Pregnant Man! Transgendered man to give birth

Brighton Fowler

I absolutely have to report on the pregnant man. Not only do I think that male pregnancy could be an exciting point of inquiry for feminism, the pregnant man, Thomas Beatie, is from my hometown, Bend, Oregon.
Ok, so let me back-track a little bit here. For those of you who don’t know the story–aka you didn’t watch Oprah last week–you are probably a little bit confused. Thomas is a female to male transsexual. He was born female, transitioned is his twenties, and is now living legally as a man. All of his formal identification has been changed from female to male. Thomas has also undergone breast removal surgery and for the past ten years has been taking testosterone. Until very recently, approximately six months ago, Thomas and his wife looked like your “typical” heterosexual couple. In his own words, Thomas explains in an article he wrote for the Advocate how heteronormative he and his wife Nancy really are.that is, until the pregnancy.
“To our neighbors, my wife, Nancy, and I don’t appear in the least unusual. To those in the quiet Oregon community where we live, we are viewed just as we are — a happy couple deeply in love. Our desire to work hard, buy our first home and start a family was nothing out of the ordinary. That is, until we decided that I would carry our child.”
You are probably wondering why and how Thomas is the one who is carrying the baby? Well, first of all, Thomas never received sex reassignment surgery or had his reproductive organs removed, so he is fully equipped to carry a child. However the testosterone did have some affect on his external genitalia, enlarging his clitoris so he can actually achieve penetration during intercourse. Nancy, on the other hand, the likely mother, was unable to have children do to medical complications and thus Thomas became the obvious candidate. Thomas was artificially inseminated, a procedure they had to perform at home because they were so badly discriminated against by the medical community who refused them care.
The couple just recently decided to release their story to the world via The Advocate, which was quickly picked up by Oprah and People Magazine. The couple decided that they would go public with their story so that they could have some semblance of control over the message that was being sent to the public, which is basically: we are a normal couple, having a normal baby, from a normal community, and would like to be treated as such.
What I found most interesting about this story, besides the fantastic nature of the situation, is the emphasis on the normalcy of this situation and these individuals. A pregnant man, however liberal or open-minded you may be, is anything but normal. Yet, just because Thomas’s pregnancy isn’t “normal” doesn’t make it necessarily bad. It may be incomprehensible, unexpected, or even weird, but I don’t think it should be yet another opportunity for discrimination or hatred.
The world is changing at a rapid pace, a fact that I think is pretty clear anywhere you go.except maybe in Appleton (kidding!). GLBTQ (Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer) stuff is just beginning to hit the main stream and with it a lot of hetero-norms are being questioned and what is typical or normal is being re-evaluated. Oprah made an alarming comment in her interview with Thomas. She was trying to push at the particulars of why Thomas felt it necessary to transition to male. Thomas explained that he had always felt androgynous and identified more with masculine characteristics but the world was overall uncomfortable with his androgyny, which was the main reason he decided to transition. Oprah responded, in the way that only Oprah can, that well, yeah, (duh) the world is just Man and Woman. And unfortunately in some ways I have to agree.
Oprah’s comment, however alarming in its ignorance of transgender realities, is a pretty mainstream assessment of the “realities” of the gender binary. It is hard to deny that we don’t divide humanity into two categories, male or female, and for those who feel they can’t honestly check either of those boxes, like Thomas, the pressure to choose a socially acceptable gender can be pretty strong.
We just had a transgender couple leave the Lawrence community, a pair who was as interesting as they were inspirational. I think that living on the fringes of society, outside the borders of “normalcy”, takes a tremendous amount of courage. The hatred and violence against queer individuals is truly ghastly (by queer I mean anyone, whether its their race or there sexuality or their gender identity or their socio-economic position or their career that falls outside of what is deemed acceptable by the hegemony). And I think it would be well, and fine, and proper, and good to just keep judgments of difference in check before we all start sounding as ignorant as Oprah.