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Legally Accepted as Male, Oregon Husband Can Still Become Pregnant as a Man

Marriage Laws Recognize Transgender Males. Should Pregnancy Be Any Different?

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Many who read Thomas Beatie's story - the story of a pregnant man - may likely experience a moment of intense discomfort. Some may even feel revulsion.

In a society that hasn't fully embraced or supported the idea of transgendered individuals, those reactions may be more commonplace than ready acceptance.

A Man in the Eyes of the Law

Yet legally speaking, sexual reassignment is recognized and validated by law in those states that permit legal recognition of an individual's new gender; a man born as a woman can be accepted as legally male, and a woman born as a man accepted as legally female. These legal benefits extend to marriage, even if transition happens during or prior to marriage.

According to TransgenderLaw.org, if an individual is in a marriage in which that individual or spouse came out as transsexual and transitioned after getting married (with the result that both partners are now both men or both women) the two are still legally married:

Generally, the validity of a marriage is determined by the status of the couple at the time the marriage was performed. If the spouses were different genders at the time of marriage, the marriage should remain valid even if one spouse later transitions....[S]ome couples in this situation currently encounter discrimination from government officials, private employers or others who erroneously refuse to honor the marriage based on the mistaken view that events that happen after a couple marries can somehow retroactively invalidate a marriage that was lawful at the time it was entered. So long as a couple are legally entitled to marry when they enter into a marriage, they remain married until death or divorce.
A transgendered person who marries a person of another gender after transition is legally married if that person lives in a state that grants legal recognition of the new gender and the necessary steps have been taken to change the legal gender. TransgenderLaw.org notes:
Currently, most states permit a transgender person who has transitioned to marry a person of the other gender. However, there are a handful of states (including Kansas, Texas, and Ohio) in which courts have ruled that for purposes of marriage, a transgender person cannot change their birth gender.

Continuum or Slippery Slope?

So what does acceptance of transgender people in marriage have to do with acceptance of a pregnant man?

One argument may be that it's part of a continuum, and that as medical advances and bio-engineering make many previously impossible situations conceivable, men carrying children may someday be an option.

Others who hold fast to the idea that gender identity should not be tampered with - that a child born a girl should remain a girl - might argue that a allowing transgender marriage is a dangerous slippery slope, and that Thomas' situation is an uncomfortable outcome of this acceptance.

The Line Separating Gender

Perhaps the strong reaction to Thomas' pregnancy may have less to do with the idea of a man being pregnant and more to do with society's discomfort over those who straddle the line of gender. The first characteristic we recognize in meeting someone is gender, and we note it ahead of age or race. Gender instantly alters how we approach and interact with others.

So if Thomas is male but is pregnant, we're challenged as to how to regard him. We may feel we act without reference to stereotypes, but gender is a benchmark against which we measure expectations. So what do we make of a pregnant man?

What Makes the Man?

If he is essentially male in the eyes of the law and in his standing in the community, does crossing over the line to make use of his internal female anatomy and carry a child negate his legally accepted gender? If he can become pregnant and she is unable to do so - and they both want a child - is it wrong to take advantage of this opportunity? If any of us could switch between genders to accommodate similar situations in our lives, would we do so?

Thomas has stated that he will continue to be the father and Nancy the mother as they raise their child. If this is so, should their child not be told that Daddy was his birth mother? Or is this a groundbreaking case which should be regarded as a first - and an example of what the future may hold for all of us?

Loving Parents, Planned-For Pregnancy

In the end, a child will be born to two loving individuals who have wanted this baby for years. It's the perfect nuclear couple - a husband and a wife. In a world where nearly half of marriages performed today end in divorce, should we castigate a mother and a father for bringing a baby into a secure and loving marriage when we have the medical means and ability to enable a man to become pregnant?

Sources:

Beatie, Thomas. "Labor of Love." The Advocate 8 April 2008.

"Transgender People and the Federal Marriage Amendment: Frequently Asked Questions." TransgenderLaw.org. Retrieved March 25, 2008.

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