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Thursday
Apr032008

Pregnant Man Talk

So, this has been a really interesting look into my own prejudices. Anyone else?

Thinking thoughts like, "That poor child!" or "He has a vagina... he isn't a man," and wondering how I would have reacted had he come to me for prenatal care.

I'd love to say I would be the picture of decorum and not bat an eye, welcoming him as breezily as my female clients, but I would be lying. I think I would be shocked and then wonder if the man had some serious mental illness going on to get pregnant living as a man. I'm glad he didn't come to me first.

Now, I've had some time to think this whole thing out and wanted to share some of my thoughts with you all.

1. This must be EXACTLY what happened when the first bi-racial/lesbian/gay/Christian & Jew/Romeo and Juliet-type got pregnant and prepared to be parents. I can hear my exact thoughts floating through the air from long, long ago... and recognized it. I said, "ahhh!" and found compassion for all those "bigots" and prejudiced people I'd always rolled my eyes at. How amazing that I, even if for a brief moment, could totally relate to that kind of prejudice and judgement. It was in that moment that it vanished.

2. Thomas Beatie, father-to-be, has a vagina, one fallopian tube, one ovary and a uterus. He is transitioning from a woman to a man - and knows he is a man inside his body and heart - but, how did he qualify to become a legal man with the genitalia of a woman? Besides all the other stuff, does taking hormones and have a double mastectomy mean one LEGALLY becomes a man and gets to have the heterosexual privilege of marrying in this society? What if Sarah took a shot of testosterone once a month. Does that mean we can get married? I'm not trying to be (real) smarmy; I really want to know the technical answers to this. What are the United States' gender designation laws?

3. I've read Beatie's article in The Advocate and that man has some sense in him! I wish wish wish I could have seen him on Oprah yesterday (I forgot to DVR it!) because the snippets I've read are fabulous.

"Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire. "

What a beautiful sentiment!

4. I've heard men say they would love to carry and birth a baby, but was able to dismiss their words with a "that would never happen, so it's easy for you to say." Well, maybe men really would carry and birth a child if they had that option. Beatie calls it "reproductive rights." Oooo, what a way to use the terminology I'm familiar with!

5. Thank goodness they didn't come and ask me to be their midwife before I emotionally got my head out of my butt! I still don't know if I would be the right midwife for them - it isn't right to process one's issues with the client upon whom the issue is raised – but I think when the topic comes around again… and I think it will… I will be more compassionate and understanding than I was this time around.

I look forward to reading and hearing how others have worked through their realization that this isn’t a hoax, but something that is really happening in our world. (Can’t you hear the progressive writer of the day saying the same thing about inter-marriage?)

Comments?

Reader Comments (26)

When I first read about this, I thought it was odd.

I read the article in The Advocate, and I too was impressed with Thomas Beatie and his... humanness? He really seemed to be a smart, compassionate individual. Since he was transgendered, it obviously made sense that he could become pregnant--he is, biologically, female, after all.

I hate all these "PREGNANT MAN!" headlines--they are only there to sensationalize and get attention--once you read the fine print, you see that Thomas used to be a woman. Therefore, his pregnancy is not a "male" pregnancy, in the physiological sense of the word.

I very much doubt that he is being called a "man" by the media to respect his transgendered identity; it's all about sensationalism. Even Oprah yesterday kept saying, "pregnant man, pregnant man." Let's be straight here (no pun intended! Haha), as much as Thomas may identify himself as a man, and the government may, too, he is, physiologically, female. Once again, the media proves why they are rotten.

I didn't catch Oprah yesterday either, but saw some clips online. I have to tell you that Thomas Beatie is an incredible man. Gentle, smart, loving--I honestly believe that his baby will be very special. I wasn't feeling particularly critical of him, to begin with, but he won me over and I no longer felt that the situation was "odd."

His wife is wonderful too--they actually met when Thomas was still a woman, and he went through his transition with her. That's love!

As far as how "natural" this is, for me, it's like arguing about the sanctity of heterosexual marriage with a divorce rate of 51% and marriages getting annulled within a week of the ceremony. If a 63 year old woman can get in vitro fertilization and become pregnant with twins, then this family should be able to have that gift as well.

