Monday, March 31, 2008

Gender roles, schmender roles...

Or so would say Thomas Beatie, a transgendered man who is carrying a baby for himself and his female partner, who is unable to conceive children.

The full story was originally published in the LGBT magazine, The Advocate.

Beatie used anonymous frozen sperm, and he and his partner inseminated at home. They are expecting a daughter on July 3, 2008. The couple decided Beatie would carry their child because Beatie's partner had to have a hysterectomy due to severe endometriosis.

This story, I'm sure which has caused huge amounts of outrage and backlash by transphobic people, is full of legal, ethical, medical, and moral issues.

If this story is legit (he is scheduled to make a public announcement tomorrow on April Fool's Day), Beatie will become possibly the first father to ever bear his own child.

The gender-bending at work here is nearly mind-numbing. In other words, can those who oppose two biological women as parents on the basis of "needing a male and female role model" oppose this couple?

Is gender behavior so set in stone by biology that this child will not have a father figure and a mother figure? (as a healthcare professional who works with a large portion of transgendered people, who has been fooled several times, I can assure you that most of you would not even know if you were talking to a transman).

Since the focus of most opposition to same-sex parenting lies in the fact that these children are denied their natural father by two lesbian mothers, are Beatie and his wife an acceptable alternative?

Let's take a gander at some of Britain's right-wingers:

quite outrageous really
pauls patter 26 Mar 2008 09:10

"To quote a well known comedienne, "Ooh, it makes me so angry I could go....... tut!"
It is a poor reflection on our society, that this 'Brave New World' rewards perversion, rather than promoting heterosexual marriage and the nuclear family

Ricks Rants 26 Mar 2008 09:31

"will be like squeezing toothpaste from a tube.

A shocking story and it shows we have gone too far

abelian 26 Mar 2008 10:08

"The fact that she/he/it still has a womb should remind her/him that she/he will always remain woman no matter what she does... it is all in the chromosomes and no amount of tinkering can change that"

This poor child..
The Locksmith 26 Mar 2008 10:45

"..will grow up with a perverted and contorted view of life and the world around it.

If these people want to ruin their own lives then so be it, but to ruin the life of an innocent child should be a criminal act and they should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves

*end of quotes*

Mkay, so they aren't much different from U.S. conservatives.

Oh wait, I missed one more. A view that I think a lot of transphobic people share:

This is insane
Dr Finlays Casebook 26 Mar 2008 15:45

"My opinion of "transgender" people is that they are nutcases that society, science and the medical profession are pandering too by inventing procedures to allow them to "change sex". They always use the excuse that they feel like a man/woman trapped in the opposite sex's body. How do they know what it feels like to be the opposite sex, are they just going by what is written and shown to be the stereotypical images used by the media. If people are gay or lesbian that is up to them but to have people who I honestly believe are insane given rights and anti discrimination laws is itself insanse and I don't really think that I would feel happy or safe having to work with someone who has mental issues as bad as this. I was reading about the magazine that originally carried this story, it is a magazine for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Don't gays and lesbians feel a bit patronised by having all of these groups lumped together in one journal."

I see the same types of arguments coming up against gay people all the time. How do people know they are gay? There is no way to refute this because it is all based on individual perception and experience. There is no way to counter this without saying, "It's just something I've felt my entire life." We hear stories of little boys dressing as girls from the time they were able to choose what they wore.

For gender identity and sexual attraction, it IS often unexplainable. It IS often just a feeling, albeit one that is wrapped around so many other social situations that we can not escape it. The same way heterosexuals are "just attracted to the opposite sex," so are gay people "just attracted to the same sex." I guess without a sense of empathy or compassion, it is impossible for opponents of GLBT persons to get. If science could prove a "gay gene" or what part of the brain makes people heterosexual or gay or bisexual, perhaps some of our opponents would lighten up. Perhaps if science could prove what makes certain individuals transgender, they would feel a little more compassion for them in world that has often treated them THE MOST harshly of any "outcast" group.

Yet, we should not need science to prove that being gay or transgender (because I have no problem "lumping" transgender persons into the GLB category) is not simply a lifestyle choice. People are. They always have been. So the argument goes, why would anyone choose to live a life that society is so strongly against?

And so what if their child has some confusion initially about how she was conceived? I would bank on the fact that millions of children of heterosexuals also have to wonder who their true parents are. If Beatie's daughter has a loving, happy home, who is anyone else to say that her parents do not have the right to conceive her? Heterosexuals consistently bring children into this world that they have no intention of raising or loving, at alarmingly high rates.

Yet, gays and lesbians (and now transgendered people) are held to stricter, arbitrary standards of morality that heterosexuals are not. And, even further than that, they are simulatenously blamed for the problem of unwed mothers and banned from helping to prevent it. Convenenient dichotomy for the mega-churches.

