“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his.” - Oscar WildeThomas Beatie
, the “pregnant man” achieved notoriety last year when he gave birth to a daughter. “He” is now pregnant again.
We watched Thomas Beatie and his wife Nancy being interviewed on a Greek talk show program on satellite TV yesterday. They talked about his first pregnancy and his current one, about the couple’s relationship, their ideas about their family, and the way the pregnancies occurred. The discussion went on to explore gender, sex, traditional sex and family roles, and several guests including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a gynaecologist, a paediatrician and a journalist also put their two bobs worth in.
We were left rather puzzled by this program. I would like to consider myself a tolerant and open-minded person who respects people’s freedom to live their life as they choose, provided they do not harm others when doing so. Science and medicine have advanced enough in order to help us understand homosexuality, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, hermaphroditism, etc, etc. In a civilised society we no longer burn these people at the stake, but rather try to understand them and help them live their life in a way that makes them feel part of the community and live in a way that they can contribute to society and have a fulfilling life.
I say all of this because the Thomas Beatie case created quite a great deal of confusion in my mind. Thomas Beatie maintains he is a man and the state of Oregon in the USA recognizes him legally as a man. However, Thomas Beatie has a uterus and ovaries (which he chose not to have removed when he started taking male hormones) and this to my mind makes “him” more of a biological woman than a man, no matter what the state of Oregon or he says he is. The case of “his” pregnancy –biologically is ludicrous. Biologically Thomas Beatie is female and “he” had a normal, uterine female pregnancy. “He” delivered “his” baby normally, through the birth canal.
A man does not have a uterus and the only way he could become pregnant would be to firstly be dosed up with female hormones, making his body receptive to the implantation of an embryo. The fertilised ovum (prepared easily via in-vitro methods – a donated ovum and the man’s own sperm if so desired) would then be surgically implanted into the peritoneal cavity. This results in what is called an ectopic pregnancy. It can also occur naturally in a woman if the fertilised ovum implants outside the uterine cavity. In this latter case, the pregnancy in the abdominal cavity has a viability rate of about 5%. Most ectopic pregnancies result in the death of the embryo and/or a massive, life-threatening haemorrhage for the mother. One would assume that the same complications (or even worse) would be seen in an ectopic pregnancy in a man. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that an ectopic pregnancy could be carried to term by a man.
I don’t think that a normal man would ever want to have such a pregnancy in his body, although there are several other biological men with gender dysphorias, or of different sexual orientation, or of specific circumstances who may be attracted to the idea. One is reminded of the urban myth several years back, that promised the first man to have a baby a gift of a million British pounds…
And this is where my unease with the Beaties began. They could have done whatever they wanted and kept it to themselves. A little discretion on their part and the confidentiality of medical records would have assured them of privacy and a more or less normal family once the pregnancy ended. Instead they chose to make of their circumstances a media circus. Why? I suspect that money lies at the bottom of this rather (as it has become) sordid story. For every interview, for every media appearance, for every photograph, the Beaties’ bank account gets a little fatter. The million British pounds story may in fact become reality!
We have become a society of virtual ghouls that like to feast on salacious gossip. Nothing is private any more, nothing is sacred, nothing is sacrosanct. We speak about everything publically and we do not think of the consequences. Did this couple think of the consequences their preset actions will have on their child as it grows up? Will the strange sex roles at home imprint on its young psyche in adverse ways?
Thomas Beatie came from a home environment that was disrupted. His mother committed suicide when he was young and he grew up in a house full of males. He describes how he always felt “male” and at the first opportunity (interestingly after he met Nancy, his current partner) he took male hormones. He had a breast reduction operation. However, he chose to retain the fundamental female biology – ovaries, uterus and birth canal. That to me denotes a “she” not a “he”, no matter how hairy the face is and how muscular the physique. I am a little concerned for the little girl growing up in this unusual family. If Thomas Beatie’s new baby is a male one, then that child may grow up even more confused. Growing up in a loving family, whatever that family comprises may be a good step in bringing up well-adjusted children, but fundamental biological, psychological, behavioural and deeply ingrained instinctive patterns not only determine who we are, but how we influence people’s behaviour around us.
As well as the family, we depend on society for our conditioning and our successful assumption of the roles that we traditionally associate with a normal family unit and which biologically and sociologically have worked for centuries. The publicity surrounding the Beatie children will generate much negativity while they grow up. Not everyone is as loving and as non-conditionally accepting as these children’s parents. Some people already see the Beaties as freaks and they will extend the same characterization to their children. Hence my question earlier. Why did they not keep their activities private? Surely, all the money in the world is not worth the possible hardship that their children will have to live through while growing up?Aptly, my word for the day is “gender”:gender
|ˈjendər| noun1 Grammar
(in languages such as Latin, Greek, Russian, and German) each of the classes (typically masculine, feminine, common, neuter) of nouns and pronouns distinguished by the different inflections that they have and require in words syntactically associated with them. Grammatical gender is only very loosely associated with natural distinctions of sex.
• the property (in nouns and related words) of belonging to such a class: Adjectives usually agree with the noun in gender and number.
2 the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones): Traditional concepts of gender | [as adj. ] gender roles.
• the members of one or other sex: Differences between the genders are encouraged from an early age.ORIGIN
late Middle English : from Old French gendre
(modern genre), based on Latin genus
‘birth, family, nation.’ The earliest meanings were [kind, sort, genus] and [type or class of noun, etc.] (which was also a sense of Latin genus).USAGE
The word gender has been used since the 14th century primarily as a grammatical term, referring to the classes of noun in Latin, Greek, German, and other languages designated as masculine, feminine, or neuter. It has also been used since the 14th century in the sense ‘the state of being male or female,’ but this did not become a common standard use until the mid 20th century. Although the words gender and sex both have the sense ‘the state of being male or female,’ they are typically used in slightly different ways: sex tends to refer to biological differences, while gender tends to refer to cultural or social ones.