Saturday, November 22, 2008

Open Forum: Is Thomas Beatie a Hermaphrodite by Choice?

The word hermaphrodite is mythological and it describes someone who is both fully male and female. This is a biological impossibility.

However, with the case of Thomas Beatie, the "pregnant man" it brings into question whether someone who elects to go through some sex-altering procedures could be classified as a hermaphrodite.

Thomas Beatie is a female to male transsexual. He has removed his breasts, gone on testosterone, and as a result has develop more masculinized features. He has opted to keep his vagina, and uterus so he can give birth.

The testosterone has helped his clitoris grow into a penis. Essentially Thomas Beatie does have both a penis and a vagina, which by birth is impossible but through surgery can become a reality.

Does this make Thomas Beatie a hermaphrodite? Would a trans person who fits in this category find the term offensive if the term hermaphrodite was used in a different context to reflect this modern phenomenon?

48 comments:

Scot said...

I'm right in the midst of compiling an article on causes of homosexuality and just read a bunch of papers on intersexed individuals.

Humans can actually be born as a chimeric with both male and female cells in any percentage. They can also be born with both male and female reproductive tissue (though, neither would work without chemical help). Also, some genetic females with congenital adrenal hyperplasia can be born with a clitoris large enough to be thought of as a penis (though only about 50% of them will be sexually oriented towards women).

In a way I think the argument could be made that, if the structure of Thomas Beatie's brain does indeed give him a male identity, then his body on whole was intersexed from the day of his birth, and from there it was just a matter of making the biology of the body match that of the mind.

Nicky said...

Hell NO. Thomas Beatie, would not be accepted as an intersex or be allowed to call itself an intersex. Thomas Beatie is a transsexual and can not be called an intersex. The main reason is that Thomas Beatie or any transsexual does not know what being intersex is all about. They don't know what it's like to have a secret. To have your medical information withheld from you and having doctors and parents lie to you about what you are. They don't know what's it like to have you medical records kept very secretive and very guarded from you. Thomas Beatie wouldn't know or understand what it feels like to be poke, prodded and stripped naked and shown in front of a group of doctors. Thomas Beatie wouldn't understand and know what it feels like to be regarded as a medical oddity or know what it feels like when you have doctors taking photographs of you as you to be used for their medical studies and medical research.

So basically, Thomas Beatie is a transsexual and is not allowed to be called an intersex. Intersex is born with and something that you have at birth, not given freely. Your either born intersex or not and Thomas Beatie is not born an intersex.

So lets make this very clear, Thomas Beatie is not an intersex and I as an intersex would never consider Thomas Beatie an intersex person because she's not born intersex and not intersex at birth.

Ben Stock of Brainpower said...

Thomas Beattie has spoken about who he is and what his body parts are called.

If we know who we are we would not have this discussion or vote.

Ben Stock of Brainpower
art business education for homeless LGBT youth
New York City

JT said...

I think it's entirely up to Thomas Beatie how he define himself. If he considers himself a hermaphrodite, then that's his identity. I'm all for validating one's own lived experiences. The intersex person above who said he/she would not accept Thomas Beatie as an intersex individual -- well, that's like cis-gendered women telling MTFs that they would not accept MTFs as real women. Or, even people who tell other people of the same biological sex that they would not accept them as that sex because they are too feminine or too masculine or whatever. Validating one's own lived experiences is an important concept in feminism, and that's what I believe in.

Queers United said...

Well this entry is not about trying to label Mr. Beaties gender, sex, or sexuality. He identifies as a male who has internal female parts capable for reproduction and I accept that.

My question though is would someone like Mr. Beatie be able to technically fit the term hermaphrodite. Hermaphroditism is a biological impossibility, it is not the same as intersex. Intersex have some degree of male and female, but no intersex person can be 100% both male and female. So hermaphrodites are more mythical, but in this scenario it seems Mr. Beatie whether he would choose the label or not could technically break the myth and fit into this new category?

Anonymous said...

I'm a transman and I do have a secret. I have a secret everyday at work. I have a secret every time I take a step outside my home. My secret is that i was born female and that I identify and live as a gay/queer man. My secret is that the 6 chidren we have were brought into this world by me and male spouse.

