Pregnant manIt’s the nightmare of many men: being pregnant and giving birth. According to some commentators that very fear was played on by the series of Alien films, in which people would get infected and have baby aliens bursting from their bodies. Seemingly some men have maternal instincts. But I guess it helps if the man in question used to be a woman.

Thomas Beatie, a 34 year old from Pacific North West, is a married man who used to be a woman. He’s pregnant and his baby girl is due in July. Thomas was born “Tracy Lagondino” but after gender reassignment surgery is now legally male and has a wife. His wife of 10 years, Nancy, had a hysterectomy several years ago so he decided that he would carry the baby, and was able to do so because he kept his female organs.

This story has several elements that make it fitting for my Weird Wednesday series. Firstly, I can’t get my head around the concept of a man with female reproductive organs. Is this really “Thomas” or is it still plain old “Tracy” after a few bizarre medical experiments and operations? We hear lots of nonsense about people being a man inside a womans body and vice verse, as if there is some non-physical aspect to a person – like the old concept of soul, spirit or ghost – which is trapped in the wrong body. But, isn’t our physical body precisely what defines us as male or female? If you have a penis, a hairy chest, an unwillingness to ask for directions even when you haven’t a clue where you are, and most importantly an XY chromosome pairing then you’re male and that’s that. On the other hand if you’ve got breasts, a vagina, have periods, can’t go to the toilet in a pub without all your friends going with you, and have an XX chromosome pairing then you’re female: end of story. The notion of a “man inside a womans body” is patent nonsense. Now, you might want to be a member of the opposite sex, but that doesn’t make you a member. That XY chromosome is difficult to delete.

In the case of Tracy just how are we meant to view her as male? If she has full female reproductive organs, has periods, and is pregnant it’s difficult to count her as male at all, despite that fact that she feels that she is. In fact, before becoming pregnant she stopped her testosterone injections and after only four months her body was acting pretty much like a standard female one again, to the extent that Tracy didn’t need any extra oestrogen, progesterone or fertility drugs to aid the pregnancy.

But this isn’t the only weird thing about this tale. The Beaties have complained about discrimination: “Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs. Healthcare professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognise Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy’s family doesn’t even know I’m transgender.” Maybe doctors did discriminate, and maybe they did so as a result of religious beliefs, but so what? Should they be forced to act against their religious beliefs and morals just to uphold the desires and morals of someone else? People are entitled to religious and moral beliefs, and the freedom which allows them to form and hold their beliefs also protects those of a different persuasion, in this case the Beaties. The Beaties seem obsessed with tolerance, but tolerance must apply to those who disagree with them too, and the Beaties don’t seem to want to tolerate any views except those that give their desires a hearty thumbs-up.

I agree though that much of the opposition they face is equally weird. One national newspaper has received almost 300 comments about this story and most of the comments from religious people have been to condemn this pregnancy as “unnatural” or “tampering with nature” or “playing God.” These are rather wacky charges to throw at the Beaties. Taking a paracetamol tablet when you have a sore head is “unnatural,” as is most of what is produced by the pharmaceutical industry, and yet no one gets terribly upset about it. As for playing God, humans have been making life and death decisions since our ancestors first lifted their knuckles off the ground and hauled themselves upright. It’s nothing new.

Even more importantly these religious folks miss the point: Thomas is really still Tracy so what we’re dealing with is a story of a confused and hormonally drugged woman getting pregnant. When a man with a penis gives birth then maybe there’s a bigger issue. But as it is no amount of gender reassignment or cosmetic surgery can alter biological fact. Moreover, if Tracy really wanted to be a “proper” man she would have got rid of her reproductive organs. Define, “have your cake and eat it.”

That said, I wish them well, however screwed up they seem to be.