Meet Thomas Beatie a female-to-male transsexual who decided to fulfill his dream of having a baby. Thus when he was operated on to become male kept his reproductive organs in order to keep open the option of having children. While Thomas is not the first FTM transsexual to get pregnant and have a baby he is the first to go on Oprah and tell his story to the world. (Daddytypes.com has this story from the point of view of other FTM transsexuals)
The news today is that he gave birth (naturally) on the 29th June in Oregon and the father and daughter are doing fine.
This picture fascinates me. Thomas looks so manly, but that belly is no beer gut, and the way he holds his hand on it is so familiar to any woman who has been pregnant. What I also find interesting is Thomas’ views on his impending fatherhood (found here).
Quizzed about their roles after the birth of their child, Thomas and Nancy said they would be sticking to the current set-up, with Thomas as the dad.
He rejected suggestions that pregnancy might reawaken his maternal instinct.
I see pregnancy as a process and it doesn’t define who I amThomas Beatie
Thomas added: “I have very stable male gender identity.”
Wow! The radical feminist vision of reproduction not being tied to gender has come to fruition, (well maybe for a very small segment of the population, the FTM transsexuals who wish to have children, and who have opted not to make themselves sterile in the surgical transition from female to male). In the case of Thomas we have someone, who chooses to be male, who chooses to have (as in – carry in his belly and birth) a baby, and who chooses not to sees the two as being incompatible notions. For some time society has been able to understand that women who choose not to have children can be feminine, but we do seem to be in the midst of a culture which glorifies motherhood and pregnancy, so what are we to make of a pregnant and birthing father?
I know one father who I honestly believe would have loved to have been able to carry and birth one of his two children (if it were possible he and his wife would have carried one each as they made their little family). But of all the men I know he is probably the only one who can seriously entertain the idea that pregnancy and birthing, were it possible for men, would be an option that they would consider.
If men could have children would it raise the status of child rearing? Or would it remove the sentimental glorification of motherhood, or the devaluing and disrespectful contempt accorded the role of mother? I know it is a paradox, but I feel that motherhood is simultaneously loved and loathed. There exists a romanticism which makes it look attractive and almost inevitable for most women, but we also live in a culture in which mothering, caring and nurturing and not valued as being the worthy and necessary contributions to society that they are.
I personally don’t think that the ability of FTM transsexuals to carry and birth babies (and be, in some sense, both mother and father to the child) is going to threaten or revolutionise the dichotomous gender roles of our culture, but many people do. Apparently Thomas and Nancy had a lot of trouble finding a doctor who was willing to help them in their quest for Thomas to have a baby.
But what if technology did develop to the point where most men, and not just FTM transsexuals, could give birth if they so choose? What would the implications be for our society? Well obviously our culture would be engulfed in its own effeminacy and culture, reason, finance, adventure, aggression, intellect and all other areas which are the supposed domain of men would come to an abrupt halt and society as we know it would cease.
I don’t think so.
As indicated in my last sarcastic paragraph we as a culture have divided the world into binary categories and assigned virtues as being either masculine or feminine and given a corresponding cultural value. These which fall onto the masculine side of the dichotomy are valued more highly that those which fall on the feminine side. So we have mind and matter, culture and nature, intellect/reason and emotion, light and dark, active and passive, aggression and nurturing being equated (respectively) with masculinity and femininity. Now these arbitrary categories reflect the hierarchies and priorities of our culture, not biology or destiny. I would like to think that if men, as well as women, could give birth then we as a culture would realise that nurturing is not the exclusive domain of women. (Of course many people already realise this and as a result fatherhood is being appreciated, experienced and enjoyed differently to how it has been done in the past). I do not think that there is any trait which belongs exclusively to one gender, although our society emphasises some traits more in one gender over the other. This thought exercise, what would our world be like if men and women could have babies has been interesting for me, although I do not think that technology is anywhere near the point of being able to create that situation. As far as I am aware, scientists are not even certain what amniotic fluid is composed of and so are a long way from being able to create an artificial womb. Which is perhaps just as well, I really believe that the answers to our society’s problems are not going to be found in new and better technology but rather in changing the way we value or devalue the various aspects of our world.
Back in March, before I started blogging, when news of Beatie’s pregnancy broke bluemilk posted ‘When “mother” is just a biological social construct‘ and discussed the gender transgressions that are being committed.