Friday, April 4, 2008

Labor of love -- Thomas Beatie carries his child.

I'm kinda late on this, but it's been getting a lot of press lately so I wanted to chime in.

The story of Thomas Beatie, a 34-year-old transgender male who's decided to carry a child for himself and his wife, is creating waves of [enter appropriate adjective here: shock, anger, hope, confusion, admiration, etc] around the country. Oprah got all up in the mix and he actually appeared on her show yesterday, though I missed it.

Beatie wrote a personal account of his experience for The Advocate a few weeks ago:
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.

More than anything, this story is fucking with people's normalized conceptions of gender, sex, family and child rearing. And it's fabulous. I'll admit that when I first heard it I was pretty confused since I'm still dealing with the internalized heterosexism that's endemic in our community. Although I identify with the queer community, I admit openly that there's just shit that I don't know. I have no idea what it's like to be trans, and I've always felt fairly secure in my female body. Thus, when it comes to stretching people's (mis)conceptions of gender and sexual identity, I often talk the talk, but don't walk the walk. I've never really had to. What I do know is love -- and hate -- so I try to meet folks where they're at and, though I may know nothing about you, I know that everyone operates off of the basic need for love and acceptance. Understanding takes a little longer -- sometimes it never comes, and often times it doesn't have to.

So, as for the Beatie case -- as long as this child is raised in a loving and supportive environment, that's all that matters. I don't see what all the fuss is about. The reason it's a big deal is because it forces others to confront their fears. If a person legally identified as a man chooses to have a child, what does that mean to the biological female who bases her femininity on her ability to birth children? To the biological male who bases his masculinity on his ability to "plant his seed" in a woman and watch it grow from afar? Basically, it completely fucks with everything we've been socialized to see as "male" and "female", "man" and "woman". At the end of the day, we're all just human, as cheesy as it may sound. We eat, breathe, fuck, shit and die and along the way we live our lives according to social codes that don't really make much sense.

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