I feel nothing but support and compassion for them. And I completely agree that it IS a human desire to have a child--not a male/female one. I wish them luck and hope they have a healthy, happy baby.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMommy Dearest

You can watch the whole show here:

http://www.redlasso.com/ClipPlayer.aspx?id=5dd76f25-c4d3-4dcb-b8a0-4f8c411f6cdb

I watched it last night and it is really inspiring. They're so... normal (for lack of a better word) and I am jealous of their baby for coming into the world so loved and so desired :)

The whole thing really does take a minute to think through and get used to. I have no problems with the moral issues because I think love is one of the best things a parent can offer and that is not gender-specific.

But I am insanely curious as to the technical, legal aspects. I had no idea someone could legally switch sexes without some serious surgery (i.e. genital). This was exactly my question as well:

"Besides all the other stuff, does taking hormones and have a double mastectomy mean one LEGALLY becomes a man and gets to have the heterosexual privilege of marrying in this society?"

And what that means for gay marriage.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJo

Hi NM,

I'll be quoting some of your original post in bold below:

Thinking thoughts like, "That poor child!" or "He has a vagina... he isn't a man," and wondering how I would have reacted had he come to me for prenatal care.

Does it help to think from the perspective of a lesbian mom? I know you and Sarah weren't together when you respectively were pregnant, but as lesbian parents, how would you have reacted to someone saying, "Oh, those poor children"?

I'd love to say I would be the picture of decorum and not bat an eye, welcoming him as breezily as my female clients, but I would be lying. I think I would be shocked and then wonder if the man had some serious mental illness going on to get pregnant living as a man.

Not necessarily. I think a lot depends on whether you consider transsexuality itself to be a mental illness. My husband, who's an FTM like Thomas, considers it a simple birth defect. Others just consider it a variation of normal, or a difference to celebrate.

As for getting pregnant after transition, it sounds like this couple just really wanted a child. One partner had a uterus; the other didn't; and pregnancy for Thomas was probably the least expensive and least difficult option, as compared to adoption or surrogacy. Also, it would mean that the baby was genetically related to at least one of them.

2. Thomas Beatie, father-to-be, has a vagina, one fallopian tube, one ovary and a uterus. He is transitioning from a woman to a man - and knows he is a man inside his body and heart - but, how did he qualify to become a legal man with the genitalia of a woman?

Most FTMs, in my experience, do not have genital surgery because the cost is extremely high and the results very rudimentary. MTFs have it a bit easier because the surgeries have been refined over the years and because it's easier to "lose" something than it is to "create something out of nothing." (If you're interested in the options for FTM genital surgeries, do a Google search on phalloplasty and metoidioplasty.)

Depending on what state you live in, the requirements for legally becoming a man can vary, but they usually include a program of psychotherapy and usually (but not always) hormone treatment. Hormones would be life- or health-threatening for some individuals, so their doctor might simply sign a statement that they've been through all the appropriate treatment and should be considered a man (or a woman, if they're MTFs).

My husband hasn't had surgery of any sort, and he's been off and on testosterone at various times, depending on its effects on his health. When he's off T, he has periods, but looks almost exactly the same from the outside (beard, low voice, etc.). He's been legally male since he went through therapy and started taking T. We got married legally in California, but the interesting thing is that we're now in Massachusetts, where we could get married legally even if we were both female (or male).

Besides all the other stuff, does taking hormones and have a double mastectomy mean one LEGALLY becomes a man and gets to have the heterosexual privilege of marrying in this society?

The privilege aspect is a whole other can of worms. I don't know any trans people who go into the huge endeavor of transition, including major physical and emotional turmoil and risking every relationship they have, just because they want the "privilege" of being male or straight or whatever.

Then there's all the day-to-day stuff that happens even long after transition: if you decide to be out and loud about being trans, you have to fight at all turns; and if you decide to be more discreet about it, you have to deal with when and how to tell people, plus communicating to medical personnel (in the ER, for example). My husband had gall bladder surgery a few weeks ago, and one of the nurses referred to him as "she...he...it...whatever" in my hearing. Luckily they found him a private room in the postpartum area of the hospital, and the nurses there were fantastic to him.

