasculine’ and ‘transmasculinity’ broadly in relation to transgender men, as well as to nonbinary and AFAB transgender individuals who include maleness/masculinity as part of their identity.

In recent years, queer, non-cisheteronormative means of achieving pregnancy and reproduction have gained increased cultural visibility. This increased visibility might suggest that cisheteronormative ideas of reproduction are beginning to show cracks; a cisgender heterosexual man impregnating a cisgender heterosexual woman is no longer viewed as the only viable option for having biological children. However, while pregnant transgender men have captured significant public attention over the past decade, cultural representations of pregnant men often fail to contest the biologically essentialist female gendering of pregnancy.[1] The bodies of pregnant men are coded as ‘female’ by normative discourses and deemed irreconcilable with their maleness. This paper asks how this discourse is reflected within online fan-fiction, and whether fan-fictional representations of pregnant men always leave the female gendering of pregnancy unquestioned.

Fan-fiction refers to writing that transforms a pre-existing source text, usually published on unofficial platforms such as zines, fan-sites or fan work archives. Fan-fiction is known for queering popular cultural texts through ‘slash shipping’ (derived from ‘relationship’), a term used to describe the placing of (usually male) characters of the same gender in a romantic and/or sexual relationship. Slash shipping frequently involves narratives of domesticity, often to a degree not considered within the source text. Many works of slash fiction – including the fics I analyse here – are keen to ask how the characters in the ship would navigate procreation and raising children. Male pregnancy (or ‘mpreg’) allows writers to explore the consequences of biological reproduction within the context of a slash ship; as a result, mpreg is popular in many fan-fiction communities. In this context, mpreg involves a (typically cisgender) man becoming pregnant, often through fantastical means. Within both academic and fan circles, mpreg fan-fiction is often criticised for failing to challenge normative ideas about gender and sexuality.[2] While many fan-fictional representations of pregnant men reinforce the female coding of pregnancy, the presence of the pregnant man himself complicates this. By existing as both pregnant and male, his bodily acts and processes transgress cisheteronormative ideas about reproduction. Even when he is feminised, he holds queer potentiality.

Hannibal and the Omegaverse

The presence of queer, abject pregnant bodies in Hannibal (NBC) fan-fiction both precedes and follows the show’s example. In seasons two and three, Margot Verger’s (Katharine Isabelle) character arc centres on her attempting to birth a male heir to attain her family’s fortune. Despite her being a lesbian, she conceives via intercourse with a male partner, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). However, her incestuous, sexually abusive brother Mason (Michael Pitt, later Joe Anderson) finds out about her pregnancy; he kidnaps her and has her uterus removed.[3] Mason coerces Margot into helping him locate and kidnap Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) by offering his sperm in exchange, with which Margot’s partner, Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas), can give birth to a Verger heir. However, upon Hannibal’s capture, Mason refuses to provide the sperm and announces that after Margot’s egg was removed, he transferred it to a surrogate. Margot discovers that this ‘surrogate’ is a live pig carrying her stillborn foetus. Margot eventually achieves her goals, harvesting Mason’s sperm before killing him. In the process, however, her body is punished for its abject queerness. She is first obliged to forego her sexual orientation, conceiving a child through intercourse with a man. Her body is then permanently altered through violent regulation, her fertility being wrested from her control as Mason surgically bars her from reproducing. This seizure of control over her body is an irreversibly traumatic process, emphasised by Mason instructing the surgeons who remove her uterus to leave a scar.  Having been scarred and rendered infertile, the only way for her to achieve her goal of having a Verger heir is by proxy and by force: to acquire her brother’s sperm she is forced to rape him with a cattle prod. Her bodily integrity annihilated, Margot becomes monstrously infertile, only able to indirectly ‘conceive’ through violence against others. In her stead, her rapist brother becomes a more suitable reproductive partner, a pig a more suitable ‘surrogate’.

Hannibal (NBC) mpreg fan-fiction portrays queer, abject forms of pregnancy, but not always in the same horrific mode as the show. The show’s fan works predominantly focus on an imagined sexual/romantic relationship between Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer and psychiatrist, and Will Graham, a criminal profiler whom Hannibal encourages to commit violent acts throughout the series (this pairing is usually abbreviated to ‘Hannigram’).[4] Mpreg is popular within this pairing, with Will usually being the pregnant partner. Åström (2010) notes that, while mainstream fiction often portrays pregnant men as monstrous and emasculated, fan-fiction tends to engage with male pregnancy in an idealised, normalised domestic context that prioritises non-adoptive family structures: mpreg is a “life-affirming [experience] resulting in the joy of fatherhood” (par. 1.5). Hannigram mpreg fics often reproduce ideals of domestic life alongside the characters’ murderous tendencies, adding a queer ambiguity to their family dynamic. This is complicated even further when considering the ‘Omegaverse’ subgenre in which many Hannigram mpreg works reside.

At the time of writing (August 2018), 18,789 Hannibal (NBC) fan works are listed on Archive of Our Own (AO3), a multi-fandom online archive within which users self-publish fan-fiction and exchange feedback. Of these, 15,743 works contain Hannigram, roughly 84% of all archived Hannibal (NBC) content. A total of 451 works for the show are tagged with the word ‘Mpreg’, and 839 works are tagged with ‘Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics’ (Archive of Our Own, accessed 2018). This tag describes the ‘Omegaverse’, a subgenre of fan-fiction involving a speculative fictional universe which is often used as a vehicle for mpreg. While details vary from work to work, several features are observable across almost all Omegaverse texts:

  1. Within the Omegaverse, a ‘secondary gender’ system overrides the sex binary.[5] While characters may be male, female or nonbinary in gender, the sexed characteristics of their bodies are defined by their secondary gender classification: either ‘Alpha’, ‘Beta’, or ‘Omega’.[6]
  2. Usually ‘alphas’ of all sexes and genders can impregnate others. Alpha males are more common than alpha females, the latter of whom are sometimes portrayed as sterile. ‘Omegas’ of all sexes and genders can be impregnated. Omega males often have both a penis and a uterus, and are frequently rarer than omega females. ‘Betas’ vary the most between fics but are typically cisgender, non-intersex men and women.
  3. Alphas and omegas typically have animalistic traits, including strong sex pheromones which identify their secondary gender. Sometimes the production of these pheromones increases during alpha/omega mating cycles, wherein omegas go into ‘heat’ and alphas go into ‘rut’.[7]

According to Fanlore (accessed 2018), a fan-created wiki for documenting fan phenomena, the Omegaverse originated in 2010; it has thus developed at a similar time to the increasing visibility of transgender and queer pregnancies.[8] This simultaneous development is worth exploring in further detail.

To consider the Omegaverse’s dialogue with queer experiences of pregnancy, I examine three Hannibal (NBC) Omegaverse fan-texts, applying theory around transgender and queer pregnant embodiment. I demonstrate that the pregnant omega male has a queer potentiality that is suppressed by the normative female coding of pregnancy. I read narratives of omega men on birth control as resembling narratives of transphobia: the omega male on birth control has altered his identity, and is met with gender-essentialist discourses claiming that he is unhealthily denying his ‘true’ identity. Becoming pregnant is framed as an acceptance of this ‘true identity’. However, the bodily changes of omega pregnancy are themselves ambiguous in gender coding. Through his animalistic biology, the pregnant omega man casts off the desexualisation of his queer body by embracing pregnant abjection, a state between humanity and non-humanity. Simultaneously, this abjection is often uncontrollably ‘feminine’ in nature. The pregnant omega man is thus not equivalent to a pregnant cisgender woman, but a misgendered queer man whose body is overwritten by biologically essentialist discourses.

