Tracy LaGondino is pregnant, and that news has drawn a fair amount of attention. It's been in People magazine, on "Oprah," all over the Internet. Tracy's baby, due in July, is doing well. But Tracy has a serious problem, and the rest of us do, too.
A 34-year-old who grew up in Hawaii and used to compete in beauty contests -- she was once a finalist in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant -- Tracy, who now calls herself Thomas Beatie, apparently suffers from Gender Identity Disorder, syndrome 302.85 in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. According to news accounts, she has felt uncomfortable with her female identity since adolescence. When she was in her 20s, the Telegraph of London reported, "she became more masculine," began a lesbian relationship, "and researched what it meant to be a transgender male." There followed breast-removal surgery and testosterone injections. Tracy/Thomas grew a beard, changed her legal identity to male, and married her partner, Nancy.
But it takes more than a mastectomy and hormone treatments to overturn biology. Thomas may be a man in the eyes of the law, but she remains physically a woman, with a woman's reproductive system, a woman's genitals, and a woman's chromosomes. So when she and Nancy decided to have a baby, she had little trouble conceiving through artificial insemination. The result is the spectacle that has drawn so much attention: a bearded pregnant woman named Thomas, who identifies herself as a man, and has a lawfully wedded wife.
What you make of all this depends on your political outlook. Transgender activists, radical feminists, and others at the cultural extreme who insist that sex differences between men and women are patriarchal constructs, not hardwired facts of life, will applaud Thomas and Nancy as gender-bending pioneers challenging an oppressive male-female dichotomy. Those of us for whom gender is not a spectrum of possibilities but a matter of either/or are more likely to regard the whole situation as profoundly aberrant and detrimental -- especially for the baby about to be brought into the world.
This story of the pregnant "man" hasn't materialized in a vacuum.
The news out of Texas last week was of the police raid on a polygamist compound in which underage girls have been forcibly "married" to abusive older men. From Australia came word of John and Jennifer Deaves, the 61-year-old father and his 39-year-old daughter who have had two children together and pleaded guilty to incest, but say they just want "a little bit of respect and understanding" for their illicit relationship. These are only the latest in an endless series of reminders that sexual urges and appetites can be powerful and perverse and lead to harmful consequences. That is why human societies have always constrained sexual behavior with equally powerful taboos and moral standards.
Increasingly, though, anyone who upholds those taboos and standards is denounced as a narrow-minded bigot, while those who defy them are celebrated for their nonjudgmentalism and tolerance. (Why, come to think of it, do the people who insist gender is fluid and subjective so often argue the opposite when it comes to race?)
It was Tracy/Thomas who took her story public, writing it up for The Advocate, an online gay magazine.
"How does it feel to be a pregnant man? Incredible," she exulted. "Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am. In a technical sense I see myself as my own surrogate, though my gender identity as male is constant."
Could anything be more incoherent or sad? Gender Identity Disorder is not "incredible," no matter how politically fashionable it has become to claim otherwise. It is not just another hue in the rainbow of diversity. It is a dysfunction. It should be met with sympathy, counseling, and therapy, not with five-page spreads in People and appearances on "Oprah."
Headlines notwithstanding, there is no "pregnant man." There is only a confused and unsettled woman, who proclaims that surgery, hormones, and clothing made her a man, and is clinging to that fiction even as the baby growing in her womb announces her womanhood to the world.