Evidently. In thinking about some of the things that have been in the news lately, I realized that in the first Rona Shively book, In the Wash, I might not have given the issue of Gender Reassignment its due. Being the concise writer that I am, I didn’t dwell on the mechanics of the process undergone by the missing character in this story, however, I did touch on the emotional distress that she was in during her brief marriage to Rona’s client, Mr. Delvecchio.
We’ve all been hearing about the pregnant man, Thomas Beatie. At the time that the story broke, I was pregnant with our second child and having had several miscarriages in the past, I understood his motivation and I didn’t necessarily begrudge he and his wife of being able to carry and deliver a healthy child. Whether I agreed with their approach or not, I understood the pain of not being able to bring a child into the world and trying to find some way to make it happen. Sadly, at our sixteen week mark, we discovered that we had miscarried once again and as I looked back at the story about the pregnant man, I became angry. I was not only angry at him, I was angry at just about anyone who was able to have a baby. This was irrational, of course, and definitely a short-lived reaction. But it was a gut reaction to our loss and I have since been able to process it with a little more compassion in my heart.
Thomas Beatie was, at one time, a woman. For whatever reason, she decided that she wanted to be a man. I’m not sure why, but she also decided to keep her female reproductive organs. Since, according to his article in the March 26 edition of the Advocate.com online newsletter, sterilization is not required as part of gender reassignment surgery, he decided to maintain his reproductive rights as a female. This turned out to be a good decision for him because he and his wife wanted children and as it turned out, she was unable to have them. Although it wasn’t a popular or even practical idea, Thomas decided that he would attempt to carry a child. He stated that, “Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire.” I have to agree.
After five miscarriages, we still very much want another child. We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful daughter four years ago, but we have always wanted to give her a sibling. Although intriguing, I can’t imagine having my husband carry a child for us even if he were physically able to do so. I have always felt that women share a special bond with their children that men miss out on. The experience of carrying a child would definitely give men the perspective that I feel they have been lacking when it comes to child rearing, but the idea pretty much scares most people to death because it is so far from traditional beliefs about childbearing and gender issues. While it may not be part of the Divine plan, it’s happening for the Beatie family.
As I think about it, our society has always viewed anything related to transgenders with either contempt or a strange mix of scorn and compassion which comes out through humorous portrayal of their plight. For me, it is a tough issue to wrap my mind around. I have always been comfortable with my sexual identity as a female. The only times I have wanted to be a male have been related to being able to pee in inconvenient places or when it was time to get a raise. Not to make light of the situation, but for me, it has never been part of any internal conflict. So I can’t imagine how difficult life would be if I were struggling with wanting to be a different gender.
I have never felt that it was my place to judge people or to dictate how people live their lives. I grew up with only limited exposure to church and conventional religion and have been open to the ideas of different groups as they relate to a Higher Power. Most of what I learned along the way seems to have pointed to how wrong it is to do something like what Thomas Beatie is doing. But for me, there is some conflict involved in judging him so harshly. He doesn’t answer to me and I certainly don’t have the power or authority to say whether or not he is right or wrong in what he is doing. It’s all wrapped up in fate, karma, and just what feels right for me. As long as I am doing what I believe is right and I’m not trying to inflict any emotional or physical pain on anyone, I feel that I am doing what my God wants and expects me to do. In short, I am no longer angry and I wish the Beaties all the best in their quest to grow a family.
In my book, In the Wash, Lucy Deardon’s character was plagued by a desire to be something other than what she was. She tried and tried to adjust to life as a female, but, in the end, she decided that becoming a man was the only option that felt right. Along the way, some people were hurt, mostly because they felt that her anguish was somehow a sinister plan to hurt or humiliate them, but it was really all about what felt right for Lucy. Before I wrote this book, I never really thought about the plight of the transgendered. I would watch funny movies like To Wong Foo or The Birdcage and think that these people simply enjoyed cross-dressing. Obviously, there’s more to it than this and whether or not it makes sense to me, it will most likely always be an issue.
Until next time…