Within fan studies, there is “a tradition of insider or autoethnographic work” in which the researcher is also a fan who engages in fan communities (Popova 2018, 178). The researcher thus acts as their own “informant”, being already familiar with fan community contexts and practices (Popova 2018, 178). My research continues this tradition, being autoethnographic in two regards: I engage in fan-fiction communities as a ‘fan’ and I identify as transgender/nonbinary. My methodology, including my focus on transgender and queer subjectivity, draws from the knowledge I have gained as a transgender individual in fan spaces.

The fan-texts I consider here are all sourced from Archive of Our Own (AO3), because works using the same platform offer more appropriate grounds for comparison. Fan creators uploading works to AO3 can assign the work a category, which identifies the source text/s being written about. Likewise, they assign tags denoting the fic’s content, including the tropes used, making mpreg and Omegaverse texts easy to find. The texts are drawn from a database search on AO3 for fan works within the ‘Hannibal (TV)’ category tagged with ‘Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics’. Works under this tag were sorted in descending order by the amount of ‘kudos’ they had received (AO3’s version of ‘likes’). They were then selected according to the following criteria:

  1. The work must portray conception, pregnancy and/or childbirth.
  2. The work must not be set in a geographical location, time or context different from that of the Hannibal canon.[9]

Three texts meeting these criteria were chosen. All three focus on Hannigram, casting Hannibal as an alpha and Will as an omega. Based on best practice within fan studies, complete URLs have not been provided for the fan texts.[10] Page references are sourced from PDF downloads of the texts, available on the AO3 website.

  • “Wage Your War” by Della19 (published April 2014, updated September 2015) centres on Will and Hannibal’s courtship, following Will from the moment he comes off birth control to the birth of the couple’s twins. The text tracks Will’s conflict with his bodily processes during his heat cycle and pregnancy, as well as his presenting fluidly as both a beta and an omega. Despite this conflict, Will pursues personal fulfilment by embracing his ‘true’ omega identity.
  • “An Easy Kind of Love” by Dormchi (2017) is the start of a series entitled “The Murder Family Verse”, which depicts the couple’s experiences of domesticity and impending fatherhood. The story occurs after the show’s season finale: while Hannibal and Will are fugitives, Will cannot obtain a prescription for birth control; he subsequently goes into heat and is impregnated by Hannibal. He expresses distress at heat’s incongruity with his identity, yet his inner conflict is undermined through biologically essentialist discourses.
  • “What To Expect (When Your Mate Is Expecting)” by maydei (2018) depicts Will’s bodily changes during pregnancy. The text is structured around interludes from a self-help medical booklet for alphas whose partners are pregnant, a fictionalised version of the medical discourses that regulate and pathologise the pregnant body. The booklet delineates the pregnant omega’s animalistic behaviours, which are paralleled within the narrative between Hannibal and Will. These animalistic behaviours allow for a queer pregnant sexuality that challenges the desexualisation of queer pregnant bodies.

Before considering these texts in further detail, I will establish my theoretical framework, reviewing queer reception theory and scholarship around slash fan-fiction, mpreg and the Omegaverse. I then explore the pregnant body’s association with femininity, contextualising queer experiences of pregnancy and their erasure within normative discourses. Using these as a foundation, I argue that the texts present the usage of birth control as a ‘gender transition’: Will’s experiences of using birth control are similar to transmasculine experiences of embodiment, and in-universe attitudes towards taking birth control are similar to attitudes that invalidate the identities of transmasculine individuals. I then discuss the gendering of pregnant embodiment itself. I question whether Will’s animalistic biology provides grounds for a queer pregnant sexuality that transcends the female coding of pregnancy.

Slash Fiction as Queer Fiction

Omegaverse slash narratives often resonate with queer and transgender experiences of pregnancy. However, within fan studies, the readers and writers of slash fiction are often figured as heterosexual cisgender women who represent gay male couples heteronormatively; for example, by making one partner uncharacteristically feminine.

Even where slash authors/readers are cisgender heterosexual women, this does not bar them from posing a challenge to cisheteronormativity. Queer and transgender approaches to reception theory suggest that anyone of any identity can assume a queer gaze/position, or read a text from a non-cisheteronormative perspective, and thereby challenge gender and sexual binaries (Doty 1993, 3; Halberstam 2005, 86). However, Doty (1993) and Halberstam (2005) both agree that overtly representing queer characters does not necessarily make a queer text or reading (78; 105). Thus, many texts that feature queer characters fail to account for the complexities of queer experience.

Far from assuming a queer gaze, slash fan-fiction often uses an inverted male gaze, making male characters into objects of female desire (Busse 2009, 106). This inverted male gaze reverses the “subject/object relations” between men and women without challenging those relations or the gender binary on which they rely (Busse 2009, 106). Whether these specific power relations carry across to mpreg fiction is debatable. Mpreg texts depict queer men raising a non-adoptive family, undermining cisheteronormative constructs of domesticity and kinship. However, Busse (2009) and Åström (2010) both caution against suggesting that slash and mpreg fiction inherently subverts cisheteronormative discourses by depicting queer men. Busse (2009) suggests that academic debates around slash fiction (and fan-fiction more broadly) have previously used a reductive model of patriarchy, ignoring other power mechanisms that may be present within the fics, such as cisheteronormativity (106). In this respect, their discussions of slash as a subversive practice are limited. Åström (2010) suggests that reading slash texts as products of ‘resistance’ ignores the potential for these texts to be heteronormative: for example, mpreg works frequently idealise a gender-normative “family life” that is emphasised as being “just like” that of “heterosexual couples”, particularly through associating pregnant men with femininity and “motherhood” (par. 3.4). Through this argument, most mpreg texts maintain a heterosexual, cisgender gaze despite depicting pregnant male embodiment.

While these observations are useful, Busse and Åström’s arguments mostly ignore fans who are not cisgender women. Busse (2009) interprets some features of fan-fiction culture (particularly the prevalence of gift cultures, the practices of editing, publishing and exchanging fan-fiction for free) to be gendered as female (106), while Åström (2010) genders an implied reader of fan-fiction as female by default (par. 7.1). It is important to acknowledge the predominance of cisgender women within many fan-fiction communities. However, I argue that there are more inclusive (and, potentially, queerer) ways to conceptualise fan writers and readers, as well as the texts themselves. Revising critical frameworks around slash fiction provides better foundations for representing queer and LGBT fans, while allowing that non-queer individuals can assume a queer position (and vice versa). Such a revision would also decentre the identity of fan authors, allowing fan texts to be read as literary “objects of study in their own right”, as opposed to being “merely products of an interesting subculture” (Busse 2009, 105) or strictly “derivative”/“appropriative” works (Derecho 2006, 64). Through this approach, wider conclusions can be drawn from fan-fictional depictions of queer bodies.

