Alex Blaze

On Thomas Beatie coverage, better late than never?

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 09, 2008 2:26 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Morning Joe, MSNBC, Oprah Winfrey, pregnant man, Thomas Beatie, transsexual

Andrew Belonsky tries to find out where GLAAD's been on the Thomas Beatie bashing from last week:

That story broke on Friday, so we figured GLAAD wouldn't get involved until Monday. Well, they didn't. We were a bit disappointed in their silence and decided to do a bit of digging. Rather than addressing our initial questions, the media watchdogs at GLAAD directed us to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center For Transgender Equality, with whom GLAAD has been working on the Beatie story.

Keisling insisted that her team and the kids at GLAAD have been working behind the scenes to work things out with MSNBC. She also informs us that NCTE offered its expertise on the matter prior to Beatie's outing by suggesting medical experts and counseling journalists on how to approach this sensitive story.

No GLAAD representatives would go on the record, but an anonymous activist close to the matter informed us that some leaders are shying away from the Beatie story because they don't want his story to be representative of the entire movement. A pregnant trans man, they claim, does not represent the entire "community," whatever that means. Said the gay: "He has a goal that's different than ours. He wanted to get publicity, sell a book and strike a movie deal." Beatie's unilateral self-interest, it seems, ended up alienating potential allies.

GLAAD assures us, however, that they have spoken to MSNBC to rectify the matter.

If this is true, then that they'd question Thomas's motives like this is unbelievable. It was like some of the comments I read on Oprah's message board about this story: Thomas is at fault for going on Oprah to sell a book. Because he's the first person to try something like that, evidently.

I highly doubt he stopped getting testosterone for two years and attempted pregnancy twice just to sell a book. We all have a right to tell our stories and we should know by now that keeping our mouths shut and falling in line is not the rode to queer liberation.

This could be a watershed opportunity for LGBT people as a whole, and, whether we like it or not, it's out there and people are associating it with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, cross-dressing, queer, genderqueer, intersex, etc. people. Because almost no one makes distinctions between those groups except for us. We can either take this opportunity to educate or leave the spin up to Joe Scarborough.

The straight Media Matters has finally put out a statement on MSNBC's comments from last Friday.

I guess they don't mind being associated with pregnant transmen.


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diddlygrl | April 9, 2008 2:54 PM

So a bunch of idiots on TV make fun of Thomas Beatie? What did you expect? Just like what did Beatie expect when he put himself in the spotlight for his own aggrandisement?

It will get worse, before it gets better, count on it.

Alex,

I tend to agree that Thomas didn't go through the lack of 'mones etcetera just to write a book. He also said both on Oprah and prior to Oprah that he felt the only way to control anything at all about his story was to tell it himself, and I agree with that. One thing is always true, if a trans person has their story printed without their input, it will invariably have motives and reasons attribuited to it that range from wrong to downright bigotted; so it makes sense that he would want to put his side of things out there first. It helps define the field of battle as it were with the media.

I have seen a lot of folks over the last few weeks shying away from the story because:
1) they know it is going to be sensationalized by those opposed to trans and trans rights,
2) it really IS going to make things harder (though not intentionally) for some involved in on the ground work trying to get rights and treatment for gender variant peoples, particularly children,
and 3) many of us have become wedded to a particular version or method of deconstructing the current gender paradigm in our culture, are significantly invested is particular outcomes, and this is a socially disruptive element to those particular methods and storylines. It is not everyone's story. It is not every transman's story. It is Thomas Beatie's particular story. Nevertheless in the American reductionist communication structure it will be reduced to being every gender variant person's responsibility to respond to it; even post-op trans women are going to be challenged to explain it if they are at all out about who they are, though nothing could be further removed from their experience. That creates a whole pile of uncomfortability.

My solution is to let it be. Let him tell his own story. If he gets a book deal out of it, good on 'em. Ultimately all exposure informs and enlightens. If people ask me, I ask them to hear his story and listen compassionately to a person trying to live thier life the best they can. Judgement is not ours to render; we do not walk in his shoes. Those that fear the difficulties in what he is doing, perhaps they could offer him help in overcoming those difficulties rather than just condemnation?

Since when did GLAAD start standing judgement on the individules in a media story and their motives? I though their job was to take the media to task on the negetive sterotypes they generate whenever LGBT people are covered. Are they using this as an excuse to soft pedal on trans issues like they have done in the past? Heaven help the media if a lesbian was getting poor treatment for her self-publisized pregancy. Donna Rose is on their board. Why hasn't she taken them to task on this?

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | April 9, 2008 5:54 PM

I've been commenting since yesterday over at Salon's Broadsheet in defense of Thomas Beatie. On the issue of monetary motives, I've said that I hope Beatie is making a FORTUNE because even if he is, it won't make up for the pain of being subjected to the torrent of hate--shamefully, a portion of it from the trans community--directed at him and his family.

Frankly, I don't care if he is looking for teh money. He's putting himself out there on the front lines for LGBT families; why not benefit from it and from the difficulties of being trans in this world if he can?

As for GLAAD, ask me if I'm surprised that other establishment gays don't want to be sullied by any association with us trannies.

Sigh.

There is a more positive article on AlterNet today, titled "Pregnant Men".

A quote from the end of the article:

http://www.alternet.org/sex/81791/

"...I think they can, but not for the same reasons they might accept Obama. Beatie is not a political creation like Obama -- he's the creation of medical technology, pure and simple. Hormones and surgery made him male. Artificial insemination made him pregnant. There would have been no way to accept Beatie 10 years ago because he literally could not have existed. But contemporary medical technology has given us a chance.

Considering Beatie in that context -- as the release version of a new kind of biotech-enabled man -- makes it clear why this is happening now.

Of course, social changes have a lot to do with his emergence into the public spotlight. Gender roles are shifting, and it's often hard to say what it means anymore to be a "real man" or a "real woman." The vast majority of people may have a common-sense definition of masculine and feminine, but even those definitions have changed a lot over the past 50 years.

So maybe medical technology is just now catching up with cultural shifts, or maybe cultural shifts are pushing us to use technologies we've had for a while in new gender-blurring ways. All I know is that biotechnology is making theories of gender fluidity concrete, making ideas into flesh. And we're seeing a pattern that always emerges when we're right on the edge of accepting a big social change. First, the ideas turn into something real that people can touch -- or, in the case of Beatie, talk to. And then comes the next phase. Whatever that may be."

FWIW, on The View on Tuesday, Barbara Walters said that she had spoken "extensively" with the Beaties over the weekend. Apparently based on those conversations, she reported that they are receiving NO MONEY for appearing on Oprah or from People magazine. Whether there is a book deal in the works is unknown. In any case, this information makes their claim that they went public so they could control their story much more credible in my mind. You can watch the video clip of that segment of The View here:
http://pageoneq.com/news/2008/theview_beatie040908.html