The concept of gender in mainstream culture is becoming less conservative by the day. Of course it's not like being at Smith, but when Benny Ninja can vogue his little butt off on a graffiti-ed stage with a bunch of drag queens during prime time and no one bats an eyelash, you know things have come pretty far since Leave it to Beaver. One of the last truly gendered events is pregnancy — unless you're Thomas Beatie. Thomas is a man, and he's knocked up. Well more specifically, Thomas is biologically a woman, but he decided to go through gender reassignment. Getting down to the nuts (heh) and bolts of it, Thomas took testosterone and had his breasts removed, but he kept the vagina. His partner, Nancy, is unable to bear children, and because the pair really wanted a biological baby, Thomas went off his bi-monthly testosterone injections and after a few harrowing attempts, is now expecting a baby girl in July.
But this joyous occasion did not come without a price. In a personal essay in the Advocate, Thomas writes about all of the prejudice he faced when trying to find adequate medical care. One doctor, "after a $300 consultation, reluctantly performed my initial checkups. He then required us to see the clinic's psychologist to see if we were fit to bring a child into this world and consulted with the ethics board of his hospital. A few months and a couple thousand dollars later, he told us that he would no longer treat us, saying he and his staff felt uncomfortable working with 'someone like me.'" Even Thomas's own brother was unkind, telling Thomas after his first pregnancy turned out ectopic, "It's a good thing that happened. Who knows what kind of monster it would have been."
Thomas isn't the only transmale facing difficulties. In last Sunday's New York Times Magazine, there was a story about the opposition transmen are facing at women's colleges. The piece profiled Rey, a college freshman who started his university career at Barnard, only to transfer to Columbia because of the number of issues he faced. According to writer Alissa Quart, Rey is not alone in his alienation: "Many trans students feel themselves to be excluded or isolated at women's schools and at coed colleges. Some talk of being razzed or insulted by fellow students." But Quart also discusses the question of how colleges meant for women are supposed to serve people who no longer identify as women in the first place.
Will society ever be able to accommodate all the facets of the gender spectrum? Or will cases like Thomas's and Rey's always be a struggle for acceptance and personal freedom?