Most Omegaverse scholarship has focused on audience desire and the gender-coding of alphas and omegas. Linked to the assumption that most fans are cisgender women, omegas are almost always figured as equivalent to cisgender women. Milena Popova (2018) claims that omegas map onto a “western female sexual script” and Arnaiz (2018) argues that “omegas undoubtedly stand for females” (184; eBook location 2430). For Arnaiz, male omegas occupy a displaced position from which women can safely enact scenes of sexual violence and “gain mastery over […] deep-rooted negative feelings”, including “helplessness, humiliation, worthlessness and unlovability” (eBook location 2462). Even here, the Omegaverse’s queer potentiality is overwritten into an allegory of cisgender womanhood made exclusively by cisgender women.

Scholarship on the Omegaverse, then, has largely failed to consider the queer potentiality of depicting pregnant men. One gap within existing scholarship is an extended discussion of the queerly animalistic traits of alpha/omega bodies. Many aspects of Omegaverse biology are appropriated from facts and myths of lupine zoology, particularly the heat/rut cycles and alpha/beta/omega social structures. These provide an additional queer potentiality, partly drawn from their similarity to portrayals of lycanthropy. Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (2008) reads the werewolf as a liminal and potentially queer figure. He notes the correspondence between fears around queer sexuality and the usage of werewolves in horror fiction: queer sexuality is often associated with canine/lupine symbolism, being attributed a “beastly, unnatural and atavistic [nature]” (159). The Omegaverse maps lupine, animalistic traits – including the heat cycle, evidence of an uncontrollable sexuality – onto human bodies, recalling the figure of the queer werewolf. This complicates the idea that the omega male is symbolically a cisgender woman and that alpha/omega relationships cleanly map onto cisgender heterosexuality.

The Omegaverse explores queer bodies that transcend sexual and gender norms as well as, potentially, humanity itself. However, this exploration does not necessarily correspond to specific lived queer experiences, particularly regarding the Omegaverse’s interactions with transgender experience. Within the Omegaverse, alpha/beta/omega power dynamics often surpass the importance of the gender binary. Where this occurs, the Omegaverse plays down the social consequences of being pregnant and male, indulging in a “fantasy of fluidity” of gender (Halberstam 2005, 96). A utopian theory of gender fluidity implies the total deconstruction of the gender binary.[11] However, this deconstruction is difficult to apply beyond theory (or beyond fiction). It fails to acknowledge the specific situations of many trans individuals, for whom gender fluidity is too dangerous and too commodified to be fully accessible (Halberstam 2005, 92). It also assumes that the social construction of gender has no lived effects and can be easily dismantled: in this sense, it is oversimplified and removed from gendered experience. Lanei M. Rodemeyer (2018) argues that such models fail to account for the lived effects of gender presentation and sensed embodiment. This prevents transgender voices from defining their own experiences of identity (Rodemeyer 2018, 105–107). Thus, the Omegaverse typically does not deconstruct cisnormative ideas of sex and gender, although it does form a dialogue with them. I will now consider these cisnormative discourses in further detail, exploring their effects on queer and male pregnant bodies.


Conceptions of the Pregnant Body

Within biologically essentialist discourse, the pregnant body is constructed as female and feminine. Michelle Walks (2013) argues that “feminine pregnancy is a cultural fetish”: non-feminine pregnancy is near inconceivable within existing social discourses, and the ‘default’ position of the pregnant body is one of femininity (n.p.). K. J. Surkan (2015) suggests that the female coding of pregnancy is because the pregnant body contradicts expectations of the ideal feminine body, including through weight gain (61).[12] This is irreconcilable with the slender feminine ideal enforced on AFAB bodies, so normative discourses must work even harder to associate pregnancy with femininity, avoiding association with ‘unfeminine’ and therefore ambiguously ‘queer’ fatness. Although Jane M. Ussher (2006) focuses on pregnant cisgender women, her argument is similar. She argues that the ‘unfeminine’ bodily developments of gestation are constructed so as to alienate the pregnant woman from her own body. The pregnant body ‘naturally’ cannot perform normative cisgender femininity, and the pregnant individual lacks the agency to control this, a ‘failure’ which is deemed part of ‘being a woman’ (Ussher 2006, 89). The pregnant body thus paradoxically occupies two spaces of gender presentation. Many aspects of pregnant embodiment are ambiguous in gender, even queer, but these aspects are blamed on an uncontrollable femininity. Within normative discourses, then, pregnant individuals cannot reclaim the ‘unfeminine’, ‘masculine’ aspects of pregnancy as queer experiences: these aspects are removed from their agency and are tied to femininity by normative discourses.

The pregnant body is associated with an abject, ‘natural’ femininity which “[s]imultaneously [signifies] reverence and revulsion” (Ussher 2006, 84). The pregnant body is characterised as “a [natural] site of pollution” that must be medicalised and subject to “expert containment and control” (Ussher 2006, 1; 81). Clare Hanson (2004) observes that, paradoxically, this control and close monitoring is often to ensure a ‘natural’ (or non-pathological) birth. Given the associations between femininity and nature, to idealise ‘natural’ childbirth (while simultaneously denigrating pregnancy as ‘naturally’ monstrous) is to gender the pregnant body as feminine. Even theories that seem to challenge the nature/culture dichotomy may still feminise the pregnant body by associating it with nature and distancing it from culture. Both Hanson (2004) and Butler (2006) cite Kristeva (1980; 1982), who aligns the pregnant woman with the pre-cultural. Kristeva argues that the pregnant body is abject, caught between nature and culture. Butler, however, criticises this argument for alienating women from culture, denying them the ability to redefine discourses around the pregnant body. By characterising pregnancy as pre-cultural, it becomes a “maternal instinct”, and the pregnant subject is left without agency (Butler 2006, 123). Hanson, Ussher and Butler highlight the biological essentialism that shapes pregnancy into a natural instinct. This robs the pregnant individual of subjecthood, while defining their body as inescapably feminine.

While Hanson and Ussher only focus on cisgender women, they emphasise the damage of failing to acknowledge subjective experiences of pregnancy. In a model that reduces pregnancy to a feminine body that must be regulated, pregnant men struggle to find a position that neither erases their identity as queer men, nor erases their pregnant embodiment. As an example, Walks (2013) interviewed trans men, butch lesbians and genderqueer/nonbinary individuals about their experiences of pregnancy. Many participants observed that, after announcing their pregnancy, their friends and family treated them as though they were “finally embracing femininity”, even if their gender presentation did not change throughout pregnancy (n.p., original italics). The female coding of the pregnant body means that queer and gender non-conforming individuals’ identities are erased during pregnancy: the two seem irreconcilable.

Queer and poststructuralist theories of pregnant/gendered embodiment take steps towards reconciling gender nonconformity and pregnancy. However, they do not offer an entirely convincing remedy. These theories establish paradigms between sex/gender and the essential/constructed. These paradigms fail to wholly account for transgender experiences of identity (Rodemeyer 2018, 106; Sellberg 2009, 71). Transgender experiences involve an authentic sense of identity, yet social constructivist models deem identity to be a construct, meaning that experiences of identity cannot truly be described as ‘authentic’ (Sellberg 2009, 73). Another risk is that, under queer theory, being transgender is reduced to “a subversive act of gender transgression”, rather than a lived identity with social consequences (Hines 2007, 26). However, Sellberg (2009, 82) suggests that it may be possible to reconcile these two perspectives:

If embodied subjectivity were to be reconsidered neither as a stable essential entity nor as a de-essentialised vacuum in a fetishised shell, but rather as an uncharged series of inputs that develop in processes of ‘becoming’, then gendered, transgender, and queer subjectivities could be expressed within a shared discursive space, intermittently and coextensively.

