Saturday, March 29, 2008


Reproductive technologies are creating new opportunities and new challenges – not only for people who want to be parents, but for the broader communities in which we live as we strive to understand what parenthood means in the twenty-first century. A current flashpoint of these contemporary anxieties is captured in the story of Thomas Beatie and his first person account of being a pregnant man in a recent issue of The Advocate.

Beatie, who lives with his wife in the Pacific northwest, is pregnant with their child, a healthy baby girl, due to be delivered this summer. Beatie writes compellingly about his pregnancy and his desire to be a parent, calling this desire, not a male or female desire, but a human desire. I’m happy for Beatie and his wife and the upcoming addition to their family. What I’ve found interesting, and surprising, is the reactions of friends and the popular media around me.

I hadn’t really read the story in The Advocate, though I had seen some blog mentions of it, when I heard a full discussion of the story on the local hip hop radio station at the gym. I admit, that I braced myself as I sat in the weight room between abdominal repetitions. I was expecting some sort of homophobic and transphobic screed. What I heard instead was a fascinating conversation about the reactions of the two radio hosts. Let me be plain, they did not embrace Thomas’ pregnancy. They expressed confusion and astonishment, but they did so in a way that seemed to me concordant with the uniqueness of the situation. It isn’t everyday that a man is pregnant. They discussed the operational aspects of the pregnancy including the details of Thomas’ transition. They expressed concern about the baby’s health, but read the portion of the article in which Thomas said that the baby was healthy and seemed reassured by that. Overall, the discussion was honest, informative, and interested in the situation. By it’s conclusion, the two hosts, while affirming that their were things that they didn’t understand about the arrangement, wished Thomas and his wife the best with their child. This wasn’t what I expected from a mainstream radio station.

The other discussions that I have been involved with have been with lesbians and bisexual women. The reactions, particularly from lesbians, have been surprising more negative than the reactions from the radio hosts. How can a man be pregnant? Is this the right thing to do to the child? Why don’t they adopt? While I feel that there is legitimacy to all of those questions and that asking them is just fine, I’m surprised by the tone and intention behind the questions. Rather than a general curiosity about the conditions and circumstances of the “pregnant man,” I’ve felt that the impulse is more to ensure that men are excluded from child-bearing and that transgender men, in particular are excluded.

As I’ve read the news and thought about it, I continue to be excited for Thomas and his wife about their pregnancy. Questions about the child’s health and well-being are uniformly met with responses from people in the medical profession that the child should be perfectly normal regardless of the fact that her birth parent took testosterone. Any effects of the testosterone will be in the normal range of human sexual organs. (A normal range, which for me includes a variety of sexual orientations and gender identities). Adoptions for this couple—and other transgender couples as well as in many locations gay, bisexual, and lesbian couples and polyamorous couples or others who organize their erotic and sexual lives outside of the binary heterosexual partnership—as a result of the homophobia and transphobia in the adoption system would not be an option. Pregnancy was their option for having children, and I support reproductive rights—that is the possibilities of controlling one’s own reproductive organs and the decision-making concomitant with them—for everyone, regardless of other aspects of their lives and identities.

Increasingly over this century I think that reproductive questions and questions of queer rights and equality will continue to intersect. I hope that we think about them in ways that are careful and respectful and congruent with our larger quest for equality.

Thomas Beatie’s article in The Advocate

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at

This is column #18 dated March 29, 2008 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.