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Transgender pregnancy

March 26, 2008

I’m going to keep following this story: a Bend transgendered man is pregnant. He and his wife are happy to conceive and detail their experience in a story published recently by the venerable Advocate.

KATU news here in Portland questions the story, supposing that it may be a hoax.

What’s going on there? I suspect that KATU is just trying to play to more than one common public response to this new situation.

Let’s assume that this isn’t the first ‘male pregnancy‘ and move on to the issue at hand: should transmen who are biologically able to conceive be able to have children?

I really can’t help but think that yes, they should. I don’t have a problem with anyone having babies as long as there is no substantial health risk involved. In the situation of Thomas Beattie, our pregnant man, it seems as though his pregnancy is safe, since he has been off testosterone for a lengthy period of time.

The ability to conceive, under one’s own chosen circumstances, seems fundamental to human agency. Our biological bodies are the very basis of our belonging to ourselves; it’s what we own. Therefore, it would seem that as a human being, conceiving another human being would be a given. Naturally, we know this boundary to be within the female – men can’t give birth. But what happens when the boundary between men and women is so completely blurred that men can have children?

This also puts into question the location of woman: can you give birth yet not be a woman?

I really don’t know. I’m concerned first of all for the agency of the unborn, and second for the absolute agency of the individual to acertain the circumstances of conception and birth. If anything, I think that this just further indicates how gender identity is a performance and is completely malleable – we decide our degree of maleness or femaleness. But, with some rare exceptions, our physical bodies carry a strong mark of particular reproductive capacity, delineating two very specific functions (I refer here to the role of sperm and ovum).

I can’t help but think that people born women have it a little easier than people born men to do the switch and yet still conceive.

What do you think?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. vacman permalink
    March 26, 2008 9:54 pm

    If this story is a hoax, then what is the drive to create this fantasy by the media outlets in question? As the borders that define our nation-state morph into and out-on-to the plain of an ever increasingly undefinable “moment”, how does this event (fictional or otherwise) allow us to see into that which becomes “new born”? (I am thinking as “moment” as linked to the word “essence”, the degree of being that is present is independent of the sovereign law) If this story is true let us believe with honest conviction that the child is born into a loving and nurturing home. As to the degree of “agency” that a human can believe or even predict with any degree of certainty the ability to parent is a difficult question. My daughter would say I can be a real jerk sometimes; she would probably be right.

  2. March 31, 2008 12:41 pm

    I don’t understand homosexuals. By definition they can not have children naturally, yet they want to enjoy the “rewards” of heterosexuals – of childbirth. Can’t they make up their mind?

  3. April 1, 2008 1:11 pm

    I don’t understand caustic conservative ideologues. By definition they should not have children, yet want to act like children by visiting the blogs of thinking Americans and post comments that are the equivalent of yanking someone’s pigtails on the playground in kindergarten.

    NOTE: This couple is a man and a woman. If they’re ‘homosexual,’ then we have a lot more homosexuals in the world than we thought.

  4. April 1, 2008 9:45 pm

    I hear the “nature” argument against the queer community’s right to reproduce quite often. It’s not a logical argument. Perhaps straight couples who can’t conceive naturally should also just accept that “nature” doesn’t want them to reproduce. Or perhaps birth control should be illegal because it goes against “nature’s” biological directive to use sex as a reproductive act. That’s a silly road to walk down.

    This is a fascinating story and makes one really think about the notion of gender as a social versus biological construct. Thanks for pointing it out to me!

  5. Megan permalink
    April 4, 2008 5:24 pm

    They are not, by any stretch of imagination, man and woman. They are woman and woman in terms of sexuality. Growing facial hair and removing my breasts does not make me a man more than standing in a garage makes me a car.

    The thing is, it’s not an ideal setting for a child to grow up in. They simply can’t understand the idea as adults do. They view themselves as different more often than the parents. I feel sorry for the child, but as it can’t be changed, hope for the best.

  6. April 5, 2008 1:50 am

    Well, some people obviously want to define gender for other people. Some people still want to define sexuality for others, too. There may be a few challenges for the child in this situation, but probably less than for children of gay or lesbian parents, which there are many very happy healthy ones.

    I’ll never understand all the people who seem to feel that external factors are more important in parenting than love, nurturing, and a healthy relationship.

    Of course people will be uncomfortable with transgender parents at first, probably for a long time. As they were with inter-racial couples and gay and lesbian couples, and as they are with all kinds of things. Hopefully they will be able to get over it when they’ve had more time to educate themselves and open their minds.

    I agree, very interesting story. I am quite sure it is not a hoax, I think it’s probably happened before, to people less interested in media attention.

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