Drawn from Rosi Braidotti (2002), ‘becoming’ involves a repeated performance of gender, which allows the expression of an ‘authentic’ gendered self. Here, gender performance can be linked to an authentic gender subjectivity; thus, the two are not as mutually exclusive as they at first appear. This concept of ‘becoming’ also accommodates instances in which gender identity appears ‘unclear’ or ‘contradictory’ – at least, within discourses that rely upon binaries of authenticity/constructedness.

In the Omegaverse, where becoming pregnant means also ‘becoming’ a particular secondary gender, the omega male embodies this contradictory sense of gender identity. I posit that the figure of the male omega is a site of simultaneity, where multiple readings can be applied to the same fictional body. The pregnant omega male body can variably and simultaneously connote a trans man, a cis woman, a cis man, and/or an intersex person of any gender (to name only a few), while the same representation may vary from queer and self-reflexive to cissexist and heteronormative.

Within the Omegaverse texts I am discussing, fecund and/or pregnant embodiment almost always takes precedence over queer identity. The texts stage an overt conflict between Will’s maleness and his ability to become pregnant: his fecund/pregnant body is regulated by discourses that cannot fully accommodate a queer experience of identity.


‘His body is a warzone’: Birth Control and Identity Trouble

This section discusses the biologically essentialist discourses that see the ‘pre-pregnant’ omega male as inescapably feminine. “Wage Your War” and “An Easy Kind of Love” depict these discourses and explore their effects on omega male identity. Will’s usage of birth control – which allows him to pass as a beta – is discouraged within the narratives. The medical and political discourses of the Omegaverse combine to present the usage of birth control as unhealthy, transgressive and a disavowal of one’s unquestionable identity as an omega, an identity which inevitably seems to involve rape and impregnation. The ‘authentic’ omega identity seems to involve a relinquishing of bodily integrity in two ways: the ability to consent to sex and pregnancy and the ability to present as a different secondary gender. Within the context of the Omegaverse, both of these forms of bodily integrity can be read as transmasculine; this is despite Will’s eventual acceptance of pregnancy and his given gender classification. I conclude that the writers use Will’s status as a queer pregnant/pre-pregnant man to explore the regulation of AFAB bodily autonomy and the repression of queer experiences of gender.

Both “Wage Your War” and “An Easy Kind of Love” depict conception. At the start of both narratives, however, Will wishes to avoid pregnancy. He takes ‘heat suppressants’ which prevent him from being subject to an oestrus cycle and becoming pregnant, taking the strongest legally prescribed suppressants for “thirteen years” in “Wage Your War” and “18 years” in “An Easy Kind of Love” (Della19 2015, 9; Dormchi 2017, 4). By emphasising this detail, both texts frame Will’s background in a way that assumes pregnancy and Will’s character to be mutually exclusive until a narrative catalyst comes into play.[13] These catalysts force Will to accept the bodily processes of heat and pregnancy and embrace his omega identity, promising a happy ending with a family. With this development comes the assumption that Will’s identity was initially unfulfilled and false.

In “Wage Your War”, Will’s taking of heat suppressants positions his identity as inauthentic, and as denying supposedly ‘essential’ aspects of being an omega (Della19 2015, 4):

Will was all for the omega liberation movement of the sixties: he was eminently grateful that his status as an individual with ovaries didn’t mean he couldn’t hold down a job, but for all that, passing oneself off as a beta was still the ‘socially acceptable’ thing to do. It wasn’t a necessity anymore, and if the second wave omegists had anything to say about it it’d be a dying trend, but for the most part, if you weren’t making a political statement, mated or looking for a mate, you were on at least suppressants, and probably wearing a beta scent.

Historical feminist movements are paralleled here; consequently, omega identity is conflated with cisgender womanhood. The act of leaving one’s body unaltered becomes a ‘political statement’, one which is affirmative of womanhood/‘omegahood’. For the second-wave omegists, then, assigned sex (or secondary gender) determines identity. Omegas who alter their sex characteristics are thus vilifying their ‘true’ identity.[14] They function as an allegorical displacement of the ‘feminists’ who conflate body parts with gender: like those feminists, they construct a sense of identity by relying on “a biological understanding of sex as fixed from birth” (Hines 2007, 33). Della19’s text thus questions essentialist feminist perspectives on gender, yet indirectly reproduces them by associating omegas with cisgender women.

If omegas are allegorically cisgender women, presenting as a beta becomes an act of transitioning from one’s assigned (secondary) gender. Taking heat suppressants is a transmasculine act, analogous to taking testosterone as part of gender transition.[15] The omega taking heat suppressants and the transmasculine individual taking hormones both claim bodily integrity, altering their body in a way that changes how their gender is externally received.

While the allegory is not exact, the concerns of both converge in a key way: a desire to ‘pass’ as a particular gender/secondary gender. Will ‘transitions’ to assume a beta identity and considers it key to ensure that his body does not give away his omega status; he uses “beta cologne” to this effect (Della19 2015, 4). By “[p]assing […] as a beta”, Will avoids “posturing alpha pheromones” and “omega heats triggering inconvenient ruts” (4). If Will experiences a heat cycle or is biologically attracted to an alpha, neither would give him the option to consent sexually: hence, Will’s need to pass as a beta is also linked to avoiding the loss of his bodily integrity. Will’s perspective gestures towards transgender experiences of passing. Sandy Stone (2006) characterises passing as a social imperative “to erase” oneself and “fade into the ‘normal’ population as soon as possible” in order to avoid social ostracism (230). Will’s goal of ‘passing’ is, likewise, to be accepted as a ‘natural’ beta. For Will, however, ‘passing’ does not have the aim of erasing his trans status from public view (and thereby being able to claim social acceptance), but instead of erasing his ‘true’ identity: that of a female-coded omega. Thus, while Will’s subjectivity does somewhat align with trans experiences, specifically the imperative to ‘pass’ and become invisible, the text parallels the argument that being transmasculine is a matter of social coercion, convenience, and a misogynistic disavowal of femaleness. Being transmasculine itself is framed as “the ‘socially acceptable’ thing to do” (Della19 2015, 4). Here, the text reflects Halberstam (2005)’s fantasy of gender fluidity (92). Will’s fluid secondary gender presentation has some surface similarities with transmasculine experience. However, the text does not otherwise fully engage with the complexities and “sensed embodiment” of transgender experience (Rodemeyer 2018, 108). His queer potentiality is overridden by the notion that, by passing, he is attempting to deny his own femaleness/‘omeganess’ out of ‘convenience’.

The beginning of “Wage Your War” sets up a ‘detransition’ narrative, in which Will stops taking heat suppressants and accepts his assigned identity as an omega. I use the term ‘detransition narrative’ to distinguish ‘narratives’ of detransition from the lived, diverse and complex situations that often accompany an individual detransitioning from a transgender identity. Those who detransition have not always experienced a shift in their identity, but instead may be doing so due to social pressure or an inability to continue financially supporting their medical transition. Despite this, evidence of individuals detransitioning is often used to invalidate transgender experiences of identity altogether.[16] Will’s coming off heat suppressants is, in many ways, a detransition narrative.

