I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that Thomas Beatie is now an Internet phenomenon. He’s showing up everywhere, and was one of the top searches at Yahoo! last week:
Unfortunately, I have rarely come across anything particularly positive about this story online, and my own views have gone from very supportive to suspect.
I reiterate that I have no issue with a transman carrying a child. As long as the child is brought into the world with love, and provided that Beatie’s past use of testosterone will not negatively affect the child’s development and health, then I can’t see ANY problems with this.
What has become problematic for me though is that I am starting to doubt Beatie’s intentions. If the motivation for this was love, then why is he appearing on national media, such as the Oprah show? His job as a parent is to protect his child, not educate the world about respect for the trangendered. By thrusting himself into the spotlight, I am scared that he is putting his child at risk. It’s not his fault that people are mean, but he has chosen to put himself–and his baby–on a direct path of assault. Stress has a terrible effect on the human body and as someone entering the third trimester in what many would consider a risky pregnancy, he and his wife should be putting their energy and focus into creating a peaceful nest, not arranging media appearances, and presumably, fending off all that transphobia.
I am part of the Media, so while I find it extremely angering that they/we have latched on to this story with ignorance and sensationalism, I’m not surprised in the least. The media has used the term “pregnant man” merely to get eyeballs. Beatie identifies as male, but Oprah’s statement of “This is a miracle!” is completely inaccurate–this is just the beautiful magic of biology.
Ryan pointed out this article today, and it’s just really, really sad. Who the hell is Jeff Jacoby to say what anyone is or isn’t? In my view, doctors can’t claim this power any more than a slack journalist can. Gender assertion is an individual’s choice. The straight world needs this beaten over their heads: sex is between your legs, gender is between your ears and in your heart. Why is this such a problem?
Doesn’t the Boston Globe have any guidelines for their writers regarding trans sensitivity? Continually referring to Beatie using female pronouns is extremely disrespectful. If Jacoby had read his own paper’s recent Q & A with Norman Spack, he might sound more enlightened than he is.
Jacoby is right however that we are not dealing with a “pregnant man” here–he’s a victim of the Media Spin, just as I think Beatie has become. Unfortunately, I doubt the majorities are coming away from this story saying “I saw a pregnant transman on Oprah.” Instead, they’re saying they saw someone on TV who claimed to be “pregnant man”, which of course they don’t believe is the case (“IT’S A SHE!”), and this leaves them with “freak show” concepts about transsexuality.
As for the assertion that gender identity disorder is a psychiatric problem, I think that much of the dysphoria that commonly accompanies it is rooted in society’s skewed view of the transgendered. If society as a whole didn’t have such a problem with some of us bending their rules, many of us (most of us?) wouldn’t have as many problems with being trans. I know it’s made me incredibly happy to come out as trans, and my only fears associated with it have to do with what others will think. I am at peace with myself, but my very existence causes dysphoria for the transphobic! I don’t need your sympathy, Mr. Jacoby. Perhaps you could use some sympathy however, as it appears that you suffer from homochromosexuality.
Pregnant transmen are nothing new. The difference here is how public Beatie has decided to be. Selfishly, I cringe at the thought of being lumped in with him as a freak by transphobics, but I do support his choice to carry a child wholeheartedly. I just don’t trust the American public at large, and I sincerely hope that this family flourishes despite all the hate being thrown around.
And lastly, as for all those people saying, “How could they subject their child to all the bullying she will face in school as the child of The Pregnant Man,” well, how about you focus on raising your own kids properly, promoting tolerance, compassion and non-violoence?! It starts at home.
UPDATE: For more views about this from the trans community, check out this forum thread at Laura’s Playground.
UPDATE, 04/21/08: Refering to Beatie using female pronouns is not just disrespectful, it also goes against the guidelines of the Associated Press Stylebook. I sent Jacoby a polite email about his piece and invited him to read this post, but didn’t hear back from him. Classy.