LGBT and human-rights activist Thomas Beatie spoke at Northwestern University's Swift Hall Feb. 23. About 50 people attended the talk sponsored by Northwestern University student group Kaibigan.
Known as the world's first pregnant man, Beatie gained national attention when his story first appeared in The Advocate. He later appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live, as well as in People Magazine and many other media outlets. Founder of the screen printing and clothing company Define Normal, Beatie is also the author of Labor of Love: The Story of One Man's Extraordinary Pregnancy.
Following introductions by Angelica Cabrera and Jermaine Dictado, co-presidents of Kaibigan, Beatie spoke about his life and work as an activist.
Beatie began by making a joke that he isn't Jon Gosselin. Then Beatie explained that he sees himself as a man who just wanted a family. He noted that fame and fortune were never his intentions and becoming an activist for the transgender community was accidental.
Then Beatie explained that during his childhood he always wanted to be like his father and that he always felt like a boy. Beatie noted that he was always a tomboy; however, after his mother committed suicide his father pushed Beatie to discard his tomboyish ways. At his father's urging, Beatie became a model and was a finalist in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA pageant.
While attending college Beatie said he discovered who he was and the words that described his gender identity. It was then that he cut his hair and changed the way he dressed. Beatie said that he felt happier and more analytical and driven following his initial surgeries: "I believe our dreams are universal. ... We owe it to ourselves to find out who we are."
In the years that followed, Beatie petitioned and won the right to have all of his legal documents changed to reflect his chosen name and his status as a male. Beatie explained that he always wanted to be a father, however, his wife Nancy couldn't bare children due to health issues. Since Beatie still had his female sex organs, the couple decided that he was the best choice to carry their children. "I felt like I was man enough to be pregnant," said Beatie.
After the birth of their first child, Susan, the couple faced a number of legal obstacles, including how they would be listed on the birth certificate. Beatie has since given birth to two sons, Austin and Jensen and although their children are a year apart in age, Beatie noted that they act like triplets (their children share the same biological father). The couple is currently in the process of getting a divorce.
During the Q&A session, Beatie was asked about the results of his surgery; he explained that he can still have children since he didn't have a hysterectomy. As for the reaction to his story, Beatie said he was blown away by the negativity when the story first broke. When asked about his relationship with his father, Beatie explained that their relationship has improved enough that his father now refers to him as his son. People don't really take notice of him for the most part and the people who do recognize him are supportive, Beatie explained.
All proceeds from the evening went to the charity Believe International.
See www.definenormal.com/PregnantMan/Home.html for more information on Beatie. For more about Kaibigan, visit groups.northwestern.edu/kaibigan and www.facebook.com/groups/2200021994.