Within detransition narratives, “cisgender identity tends to be seen as the healthy opposite of a problematic transgender identity” (Newhook et al. 2018, 217). Likewise, within the fic, the ‘healthiness’ of Will’s biological imperatives is contrasted with the ‘unhealthiness’ of his maintaining a beta (or transmasculine) identity. The biological changes caused by Will’s heat suppressants are unpleasant if not dangerous: he is deemed medically irresponsible for making ‘unhealthy’ choices about pregnancy and gender presentation. His suppressants come with “a fun grab bag of side effects”, such as “night terrors, night sweats, insomnia, unusually disturbing nightmares, suicidal thoughts and even, on occasion, visual and auditory hallucinations” (Della19 2015, 9).[17] To maintain bodily integrity, Will is forced to harm himself with suppressants. Maintaining his “easy, bland” beta life causes him abject sickness; his omega identity continually inflicts damage on him for the crime of denying it . His obstetrician also “chastis[es]” him for enduring the suppressants’ side effects for so long (9). When he tries to take the focus off the side effects, she gives him “a look […] that says, you’re not getting away that easily” (9, original italics). This exchange is light-hearted but has an undercurrent of pursuit: Will’s intentions and personal sacrifices mean little to a medical system that he cannot “[get] away” from, a system that is primarily interested in preserving his healthy, fecund body, and which will police his medical decisions accordingly. Although Will “wants a family”, it is not enough to feel this imperative: he suffers from his temporarily infertile bodily state (7). Will’s use of suppressants is thus deemed unacceptable: his figuratively transgender, electively infertile body is associated with illness and reckless bodily choices.

In ‘detransitioning’ and accepting his biologically ordained identity, Will gains a happy ending with a family, an ending determined before it has actually occurred in the main narrative. After Will detransitions, being “so tired of being lonely” (7, original italics), he successfully courts Hannibal. One chapter closes with the two about to mate, before being followed by an interlude chapter from the perspective of Will’s estranged alpha mother. She notices a newspaper picture of Will “beaming” alongside Hannibal, “each one holding a child of perhaps a few weeks old” (49). Will and Hannibal’s procreation is established as a fixed endpoint before Will even becomes pregnant. To bolster the detransition narrative, the plot discards its conflicts (including Will and Hannibal’s risking death to conceal Hannibal’s serial killer identity) and presents a happy ending at the narrative midpoint, which is later fulfilled as promised. By doing so, the text reinforces biologically essentialist discourses which claim that transitioning is an ineffectual band-aid rife with medical complications and loneliness, and that only detransitioning and accepting one’s biological imperatives will end with a partner, a family, and good health.

When Will stops taking heat suppressants, a conflict commences between his ‘masculine’ mind and his impregnatable ‘feminine’ body. In “An Easy Kind of Love”, Will describes waiting for his heat cycle as “waiting for [his] body to turn on [him]” (Dormchi 2017, 6). Similarly, in “Wage Your War”, his heat commences with the following: “his body is a warzone”, his sexual desire “all consuming, so strong it nearly chokes him as it churns in his stomach and his throat” (Della19 2015, 10, italics mine). His reproductive cycle is inescapably violent, an antagonistic battle for dominance. Will’s “hole”, not Will himself, is “aching, needing, desperate”, and “can barely tell the difference” between an alpha’s penis and a dildo (10).[18] Synecdoche separates Will from his body parts; the latter have their own consciousness when he is in heat. Will’s mind is suffocated and ‘choked’ by his body. This conflict perpetuates a mind/body binary which, as Butler (2006) observes, masculinises the mind and feminises the body (17). The consequence is that sensed embodiment and freedom are considered to be mutually exclusive (Butler 2006, 50); hence, Will’s corporeality costs him his sexual agency and ability to consent. And if this corporeality is feminine-coded, this implies that the male omega’s ‘masculine’ mind cannot overpower his uncontrollably ‘feminine’ body. Feminine corporeality is therefore defined as almost inevitably subject to bodily violation, including rape. Will is relatively comfortable with this, noting earlier that “[h]eat is heat” (Della19 2015, 10). However, his subjective agency and experience works against inevitability, as Hannibal later breaks into his house and “replace[s] his birth control pills with placebos” (22). Thus, while Will chooses to detransition in Della19’s text, he would inevitably have been robbed of this ‘choice’.

The biological imperatives of heat conflict with the male omega’s ability to sexually consent and define his gender identity. This conflict is posited as the effect of an unruly, female-coded body, a natural part of omega identity. This is demonstrated in “An Easy Kind of Love”, after Will has been forced to ‘detransition’ and he and Hannibal have copulated:

“I didn’t want our first time together to be like this.” Will squeezes his eyes shut. Tears leak from the corners. “I tried so hard not to open the door, Hannibal, but I couldn’t…. I can’t.”

“Never feel ashamed to be who you are, Will,” Hannibal soothes, wiping at the corner of Will’s eye with his thumb. “Your biology does not make you weak. Quite the opposite, in fact.” (Dormchi 2017, 14)

The claim that Will’s biological classification does not make him weak both empowers his omega identity while belittling his desire to alter his body and its classification. Will’s body is thus rendered a crucial, uncontrollable aspect of his identity; his taking birth control and acknowledging the mutability of his own body (and, therefore, of his gender identity) is redefined as ‘shame’. Will attempts to change his body to avoid losing his sexual autonomy and potentially being raped. However, his struggle is invalidated by biological essentialism, the idea that these factors are simply part of being an omega.

Although Will is female-coded, his literal position as a male omega is one of queer potentiality and flexible political allegory. Will’s decision to take birth control is denigrated, resembling discourses that discourage and/or restrict AFAB people from exercising bodily autonomy and using contraception. However, because the Omegaverse ties reproductive anatomy to gender identity, birth control is also a tool that allows the individual to present as a different gender. Within the texts, the choice to take birth control is deemed the production of an unhealthy, lonely body. However, stopping birth control is no better, and leads to an uncontrollable, uncontrollably feminine body. Will ultimately sacrifices his agency and his (trans)masculinity for happiness, with the end of Della19’s text and Dormchi’s series promising him and Hannibal a contented family life. While the omega male is misgendered and feminised here, his body during pregnancy might still offer a platform for queer empowerment.

Monstrous Impulses: Unruly Bodies, Queer Wolves

This section explores the Omegaverse’s animalistic biology as presented in “What To Expect”, considering its dialogue with queer sexuality, monstrosity, and the unruly pregnant body. Within “What To Expect”, the pregnant body is coded as pre-cultural and violent. Owing to the canonical violence of Hannibal and Will, however, the text has some room to normalise Will’s pregnant abjection. His monstrosity is redefinable as sexually empowering; his presentation as a queer pregnant ‘werewolf’ conflicts with the text’s otherwise feminised descriptions of – and responses to – his body.

When considering the omega man’s pregnant embodiment, his zoomorphic traits cannot be ignored. Here, I revisit Bernhardt-House’s reading of lycanthropy as reminiscent of a queer subject position, both being associated with atavism and danger within dominant discourses. While normative discourses alienate the pregnant subject from their body, the werewolf is forced into a different sort of biological determinism, often being portrayed “as a human divided against itself, unable to control its emotions or its body”, its sexuality inescapably dangerous and impossible to accept (Bernhardt-House 2008, 163). The Omegaverse’s use of lycanthropic tropes reinforces the pregnant body as being naturally unruly, but if the werewolf might be queer, this offers ground for queer potentiality.

