Matt Kailey is the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press, 2005), the editor of Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado GLBT Voices (Johnson Books, 2007), and the managing editor of Out Front Colorado, Colorado’s oldest and largest GLBT publication.
And now for the latest transsexual travesty (there’s at least one a week nowadays, isn’t there?): a transman is pregnant. Female-to-male transsexual (born female, now male) Thomas Beatie is bearded, breastless, and with child, and although he is not the first transman to become pregnant, nor will he be the first to give birth, the situation is causing a major blip on the media’s sensationalism sonar. Beatie has been interviewed on Oprah, told his story to The Advocate, and had his picture passed around like a bottle of Boone’s Farm all over the Internet, with his pregnant abdomen prominent below his reconstructed chest. He’s been called everything from “freak” to “fabulous,” and everyone with an opinion has made it known. Forgive me if I yawn.
No, I’m not jealous. In fact, I’m glad Beatie’s getting the attention. Transmen are too often relegated to the sidelines--overlooked, ignored, invisible. We don’t exist. We simply aren’t sensational enough. Due to the power of testosterone, we are able to assimilate relatively quickly into mainstream male society, no questions asked – and most of us choose to do just that. That’s where we want to be. But this ease of assimilation is a mixed blessing at best. While it offers us a chance to live out our life as we choose, relatively undisturbed, it also keeps us from making the demands that would allow that life to be equal to everyone else’s – such as the demand for adequate medical care for men with diverse bodies, a situation that Beatie has brought to the forefront with his visibility. So I’m pleased that Beatie is out dodging the bullets meant for all of us and bringing some recognition to the difficulties that even assimilated transmen face.
The reason that I find the Barnum & Beatie circus so boring is that Beatie’s pregnancy seems normal to me. I transitioned from female to male over ten years ago, and, since then, have been around so many gender diverse people that I forget how unique -- or how strange -- the non-gender diverse community thinks we are. It always comes as a bit of a surprise when I realize that we’re still making headlines and that people are still making a fuss -- and that many people still hate us, simply because we exist.
Some of Beatie’s cruelest critics have been conservative right-to-lifers who should be thrilled that the man is exercising his reproductive freedom by bringing a child into the world. His wife is unable to have a child and the couple wants children, so he is doing it instead -- a lot to ask of a man, but he is willing. I would think that these right-wing misogynists who want the man to take control of the situation should be praising Beatie for doing just that. Instead, they are mocking Beatie and his wife, making references to bestiality, and basically acting like junior high bullies. I doubt that Beatie is upset by this, especially when he considers the source, but their hateful language is still hurtful to trans people and a wakeup call for those of us who forget, for a moment, that we are still news.
And, of course, there is controversy within Beatie’s own community. Is he making us look bad? Is he misrepresenting trans people? Is he doing damage to those of us who simply want to live out “normal” lives and be accepted by “mainstream” society? To that, I say that no one can live out a “normal” life in hiding. The progress of any oppressed group has been made by a combination of those working within the system and those working outside of it. Those of us with diverse gender identities are not always able to live within the oppressive guidelines presented to us by “mainstream” society, and we sure as hell shouldn’t have to live under oppressive guidelines presented to us by our own community.
Some say that Beatie is looking for publicity – that he wants to write a book or have a movie made about his life, which is why he is being so open about his pregnancy. He has said that he wants to tell his own story rather than have someone else tell it for him. I have no idea what his real motivation is for going public, but that, too, is a non-issue. Many trans people write books, including myself, and we do so to educate the public and to provide support and information for those looking for help. We want to give back what we have gotten from others. Maybe Beatie will write a book, and maybe he’ll get a film deal (I haven’t, but if I ever do, I think I want Keanu Reeves to play me – the non-resemblance is striking). My only hope is that any book or film that comes out of this situation will serve to help and educate, so that we will eventually get to the point where a pregnant transman isn’t news – he’s just a guy having a baby. Hey, it happens – but we already know that.