British media in a tizzy over pregnant man

It’s finally happened: someone has noticed that a trans man in this country has had a baby. Of course the mainstream media, who between them seem utterly incapable of the slightest act of research, are responding in a predictable storm of inaccuracy and mild hysteria.

The facts appear to be as follows: some fellow – who quite understandably appears to desire anonymity – decided to have a child, and contacted the Beaumont Society for advice. The Beaumont Society don’t have a lot of knowledge in this area as they predominantly help out MtF spectrum individuals and their families, so they quite sensibly referred the individual in question on to GIRES. The grateful father later got back in contact with the Beaumont Society to thank them for their help, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Of course, that really isn’t a very exciting story. So the British media have taken a few steps to spice it up a little:

1) Exoticise trans pregnancy. Apparently this is the first British man to ever give birth. Except, of course, he isn’t. He’s just the first one they’ve noticed. There are a great many trans men in this country with children, but I suppose if you give birth before having a “sex change” (by which I believe the media mean taking hormones and/or having chest surgery) it doesn’t really count. I mean, you’ve got to be covered in hair to be a “real man”, right? There are probably also several trans guys who have had children prior to transition (at least one guy I know is planning this) but if the media doesn’t know about it, it ain’t happened. Even Pink News fall foul of this one.

2) On a related note: emphasise the international significance. Only around two or three men in the world have ever given birth before! I say “around” because there’s some confusion over this. The Telegraph uncritically quotes the Beaumont Society’s Joanna Darrell, who (purportedly) stated that one trans man gave birth in the United States (Thomas Beatie) and another in Spain. Meanwhile, the Metro states that an additional American and a guy in Israel gave birth after Beatie.

3) Highlight the risks. There is no evidence that trans children are in any particular danger from being born to trans parents, but gosh-darn it there might be! Right? According to the Telegraph: “Last night medical ethics experts called for a full inquiry into the issues surrounding transgender births, saying the interests of the child should not be risked to ‘fulfil the rights of an adult’.” At the heart of this is a very topical concern with trans fertility.

4) Finally, think of the children.  A number of sources are citing Trevor Stammers, Director of Medical Ethics at St. Mary’s University College. Stammers clearly isn’t a fan of queer families:  “The fact that the medical profession is facilitating and encouraging this is a serious problem. You are hardly going to end up with a baby that’s going to have a happy, productive and optimal childhood.

Of course, Stammers himself doesn’t appear to be a medical doctor. Now there’s a surprise.

Getting down with The Guardian

The Guardian has suddenly started to cover trans issues on a regular basis. A quick peek at their archives shows a massive increase in articles which profile trans people or explore trans issues: we’re talking about an article every few days as opposed to one every month or two or – before 2009 – one or two per year.

It does make me wonder what’s sparked this. It can’t be a coincidence: there must have been some decision amongst editors to commission more pieces on trans issues and report trans news stories more often. It seems likely that this trend has been deliberately planned to tie in with Juliet Jacques’ excellent series of articles about transition, but that itself wouldn’t be a root cause. Maybe it’s a response to the growing contributions of openly trans people within the Guardian’s comment threads (such as Natacha Kennedy, who has had the opportunity to write a number of fine articles herself). Maybe it’s a deliberate move away from offering a platform to transphobic voices from within the feminist movement, although I’m sure we’ll see another horrific article from Julie Bindel again at some point.

Still, I’m happy to see this spate of trans-friendly articles, regardless of how it happened to come about. The Guardian is well-known for its centre-left approach but hasn’t always portrayed trans issues in the most positive light (see: aforementioned voices from within the feminist movement!). The newspaper’s website is widely-read, so it’s a great way to reach out to people who otherwise might not come across decent articles about trans people.

The problem is…well, the problems are basically many of those I outlined in my previous entry. Where’s the diversity? What we’ve got is a series of excellent articles by and about white trans women (except this one by none other than…Stephen Whittle, who seems to unintentionally vie with Thomas Beatie for the crown of the One Trans Man In The World). Where are the trans men, the non-white trans people, the cross-dressers, the genderqueers, the androgynes? I’m not asking for diversity for the sake of diversity: it’s just that this current level of homogeneity really is somewhat bizarre.

To be fair to The Guardian, it hasn’t been actively erasing the accounts of those it offers a platform to, so kudos to them for going against the trend and allowing individuals such as lesbian goth comedian Bethany Black to tell her story. Moreover, Juliet Jacques has been doing an impressive job of slipping in references to non-binary identities, referencing trans feminism and rubbishing the typical idea that trans people aim to “deceive” others by trying to pass. Still, this particular piece has been coupled with the picture of a woman applying make-up, and there are articles appearing in which terms like “sex change” are thrown about and transsexed people’s old names are mentioned as a matter of course.

What we’re seeing then is a strange mixture of some genuinely progressive pieces alongside the same old transphobic tropes. It seems likely that comments and complaints from trans readers have got us this far…who knows where we might end up if we keep pushing and they keep listening?

Another man gets pregnant; commentators are “confused”

The tabloids are busily latching onto the next big “pregnant man” story. The second one ever, apparently. And this one’s gay! Or is he a lesbian? Maybe he could be a Threat to Gay Equality Itself.

Scott Moore – who is in a relationship with another trans man – acquired some sperm from a friend, became pregnant, and is having a baby. People are inevitably treating this as a big deal, mainly because they really don’t get it. The comments over at Perez Hilton pretty much sum up the “commonsense” attitude: they’re not really men because they have vaginas, testosterone will HURT THE BABY OH GOD THINK OF THE CHILDREN, and how can someone possibly be a Real Transsexual if he wants to be pregnant?

My answer to all of these questions in short is: get over yourself, and then educate yourself.

Since I’m nice though, here’s some pointers:

1) Trans is an entirely real phenomenon, and is not just in people’s minds. Really. You can look at this from a scientific, biological perspective, or a postmodern, agency-driven perspective, but either way there’s plenty of literature out there discussing the subject. Either way, this fellow is male-identified; he’s a man. He also lives as a man, and appears to have a pretty funky beard. Do you have a funky beard?

2) Some cis* men might fancy getting pregnant. Some trans men fancy getting pregnant. He’s got the bits, so why shouldn’t he? It doesn’t make him any less of a man. After all, some men grow massive moobies which, let’s face it, are basically breasts. That doesn’t make them women, just men with massive moobies. Also, did I mention the funky beard?

3) I’m pretty sure this guy has gone off testosterone for the duration of the pregnancy, just like Thomas Beatie. As such, there’s almost definitely no real risk to the child. If he I didn’t take this precaution, I concede that he’s a bit of a dick. I seriously doubt it though.

4) If you think trans people having a choice in how they use their bodies is a threat to LGBT equality because it seems “freakish”, take a good hard look at how homophobes tend to regard anal sex. Moreover, what’s so freakish about someone wanting to give birth? Shouldn’t that be a beautiful thing?

4) Whilst we’re at it, neither Scott Moore nor Thomas Beatie are quite the pioneers that the media is making them out to be. All power for them for drawing attention to the very existence of trans men for a change, but they’re hardly the only such guys who have been banged up. They’re just the ones that others have caught on to.

Now get on with your lives.

* For the newbies: “cis” means something a little like “non-trans”.