From its opening onwards, “What To Expect” uses the Omegaverse’s animalistic biology to queer biologically essentialist discourses around pregnancy. The first line assumes the voice of a self-help pregnancy booklet for alphas: “It’s simple biology, a tale as old as life itself. Alpha and Omega bite, bond, mate, and procreate” (maydei 2018, 1). The reproductive relationship between “Alpha and Omega” is figured as pre-cultural, “as old as life itself”: the relationship is posited as unquestionable, a biological given. However, the first sentence’s assertion of “simple biology” is contradicted by the animalistic terminology in the second, specifically “bite” and “mate”. A tension forms between the fan work’s reader and the booklet’s addressee. The text overtly addresses the alpha addressee of the self-help booklet, for whom these animalistic characteristics are commonplace, while covertly addressing the reader of the fan work, aware that they are reading a work of science fictional fan-fiction. The dual address of the self-help booklet foregrounds the fictionality of the Omegaverse’s “simple biology”: the text shows how biological essentialism reifies the reproductive coupling of bodies. The text’s biological essentialism is itself ‘queered’, rendered mutable and open to question.

The text undermines its own queerness, however, by highlighting the unruly inconveniences of the pregnant body. These inconveniences are represented in a way that largely concedes to the feminine coding of pregnancy. Each bodily change in the pregnancy booklet (almost always pathologised, defined as a “symptom” [2]) is exemplified by a subsequent scene between Hannibal and Will. The first scene depicts Will’s pregnancy cravings interrupting the couple’s dinner ritual: “Dinner has always been a simple affair between them. Hannibal cooks. Sometimes Will helps. […] Food is eaten when it’s prepared, and not a moment before” (2). These rituals only remain in place “prior to Will’s pregnancy”; during his pregnancy, he experiences unusual food cravings, eating raw ingredients such as whole chilli peppers prior to Hannibal’s cooking them (2). Unusual pregnancy cravings are often deemed symptomatic of the uncontrollable pregnant woman’s body. However, this specific craving is more ambiguously gendered: enjoying spicy food is often associated with masculinity.[19] Will’s cravings disrupt the couple’s eating rituals and transgress against the cultural fetish of feminine pregnancy, which would otherwise recast the ‘symptom’ as ‘irrational’ femininity. Despite this ambiguity, the feminine coding of pregnancy goes largely unchallenged. Given the brief mention that “the meat” in Hannibal’s chilli “is decidedly not beef” (maydei 2018, 3), Will’s cravings interrupt a specifically cannibalistic dinner. His pregnant body is thus rendered incompatible with their monstrously queer version of domesticity. Will is defined by an uncontrollable cisgender femininity that partially overrides his queer identity.

While Will’s bodily changes are feminine-coded, he does present some more animalistic and unpredictable changes. These changes gesture towards non-human biology, providing him with queer potentiality, yet limiting his agency. When confronted about his food cravings, Will growls and bares his “short omegan fangs” before he replies (2); the physical characteristics of his pregnancy render him grotesque and bestial. The self-help booklet illustrates many typically observed pregnancy characteristics (such as nesting and “a need for excessive rest” [3]), but adds an animalistic spin, warning of dire consequences for the alpha who “underestimate[s] […] what [their mate] is capable of in defense of their children” (3). When Hannibal disturbs his mate’s rest, Will attacks him, his eyes “wild, half-crazed”, his “teeth bared and poised to rip Hannibal’s throat out” (4). When he comes to, “awake and aware”, he confesses that he “wasn’t really thinking”, although he was “about ready to slaughter [Hannibal] in defense of their pup” (4, italics mine). Will’s bestial, uncontrollable characteristics are thus tied to his status as a pregnant father-to-be, reinforcing the pregnant body itself as monstrous, pre-cultural and uncontrollable.

The fic characterises the pregnant body as abject and dangerous, which invokes the uncontrollably queer and sexual lycanthropic body. Hannibal observes that the way in which his legs interlock with Will’s while fighting is “not so different from how he had knotted him earlier […] hips slotted together” (4). ‘Knotting’ references the couple’s canid anatomy: alphas in the Omegaverse sometimes have canine penises, featuring a bulb (or ‘knot’) which swells during sex, tying or ‘knotting’ them to their penetrated partner. Knotting also commonly occurs in sexually explicit werewolf fan-fiction. Elliott (2016) argues that knotting in werewolf fan-fiction acts to displace ‘unacceptable’, unknowable queer sexual acts – much like Will and Hannibal’s gay sex, which involves the pregnant body. The sex is made knowable and visible by its monstrous, animalistic characteristics; hence, monstrosity can accommodate positive representations of queer sexual desire (Elliott 2016, 104).[20] The couple’s murderous monstrosity similarly acts as a means of queer displacement.[21] Hannibal receives Will’s violent episode itself with positivity: he “would normally be thrilled” by his partner’s murderousness if not “for the circumstances”, and he later wonders if “perhaps he should reward his ‘instincts’” to fiercely protect their child (maydei 2018, 4, original italics). The episode thus links violent eroticism not only with Will’s queerness but also with his pregnancy. This recalls Bernhardt-House (2008)’s hypothesis that the werewolf’s violent, mindless corporeality could reveal the alienated, “rather poor relationship a great deal of human society has with sexuality – its most animal and bestial set of behaviours” (163). “What To Expect” associates queer sexuality during pregnancy with a less alienating, more empowering form of monstrosity. The text presents a couple who embrace their queerness and for whom murder is part of daily life. As a result, the lycanthropic, violent corporeality of omega pregnancy contributes to Will’s queer sexuality and sexual desirability.

This combats the desexualisation of both the queer man and the pregnant body, providing room for queer subversion. However, it risks reinforcing a hierarchy in which Will’s pregnant body is defined by its attractiveness to alphas. The couple’s violent, homoerotic exchanges could also frame homosexual relationships as dangerous and abusive, rather than providing a liberatory queer platform (something which Elliot [2018] perhaps too optimistically overlooks when analysing Will and Hannibal’s relationship in the Hannibal canon [262]). Will’s cisgender female coding further removes him from agency and from his queer identity. When Will has regained consciousness after attacking Hannibal, the couple embraces, and Hannibal notices that “the curve of Will’s belly is illuminated by the moonlight through the window, pale and lovely and full, ripe with their child between them” (maydei 2018, 4). These sorts of descriptions are repeated throughout; Hannibal often observes the soft swell of Will’s stomach” and the “soft baby curls” of Will’s hair (2; 3). Will’s body is a site of both sexualised danger and softness, innocence and intimacy. While none of these traits are inherently feminine, their depiction alongside pregnancy makes them difficult to untangle from idealised femininity and ‘motherhood’. Furthermore, his pregnant belly is illuminated by the moon, symbolising both lycanthropy and femininity. The text is thus ambiguously queer: while Will is overtly presented as a queer man, he is subtextually female-coded, reinforcing the fetish of feminine pregnancy. His pregnant body occupies multiple subject positions, but two in particular stand out: the queer wolf-man and the cisgender woman. Neither grants him agency or self-sufficiency.