Anyway, if this story is indeed true, then I wish Beatie and his wife the best with their family. If this turns out to be an April Fool's Day hoax, I applaud them for making everyone stop to think about the true meaning of "gender roles" and the "need" for them in society.

(Thanks for sending me this article, John!)


John said...

"I guess without a sense of empathy or compassion, it is impossible for opponents of GLBT persons to get.

Or, one could do what I did.

As a teen, I participated in an experiment with some friends to observe same-sex and opposite sex attraction.

It makes thing abundantly clear.

Fannie said...

Wow, there's a lot to think about in this case. The knee-jerk right-wing reactions are interesting, though.

Jane Know said...

I think the issue here is personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Why do right-wingers try to limit others' personal behavior and ability to live a full and happy life? A life that fits them best? People are not robots, nor cookie-cutter images of each other. They can not honestly or realistically say that children of GLBT parents are any less happy than the children of "nuclear families." It is not their job to order everyone to fit their own morality, values, or religion.

John said...

"I think the issue here is personal liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Right on! Jane, Right on.

As you say, this case raises many issues, but in my opinion, there is no "morality"question at all.

Jane Know said...

The ignorance surrounding transgender people is astounding. I just read the 158 comments on the ABC version of the story, and it was a bit ridiculous. People denying that Beatie is a "man" because he doesn't have male organs... and others saying "sick sick sick" or "this world is going to Hell." Gender is as much a social construct as it is biology. Yes, Beatie was born a female, and will probably always have some female reproductive organs (unless she gets a full hysterectomy), but I can guarantee he has passed completely as a man until he came out publicly with this story. The only person who knew his history was the one person he sleeps with, his wife (and maybe friends). It's just funny that people can get so upset about it, yet most would never be able to tell if they were even talking to a trans-person, or an inter-sexed person. That's how easy it is to "pass."

And people say that gender roles are strict biology... yeah right.

Zoe Brain said...

I must differ a little on some of the things that have been said.

Gender Roles are (almost completely) a social construct, but Gender itself isn't.

No-one knows that better than someone who's TS.

Many are relatively comfortable in a gender role different from their gender, but being a boy, a girl, a not-boy, not-girl, androgyne, third-sex, neuter, genderqueer... those appear to be innate.

And having a body that doesn't match the gender can cause discomfort, varying from a mild background irritation to utter misery.

Typical examples - men who are born Intersexed with ambiguous genitalia. Women who are born transsexual with male genitalia, and male bodies. Even if they're "tomboys" happy in a male gender role, even if they're lesbian, so partake of straight privilege.

Just talk to them. Look at those men and women born with xy chromosomes and the 5ARD or 17BHDD intersex conditions. They all look female at birth. They masculinise at (late) puberty. For the strongly-gendered guys, it's an enormous relief, for the strongly-gendered gals, it's a descent into hell. And for some it's something they can live with either way.

There's been various experiments - autopsies in the past, now dynamic MRI scans - that show just how different typically-male and typically-female brains are in various areas.
"Radiologists can now confirm what transsexuals report - that they feel “trapped in the wrong body” - on the basis of the activation of the brain when presented with erotic stimuli. There is obviously a biological correlation with the subjective feelings." - ArzteZeitung

TS people's narratives about "being born with the wrong shaped body" have been dismissed as signs of "mental illness", as they lacked any proof of their claims. Well, now they have the proof, but their narratives are often dismissed now due to the accepted wisdom that "Gender is a social construct (with no biological component)".

IMHO... Gender Roles are influenced by biology, or we wouldn't see the commonality of behaviour in widely separated societies with little or no interaction. But the higher the technology, the less the biology is relevant: in modern western society, the influence of biology, while not completely negligible, is almost so. The oppression women suffer is almost completely due to purely social forces - the Patriarchy if you will.

Stellewriter said...

's book there is more to recognize than is at face value...

Every ten minutes a child is born, 1/2500, in which the doctor cannot determine the sex, or gender. This is not talking about homosexuality, but tragically a congenital condition of birth which can be caused by endocrine agents and chemicals. These children are Intersex; they are born into a life of not male or female. Likewise in similar fashion the Transsexual is identified with a Bioneurological congenital condition, and they too are locked into something not quite so clearly defined as male, or female. The best we can do is live as close to what we seem to believe we are. Stellewriter – Conservative Christian, Parent, and Transsexual.

Paul Jamieson said...

This case reminds me of that old Beatles song

"She's a Woman"

end of story

Jane Know said...

Thank you for your comment, zoe brain. I agree that gender itself is biology, while gender roles are a social consruct. My point was that people try to misuse biological evidence of gender differences as a basis for discrimination against GLBT people and parents, AND feminists... or anything that doesn't maintain a patriarchal society with strict gender roles (working dad and stay-at-home mom). I think the distinction you make is right on. That gender is biology, while gender roles are social constructs.