What if Sarah took a shot of testosterone once a month. Does that mean we can get married?

If she went through therapy and seriously determined that she was transsexual and needed to start on hormones, then yes, when she (he) had a doctor's letter to make the deal legal, you could get married. Also, in California, people can change their names by the "usage method" - just start using the new name and then go to the DMV to get a new license. Of course, you'd both have to think long and hard about what this meant for your relationship - would you now both be heterosexual? Transition can throw the partner for a major loop too.

For what it's worth, FTMs starting transition usually have an intramuscular shot once a week. Some use a topical gel or a patch.

"Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire. "

Exactly! What about a genetically male/female couple who need to use assisted reproductive technology because the woman had her ovaries removed, or the man had his testicles removed? Are they not "really" a man/woman, and should they just stuff the desire to have a child?

I still don't know if I would be the right midwife for them - it isn't right to process one's issues with the client upon whom the issue is raised – but I think when the topic comes around again… and I think it will… I will be more compassionate and understanding than I was this time around.

That's wonderful to hear. BTW, I've heard Thomas referred to as "the first pregnant man," but we had a friend who did the same thing back in 1999 - he just decided not to go as public about it, for the sake of his child. His pregnancy was pretty textbook, and even when he was full-term, people just assumed he had a big beer belly. I can understand this friend's reasons for staying fairly private, but I also admire Thomas and Nancy for being brave enough to stand up and go public. The next FTM to come along (in your practice or someone else's) may find it a little easier.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Oh no, do we wanna go there. Your boobs for official state recognition of your feelings as a human being????

I was thinking I hope he will blog or publish a book or something, about their experience. But what I really wish for them is that they'll be able to just enjoy everyday life as a happy, average, all-American family.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJudit

Anne,

Thank you for the wonderful information!! You helped lots.

People DID say, "those poor children," not usually TO us, but certainly around us. Many family members and friends reacted extremely rudely and negatively, sometimes for years or even disconnecting from us altogether. It was really hard during that transition.

It didn't help that we were in Germany and she was in the military... the closet and all... but now, it isn't a big thing at all, these 22 years later. Sometimes people stare at Sarah and we are very used to it. It has been asked (many times) if Sarah is the boy and I am the girl. I find the question really funny - and odd! If I wanted a man, I would have chosen one... had one, in fact. And, since I consider myself somewhat bisexual, being with a man isn't what I want anyway. I want her!

But, if she wanted to transition, I would be with her every step of the way. But she doesn't; I asked.

Sarah IS very butch and I AM very femme, but it isn't all of what defines us as a couple, surely also not the be all and end all to Beatie's relationship, too.

How wonderful you knew someone else in the same circumstances who had a baby! This must seem old hat to you.

In writing, I was sharing my thoughts as they came up. Most were pretty fleeting, but I wanted to air them anyway.

Thank you so, so much for writing. I learned a lot from you!

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thanks for the post-I think the whole thing is fascinating. I do wish Thomas all the best but hope that he does not court publicity too much (probably too late to say that) and make a media circus out of all this, which I think is probably likely to be what makes this most harmful for the family

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Stewart

I don't know, it never even occurred to me to think anything of it, other than, wow, that's cool. I hope he has a good birth!

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlola coca-cola

Patrick Califia-Rice wrote an article about the vitriol his partner endured from the trans community when he became pregnant back in 1999 (they are both transmen). It used to be on the Good Vibrations website but I can't find it any more.

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Cummins

The link to the Oprah interview above did not work for me, so I'm going to link to where I watched them on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Hooverplayer26

This user has the whole interview broken up into 5 parts. They're the first 5 videos listed.

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlexandra

Alison, I stumbled across this - perhaps this is what you were speaking of?

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0025,califia-rice,15833,1.html

I support Thomas and his family 100%, especially in regards to deciding not to have bottom surgery and to retain his original reproductive organs and to create his family the best they can. FTM surgery costs four or more times what MTF surgery does, it doesn't look good, and is rarely functional . Why waste the money on that?