Throughout “What To Expect”, the presentation of the pregnant body is ambivalently queer. The text demonstrates a queer potentiality through its presentation of visibly ‘monstrous’ queer traits alongside domestic intimacy. The conclusion promotes a pronatalism that transcends cisheteronormativity: the narrative ends with Hannibal and Will admiring their newborn child, the couple’s “convoluted history […] ironed smooth with love and understanding” (maydei 2018, 8). However, Will’s body itself moves between two female-coded archetypes, from dangerous and monstrous to innocent and soft. His animalistic behaviours do not just queerly cross the boundary between human and non-human: they demonstrate that he cannot escape from the Omegaverse’s biological essentialism. Like the ‘pre-pregnant’ Will, he is governed by his body, a female-coded condition which comes with the assumption that the pregnant body is inherently feminine, whether the specific brand of femininity is monstrous, maternal, or both.



The omega male body is queer and potentially transmasculine, yet also female-coded and forcibly associated with femininity. The omega man who uses birth control is figuratively ‘transmasculine’, yet can only find happiness by accepting pregnancy, female gender coding and a lack of bodily agency. “What To Expect”, meanwhile, demonstrates that the pregnant male omega embodies an intersection between queer masculinity, lycanthropy and pregnancy, all three of which are desexualised in normative discourse. The male omega’s overt, normalised sexuality makes queer pregnant sexual practices visible and acceptable, yet his potential for queer empowerment is subsumed by the female coding of pregnancy. The omega male’s female-coded reproductive capabilities are intrinsic to his gender identity, misgendering him as female and consequently making a pregnant man seem like “an impossibility” (Surkan 2015, 62), a fantasy that cannot transcend normative discourses of sex and gender – at least, not without erasing the complexities of lived queer experience.

While these texts present normative gendered discourses, they do not “replicate uncritically relations of domination” (Butler 2006, 42). The Hannigram Omegaverse works that I have explored here combine numerous taboos: ultra-conservative perspectives on gender and amoral, violent, erotic acts mix with the unusual yet harmless circumstances of a pregnant man starting a family with another man. Transgressing these political and gendered boundaries – from several conflicting positions of reception – creates a sense of confusion, a queer fluidity that undermines the gender essentialism of the Omegaverse’s world-building. Thus, even fics that appear to rely on cisheteronormativity offer much in the way of subversion, and can encourage critical conversation about gendered constructions of reproduction and the pregnant body.

Although fan-fiction communities have predominantly female, nonbinary and non-straight contributors (Popova 2018, 178), existing fandom scholarship has not wholly embraced fans beyond cisgender women, or considered the complexities of cisgender heterosexual women assuming queer positions. The Omegaverse provides an ideal platform to examine these complexities: even in fics that appear to align omegas with females, the male omega can stand for far more than cisgender womanhood, and can start broader dialogues on gendered experiences of pregnancy. The Omegaverse’s gendered allegories are inconsistent and ambivalent, creating a liminal space which can also accommodate queer and non-female experiences of pregnancy. The male omega provides a displaced, mutable platform to explore areas where AFAB and intersex people of all genders face similar (though not identical) institutional challenges, such as the restrictions on bodily autonomy related to pregnancy. In line with fan-fiction’s history of queering texts, these fics take steps towards queering the cultural construction of the pregnant body and interrogating its connection to gendered experience.


[1] In 2008, Thomas Beatie described himself as the first transgender man to become pregnant after transitioning (Halberstam 2010, 77). More recently, Hayden Cross became the first legally recognised man to give birth in the United Kingdom (Baynes 2017). Headlining these instances as ‘firsts’ reinforces the falsehood that transgender experiences are contemporarily specific phenomena, while overvaluing the degree to which the transgender individual has legally/medically transitioned.

[2] Berit Åström (2010) argues that mpreg fan-fiction reinforces heteronormative constructions of kinship and domesticity (par. 7.1), while fan writer thedeadflag (2016) suggests that mpreg fetishises transgender and intersex bodies: because mpreg typically involves placing transgender and intersex bodily features on cisgender men, it has limited potential to represent intersex and/or transgender experiences of pregnancy.

[3] Mason is played by Pitt in the second season of the show. Anderson took the role in season three, coinciding with Mason’s facial reconstruction after his mutilation in season two.

[4] Jacquelin Elliott (2018) and Jeff Casey (2015) queerly read the presentation of Will and Hannibal’s relationship within Hannibal; shipping Hannigram operates similarly as a queer reading of the show.

[5] Fan writers and readers commonly use ‘secondary gender’ to describe alpha/beta/omega classifications. By conflating gender with sex, the term foregrounds the gender binary’s role in naturalising the sex binary (Butler 2006, 46), or, in this case, sex ternary.

[6] In practice, nonbinary characters are rare in Omegaverse fics; my descriptions will therefore focus on male and female characters.

[7] Heat (or oestrus) generally involves sexual receptivity and sexual desire that is overpowering and impossible to control. Rut involves increased sexual aggression and desire; however, the alpha can usually autonomously resist these urges with effort. The zoological accuracy of these cycles varies substantially from fic to fic.

[8] Laura Campillo Arnaiz (2018) argues that the trope can be traced further back to pon farr in the Star Trek episode “Amok Time” (1967), wherein biological mating imperatives provided fertile ground for slash fan writers (eBook location 2346).

[9] In fandom, ‘canon’ refers to a fan work’s source text, in this case Hannibal (which will hereafter solely refer to Fuller’s show).

[10] Fan communities often consider themselves private, even when fandom communications and fan works are publicly accessible (Hellekson and Busse 2009). Fan writers may “acknowledge that the substance of their communication is public” but believe that “the specific context in which it appears implies restrictions on how that information is – or ought to be – used by other parties” (Markham and Buchanan et al. 2012, 6). To protect the authors’ privacy, Hellekson and Busse (2009) recommend that scholars avoid directly linking to fan works where possible.

[11] I use the term ‘gender fluidity’ to match Halberstam’s wording; this is not synonymous with a ‘genderfluid’ gender identity.

[12] Jennifer Musial (2014) notes that lactation is often compared cisnormatively to the ‘masculinity’ of penile ejaculation (406). Multiple characteristics of the pregnant body are thus constructed as transgressing cisnormative expectations of femininity.

[13] In “An Easy Kind of Love”, the catalyst is Will’s inability to retrieve his prescription while on the run. In “Wage Your War”, the catalyst is Will’s meeting Hannibal and ‘imprinting’ on him, a process which identifies him as an ideal genetic partner.

[14] This argument parallels trans-exclusionary strands of second-wave feminism: as Susan Stryker (2006) recounts, transitioning was often perceived as “a form of false consciousness”, unable to produce an ‘authentic’ identity from observed gender norms (4). Likewise, Hines (2007) observes that, within some radical feminist discourses, “transgender men have been located as renegades seeking to” reject womanhood and “acquire male power and privilege” (18).

[15] Given the possibilities of the Omegaverse and the intersex characteristics of omega men, the politics of heat suppressants could be read quite differently from an intersex perspective. From this perspective, heat suppressants would be similar to the unnecessary medical interventions that attempt to ‘correct’ intersex bodily traits by bringing them in line with non-intersex (or ‘beta’) anatomy. Analysing the Omegaverse would be fruitful for scholars interested in intersex representation, and would again highlight the possibilities of interpreting omegas beyond cisgender, non-intersex womanhood.

