Karine Jean-Pierre
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Labor of Love

Labor of Love

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

I am transgender,
legally male, and legally married to Nancy. Unlike
those in same-sex marriages, domestic partnerships, or civil
unions, Nancy and I are afforded the more than 1,100
federal rights of marriage. Sterilization is not a
requirement for sex reassignment, so I decided to have
chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy but kept my
reproductive rights. Wanting to have a biological child is
neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.

Ten years ago,
when Nancy and I became a couple, the idea of us having a
child was more dream than plan. I always wanted to have
children. However, due to severe endometriosis 20
years ago, Nancy had to undergo a hysterectomy and is
unable to carry a child. But after the success of our
custom screen-printing business and a move from Hawaii to
the Pacific Northwest two years ago, the timing
finally seemed right. I stopped taking my bimonthly
testosterone injections. It had been roughly eight
years since I had my last menstrual cycle, so this
wasn’t a decision that I took lightly. My body
regulated itself after about four months, and I
didn’t have to take any exogenous estrogen,
progesterone, or fertility drugs to aid my pregnancy.

Our situation
sparks legal, political, and social unknowns. We have only
begun experiencing opposition from people who are upset by
our situation. Doctors have discriminated against us,
turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Health
care professionals have refused to call me by a male
pronoun or recognize Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have
laughed at us. Friends and family have been
unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family
doesn’t even know I’m transgender.

This whole
process, from trying to get pregnant to being pregnant, has
been a challenge for us. The first doctor we approached was
a reproductive endocrinologist. He was shocked by our
situation and told me to shave my facial hair. After a
$300 consultation, he reluctantly performed my initial
checkups. He then required us to see the clinic’s
psychologist to see if we were fit to bring a child into
this world and consulted with the ethics board of his
hospital. A few months and a couple thousand dollars
later, he told us that he would no longer treat us,
saying he and his staff felt uncomfortable working with
“someone like me.”

In total, nine
different doctors have been involved. This is why it took
over one year to get access to a cryogenic sperm bank to
purchase anonymous donor vials, and why Nancy and I
eventually resorted to home insemination.

When I finally
got pregnant for the first time, I ended up having an
ectopic pregnancy with triplets. It was a life-threatening
event that required surgical intervention, resulting
in the loss of all embryos and my right fallopian
tube. When my brother found out about my loss, he
said, “It’s a good thing that happened. Who
knows what kind of monster it would have been.”

On successfully
getting pregnant a second time, we are proud to announce
that this pregnancy is free of complications and our baby
girl has a clean bill of health. We are happily
awaiting her birth, with an estimated due date of July
3, 2008.

How does it feel
to be a pregnant man? Incredible. Despite the fact that
my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable
and confident being the man that I am. In a technical
sense I see myself as my own surrogate, though my
gender identity as male is constant. To Nancy, I am
her husband carrying our child -- I am so lucky to have such
a loving, supportive wife. I will be my
daughter’s father, and Nancy will be her
mother. We will be a family.

Outside the local
medical community, people don’t know I’m five
months’ pregnant. But our situation ultimately
will ask everyone to embrace the gamut of human
possibility and to define for themselves what is normal.

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