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

my reaction was "eh?", knowing the full story would be forthcoming, not believing a male who has always been male could be pregnant at this point in history. once it was, I wasn't particularly interested tbh! really doesn't phase me whatsoever, the explanation of their situation seems entirely reasonable ... and i wish my partner had such a strong desire for children!

April 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterL

Thanks, anonymous 5:09. That's probably it. I remember an article placing more emphasis on the transgender community's difficulty, but perhaps that was just the part of the article I thought was most intriguing at the time.

April 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Cummins

Besides the poor surgical results, it is also VERY expensive and not covered by insurance. WHy go $100,000 into debt for a surgery with poor results when, if you are FTM, you can pass with top surgery (mastectomy)and hormones? Surgery is not what creates gender- gender is your internal sense.
I'm also not that surprised by this. Adoption or surrogacy is very expensive and harder to do if you are part of the GLBT community. I've heard of several trans men planning this, my old college roommate being one of them.
Also, there's not that much privilege gained by transitioning. You run a very significant risk of being attacked or murdered. There's a list of names of trans folk who have been murdered at http://www.gender.org/remember/index.html#

April 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I agree, I think its a beautiful thing. Basically he is his own surogate. At first I was skeptical, thought it a gimic, media hoop-la. But after seeing him I love him. I think he has gone about the gender change in the right way, well thought out and executed. He is still male, gender and sexuality are totally separate things. I have a friend that was a man, became a woman and is now "married" (I don't know the legality of their union) to a woman. So he is a lesbian of sorts. I do not fully understand the dynamic, its not a clear cut as Thomas and his wife.

PS, as a military wife I understand where you and your partner come from, one could not find a less understanding group of people. I am married to a homophobic captain, me the gay advocate, its a strange union of beliefs.

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterartillerywifecq

I remember the first time I heard about this the headline read:

The first "pregnant" man.

And then I thought to myself it should have read:

The first pregnant "man."

As a straight male that believes a family with a mother and father is the best way to raise a child, it shocks me that society finds any of this normal.

And the saddest part is that I can't have my opinion anymore without being labeled a bigot. Everyone else can have their opinion and think it's perfectly normal to have your breasts cut off and want to have a baby with another woman, but when I voice a contrary opinion I'm immediately labeled a bigot.

And just because straight people fail at marriage it doesn't mean the answer is for half of each gender to get a sex change and then start dating the other half. Wouldn't the easier answer be to strengthen heterosexual marriage?

April 9, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternathan118

I don't think its that we find it "normal" we just don't think its a reason for force them to abort the pregnancy or be exiled for life. I am not 100% supportive, but I am not whole against it. Many have said they don't know exactly how they feel on the issue, its not black and white, nothing with people is.

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterartillerywifecq

I hope you didn't think I was advocating they abort the baby. That baby is just as precious as any other, I just wish it was being given the opportunity to be raised in a family with a mother and father.

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacie

My own children were raised in a variety of settings including having TWO mothers at times. As far as they say, they are none the worse for the wear.

Just because there is a man and a woman in a household doesn't mean that everything there is hunky dorey. I think we all know that.

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

nathan118,

Whether or not you believe in gay/transgender rights, gay/transgender marriage, gay/transgender adoption etc, is irrelevant. These people exist, in our society, and they are here to stay whether you like it or not, or whether you "believe" in it or not.

And yes, let's fix heterosexual marriage. Where do you suggest we start?

I can never understand how and when people earn the right to dictate to others how they should live, whom they should love, and how they should raise their children.

Honestly, we are all dwellers of the same earth. Shouldn't we all have the same basic human rights?

We look at the appalling laws of segregation and racism of 50 years ago and shudder to believe that people of all colors didn't have the same rights in our country (at least, most sensible people do). Do you think it's possible that in another 50 years, we'll be thinking the same thing, only this time, it will be regarding homosexuals in our country?

Choosing to ignore a large percentage of the population just because someone doesn't "believe" in their lifestyle is wrong. It goes against everything our country stands for.

