Trans Positions

As the media world buzzed about the “pregnant man,” trans activists stayed relatively mum. Now we’re asking: Has Thomas Beatie’s public exposure hurt the transgender movement?

BY Jen Christensen

May 02 2008 11:00 PM ET

“I’m going to be sick. I am upset….
That was not only stupid and useless but, quite
frankly, disgusting.”
—Mika
Brzezinski, cohost, Morning Joe, MSNBC

“There is no way this child will be able to lead
a normal life. Oregon is a strange state, but they
cannot seriously allow this to happen. It is
unethical, immoral, and disturbing.”

—a comment posted on a Washington Post
blog

 

When Oregon trans
man Thomas Beatie first told the world that he was
pregnant in The Advocate in March, readers learned that he
transitioned about 10 years ago, underwent a double
mastectomy, and began testosterone injections. He and
his wife, Nancy, decided to have a child, but because
of a hysterectomy years ago, Nancy couldn’t carry the
baby. So Beatie stopped his hormone injections,
underwent artificial insemination, and, after several
doctors refused to treat him, finally found an obstetrician
who would. His pregnancy, he wrote, was “free of
complications.” Health complications, maybe,
but it would not be without other difficulties.

For all the
personal trials Thomas Beatie has endured, his decision to
go public may cause even broader political and
cultural implications for the transgender population
as a whole. And some trans people worry that the
sensational—and occasionally nasty—media
coverage that’s appeared since the article was
published is only the beginning.

Good Morning
America, the Associated Press, Fox News, and the BBC picked
up the story. Overnight, readers from China to Chico, p

Calif., were
digesting what one blogger called this “real Mr.
Mom’s” incredible journey. Headlines
screamed, “This Is No Belly Gaffe—Pregnant
Pop Aims to Deliver,” (New York Post),
“Pregnant Dad Was a Pin-Up Girl,” (South
Africa’s Sunday Tribune), and “Case of Bearded
Mummy” (the U.K. Sunday Mirror). Some media
organizations wondered if the story was an elaborate
April Fool’s joke timed to Beatie’s upcoming
appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Some of
Beatie’s neighbors in Bend, Ore., went on the
record saying the story wasn’t true. One speculated
he just had a large beer belly.

But after an
exclusive agreement to pose for a People magazine photo
shoot and appear on Oprah, which showed video of him getting
an ultrasound, everyone had to believe it. During the
hour-long program Winfrey gently teased the story out
of a shy Beatie. His stepdaughters, neighbors, and
ob-gyn also weighed in, confirming how happy they are
about the pregnancy and stressing how normal the Beaties
are.

Beatie, however,
did have one complaint that might have been lost in all
the baby news. He said he reached out to transgender
organizations before he went public. Half never called
back; most of the others discouraged him from the
exposure. Ultimately, they said, they were worried.

The worry seems
to stem from a couple of different issues. First, some
people are concerned specifically for Beatie’s
family. Transgender activist Jamison Green admits he
was in this camp. He says he’s thrilled
Beatie’s pregnancy is healthy and that he knows other
transgender people who have had children, but none
have been so vocal about it. “I wish he
didn’t turn himself over to the media,” says
Green, author of Becoming a Visible Man. “It
makes me wonder, Down the line will all this publicity
hurt them or hurt their child? Will the media ever leave
them alone?”

Tags: World

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