[16] Julia Temple Newhook et al. (2018) analysed studies that measured detransition rates in gender non-conforming children: the studies’ methodologies neither accounted for the reasons for detransitioning, nor for the possibility of retransition. Consequently, these studies did not represent the fullest range of experiences encapsulated under ‘detransitioning’ (216–217). There is limited peer-reviewed analysis of cultural representations of detransition; however, blogger Zinnia Jones (2015) observes that detransitioning individuals in the public eye have sometimes been co-opted into detransition narratives within anti-trans discourse: these narratives falsely suggested that the individuals regretted their transition and wholly rejected the gender identity to which they had originally transitioned.

[17] All of these side effects are in the show (as symptoms of Will’s encephalitis).

[18] The vagueness of “hole” should be noted; in Omegaverse texts, the omega male’s cervix is commonly located within the anus.

[19] See Deborah McPhail, Brenda Beagan & Gwen E. Chapman (2012), who interviewed Canadian families to study the impact of gender normativity on food choice. Many participants claimed that men prefer and/or women tend to avoid spicy foods (480; 482).

[20] Musial (2014) argues that pregnant sexuality itself has queer potentiality, being similarly perceived as ‘unacceptable’ due to discomfort around acknowledging the sexual intercourse that generally precedes pregnancy (398).

[21] See Elliott’s “This Is My Becoming” (2018), where she writes more extensively on queer monstrosity within Hannibal.

Works Cited

Archive of Our Own (2018). Hannibal (TV) – Works [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 15 August 2018].

Arnaiz, L. C. (2018). When the Omega Empath Met the Alpha Doctor: An Analysis of the Alpha/Beta/Omega Dynamics in the Hannibal Fandom. In A. Spacey (Ed.). The Darker Side of Slash Fan Fiction: Essays on Power, Consent and the Body. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, eBook locations 2294-2775.

Åström, B. (2010). ‘Let’s Get Those Winchesters Pregnant’: Male Pregnancy in Supernatural Fan Fiction. Transformative Works and Cultures, 4 [Online]. Available at: doi:10.3983/twc.2010.0135 [Accessed 17 August 2018].

Baynes, C. (2017). Britain’s First Pregnant Man Gives Birth to Girl [Online]. The Independent, 8 July 2017. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Bernhardt-House, P. A. (2008). The Werewolf as Queer, the Queer as Werewolf, and Queer Werewolves. In N. Giffney and M. J. Hird (Eds.). Queering the Non/Human. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp. 159–84.

Busse, K. (2009). Introduction to ‘In Focus: Fandom and Feminism’. Cinema Journal, 48 (4), 104–07.

Butler, J. (2006). Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Abingdon: Routledge.

Casey, J. (2015). Queer Cannibals and Deviant Detectives: Subversion and Homosocial Desire in NBC’s HannibalQuarterly Review of Film and Video, 32 (6), 550–67.

Della19 (2015). Wage Your War [Online]. Archive of Our Own. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Derecho, A. (2006). Archontic Literature: A Definition, a History, and Several Theories of Fan Fiction. In K. Hellekson and K. Busse (Eds.). Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. London: McFarland & Company, pp. 61–78.

Dormchi (2017). An Easy Kind of Love [Online]. Archive of Our Own. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Doty, A. (1993). Making Things Perfectly Queer: Interpreting Mass Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Elliott, J. (2016). Becoming the Monster: Queer Monstrosity and the Reclamation of the Werewolf in Slash Fandom. Revenant, 2, 91–110.

—. (2018). This Is My Becoming: Transformation, Hybridity, and the Monstrous in NBC’s HannibalUniversity of Toronto Quarterly, 87 (1), 249–65.

Fanlore (2018). Alpha/Beta/Omega [Online]. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Halberstam, J. (2005). In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives. New York: New York University Press.

—. (2010). The Pregnant Man. The Velvet Light Trap, 65, 77–78.

Hannibal (2013–2015). National Broadcasting Company.

Hanson, C. (2004). A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hellekson, K., and Busse, K. (2009). Fan Privacy and TWC’s Editorial Philosophy [Online]. Organization for Transformative Works. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Hines, S. (2007). TransForming Gender: Transgender Practices of Identity, Intimacy and Care. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Jones, Z. (2015). Walt Heyer and ‘Sex Change Regret’ [Online]. Gender Analysis. Available at: [Accessed 27 January 2019].

Markham, A., and Buchanan, E., et al. (2012). Ethical Decision-Making and Internet Research: Recommendations from the AoIR Ethics Working Committee (Version 2.0) [Online]. Association of Internet Researchers. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

maydei (2018). What To Expect (When Your Mate Is Expecting) [Online]. Archive of Our Own. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

McPhail, D., Beagan, B., and Chapman, G. E. (2012). ‘I Don’t Want to be Sexist But…’: Denying and Re-Inscribing Gender Through Food. Food, Culture & Society, 15 (3), 473–89.

Musial, J. (2014). From ‘Madonna’ to ‘Whore’: Sexuality, Pregnancy, and Popular Culture. Sexualities, 17 (4), 394–411.

Newhook, J. T., et al. (2018). A Critical Commentary on Follow-up Studies and ‘Desistance’ Theories about Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming Children. International Journal of Transgenderism, 19 (2), 212–24.

Popova, M. (2018). ‘Dogfuck Rapeworld’: Omegaverse Fanfiction as a Critical Tool in Analyzing the Impact of Social Power Structures on Intimate Relationships and Sexual Consent. Porn Studies, 5 (2), 175–91.

Rodemeyer, L. M. (2018). Feminist and Transgender Tensions: An Inquiry into History, Methodological Paradigms, and Embodiment. In C. Fischer and L. Dolezal (Eds.). New Feminist Perspectives on Embodiment. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 103–24.

Sellberg, K. (2009). Transitions and Transformations: From Gender Performance to Becoming Gendered. Australian Feminist Studies, 24, (59), 71–84.

Stone, S. (2006). The Empire Strikes Back: The Posttranssexual Manifesto. In S. Stryker and S. Whittle (Eds.). The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, pp. 221–35.

Stryker, S. (2006). (De)Subjugated Knowledges: An Introduction to Transgender Studies. In S. Stryker and S. Whittle (Eds.). The Transgender Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, pp. 1–17.

Surkan, K. J. (2015). That Fat Man Is Giving Birth: Gender Identity, Reproduction and the Pregnant Body. In N. Burton (Ed.). Natal Signs: Cultural Representations of Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting. Bradford: Demeter Press, pp. 58–72.

thedeadflag (2016). Noire-Atome Asked: Genuine Question: What’s Wrong about Mpreg? [Online]. The Fluffiest of Walruses. Available at: [Accessed 27 July 2018].

Ussher, J. M. (2006). Managing the Monstrous Feminine: Regulating the Reproductive Body. Hove: Routledge.

Walks, M. (2013). Feminine Pregnancy as Cultural Fetish. Anthropology News, 54 (1).


This research was made possible by funding from Newcastle University’s Vacation Research Scholarship. Many thanks to my supervisor, Dr Stacy Gillis, for her invaluable encouragement, support and guidance throughout the research and writing process. I am also very grateful to Dr Eliza O’Brien, Professor Kate Chedgzoy, and Dr Lucy Pearson for their advice while forming the initial research proposal.


J.T. Weisser is an undergraduate student at Newcastle University. Throughout their English literature degree, they have developed a keen interest in studying embodied identity within contemporary literature and culture. After their bachelor’s degree, they aim to complete a master’s degree which further develops this interest.