In April 2008, news about an Oregon man’s impending parenthood spawned a media tsunami across the US and even internationally. The pregnant man was Thomas Beatie, a transgender man who had had “top” surgery and been on hormone therapy but had stopped taking testosterone in anticipation of getting pregnant. For trans people in the U.S., much of Beatie’s narrative resonated with their own experience. While it is rare, but not unheard of in trans communities, for people who have transitioned to give birth, his larger story of discrimination in the health care industry is depressingly familiar. But among trans people, Beatie’s story was of interest primarily because it generated so much scrutiny in the mainstream media. What really roiled trans communities in 2007-08 was the decision by Representative Barney Frank and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to exclude transgender people from the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). While so many people now know a man can get pregnant, relatively few people outside of queer communities are aware of the ENDA debacle, even though it is of much greater significance to the lives of transgender people. This article examines the links between the media frenzy over the pregnant man and the decision to exclude gender identity from the main sexual orientation non-discrimination bill in 2007.
By Paisley Currah, 2008