And being part of that group, nathan118, doesn't make you a bigot, but it does, unfortunately, make you quite ignorant. And for that, I am sorry.

A.

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

My heart is warmed by the openness Thomas and Nancy have allowed. This is creating an opportunity to discuss something that has been been kept hidden away.

Imagine having breasts and believing they do not belong to you. I do not LOVE my body, but I do love being female. And I cannot even begin to imagine the emotional struggles someone who is transgendered goes through when determining when/how/if they are going to transition. I have memories of very harsh comments I have made in the past about transgendered people because they confused me. I have sought to educate myself and learn more about their struggles. And since that has occurred, I have discovered that my best friend is transgendered. How does that happen? How did I not know? Because he was scared. Because he could not trust others. Because his life is at risk due to the confusion and ignorance in our society other this life circumstance.

We need an outpouring of compassion and love for this family and many others like them who have to hide for their own safety. I for one am proud to know Thomas and Nancy's story and believe their daughter will have an incredible life because she will be raised by such brave and amazing parents. Yes, parents!

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I never said gays/transgenders/etc. shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else.

As a Christian I think God intended for the family to be the core of our society, and I think he intended that family to have a mother and father. Does that mean I have anything against a single mother whose husband left her? Of course not. I would say that I'd rather have a gay couple raise a child than a couple straight alcoholics.

That being said, I think a straight couple at their best is the ideal situation for raising children and supporting our society. And whether you like it or not, "this is a free country" isn't the end all be all argument. There's a reason polygamy and incest are illegal, and that's because society has deemed it to have a negative impact.

The greatest part about you "anonymous" is that despite all your freedom talk you finish your post by labeling me ignorant. You equate me with racists of the past and "ignore" me. It's hilarious.

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenternathan118

Talk nice to each other, please, or I will start rejecting posts.

Thanks.

April 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

If a midwife is one who is "with woman" does that mean that this family needs a "mid-husband"?

We place so highly the value of birthing being within a circle of women; that it is a sisterhood of pregnancy and labour and delivery; that a midwife is one who is able to travel this journey with a woman, listening, guiding, and caring, and sharing something uniquely feminine.

This changes everything.....

April 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKristyn

I saw Fox News do a report on this and wanted to vomit, because they kept referring to him as a "Pregnant Transgendered Woman." Having a uterus does not make you female, having a penis does not make you male. What does having both make you, then? The gender you were meant to have-- the gender you are programmed to have, or, if you would rather, the gender God originally intended you to be, is the gender of your mind. The mind is what makes us human, after all. After that, it's all just mistakes of anatomy, same as how some children are born with both sets of sex organs, or some cross between the two sexes.

I am pleased for this man that he was able to find a practical, beautiful use for an anatomical mistake he has been suffering with all his life.

Oh, and nathan118: This is a straight couple at their best, as far as I can see. Admire them. Unless you are the sort of person who believes that a child who was born intersex should be forced to deal with their incorrect genitals, or a child who was born with a cleft palate should suffer with their condition, you could surely have no problem with a man deciding to correct his appearance to match his soul. Unless you would want to have to live your whole life pretending to be a woman when you know quite clearly you are not, do not ask the same of him.

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBasiorana

This woman was born perfectly healthy. She chose to have surgery on her body. A baby born with genetic defects is hardly the same.

April 15, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStacie

I hardly think it's healthy to think and know you are one gender while your body looks like the opposite gender. Most transsexuals know what gender they are from early childhood, about the same age that most of us realize what gender we are-- completely without any unusual external influence.

How is a child born with a genetic or congenital abnormality who is still capable of reproduction and bodily functions, such as a person with a uterus and a micropenis, any different from this man, who was similarly born with organs that didn't match who he was? After all, while intersex infants are sometimes truly deformed and require surgery for basic bodily functions, sometimes they are perfectly healthy but receive operations to make their body fit into one gender, whatever gender it is likeliest that they will mentally fit in with.

This man was born with the mind of a boy and the body of a girl. That's not healthy, and the only way to fix it that currently exists is to make the body match the mind.

April 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBasiorana

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