Edward-38 year old transdad to 6 kids, married to a bio man, gay/queer identified.
I often feel intersexed...meaning that I am both. I was born both. My genitals just looked all girl but who I was, how my brain worked, how I felt, is more male. How come that can't be a form of intersexed?

Science is not to a place that can explain or tell the world why transsexualism exists.

I do not know what it is like to have experienced doctors taking pictures for medical research or having my medical history hidden from me. What I do know is that I have been turned down from medical treatment for a lack of understanding. What I do know is that I amconsidered to be "mentally ill" with Identity dyphoria and in need of treatment. Others can try to tell me if I am a real man or simply a female always a female or in need of mental health treatment when I feel just fine.

CAn Thomas Beatie be a hermaphrodite by choice? I don't know. Can a transsexual be intersexed?

There is no one answer. No right and wrong. Like the poster above stated...if Thomas Beatie identifies as such then so be it...if not then he is not.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a silly discussion to me. He or she is just a human being. Who cares about the other labels. I wish him well.

Nicky said...

Well, As an intersex and someone with a validated intersex condition called Kallmann's syndrome. Thomas Beattie would not be called an intersex because to be born intersex at birth, one has to have a genetic DNA, physical and biological abnormality. Thomas Beattie would not be accepted as an intersex or a hermaphrodite. No intersex would accept Thomas Beattie as one of them because Thomas Beattie is not intersex born intersex and doesn't have the experience or life experience as an intersex.

Such as having an extra chromosome in the human body. Physically having anatomical abnormalities such as incomplete genitals. On the biological scale, having body parts that don't fit the normal male and female system.

The problem is that Thomas Beattie, is not an intersex and can't be called, or allowed to be called an intersex. That is because Thomas Beattie is a transsexual and not an intersex. Thomas Beattie is not born with an intersex condition at birth and is not even remotely an intersex person.

This is the problem with the transgender community, that pisses me and the intersex community. They seem to not have no idea what it's like to be born intersex. They think being intersex is easy, but it's not. See, what the trans community doesn't understand is that they don't know what's it like to be intersex. They don't have the understanding or don't know what it's like to be born intersex. They don't know what it's like to have your parents and doctors hide your medical information from you. They don't know what it feels like to have your medical information kept as a guarded secret, withheld from you. The TS community doesn't know what it feels like to be poke, prodded and examined like a lab rat. They don't know what if feels like to be stripped naked and having every doctor looking at you and examining you.

So to make it very clear, Thomas Beattie can not be called an intersex because Thomas Beattie is not intersex born intersex at birth. Thomas Beattie doesn't have the life experience to be intersex and doesn't know what it's like to be intersex.

Queers United said...

Nicky nobody is calling Beatie intersex, you are obsessed with hating on trans people. Please also stop commenting as anonymous on the Transgender Day of Remembrance post, I will keep deleting your transphobic comments, and it is obviously you. You are the only person who keeps displaying trans hatred and saying intersex is legit and trans is not. You are entitled to think that, but this blog is inclusive of transgender, and intersex people and it will remain that way, if you don't like it this might not be the best place for you to visit.

Nicky said...

Yet, the way you worded your post, your calling Thomas Beattie and intersex and I am saying that Thomas Beattie is not an intersex and Thomas Beattie is a transsexual.

You seem to mix them two up and confuse intersex with trans.

Queers United said...

No, I said Thomas Beatie may be a hermaphrodite. Intersex people are not hermaphrodites, it is a biological impossibility to be born herm.

Das said...

Much as I dislike Nicky's rancour toward my kind, I must point out that hermaphroditism is not biologically impossible, but rather the term "hermaphrodite" is no longer used. http://www.isna.org/faq/conditions/ovo-testes

Yes, there have been mythical hermaphrodites, and when the medical community started naming intersex conditions, it went to the myths. Kind of like Freud and the Oedipus complex.

So, no, Thomas Beatie is not a hermaphrodite, but a transsexual man.

Queers United said...

Das - that still is not 100% of both, its a combination, or one lacking. So that is intersex but not herm. I know they call it "true hermaphroditism" but I think it is due to a lack of knowledge back in the day.

Nicky said...

See, hermaphrodite is the older term that was being used, but now intersex is the more commonly used term, though that term is being hijacked by some trans people because they see the intersex as blame free and the grass is greener. I just think that is practically and medically impossible for Thomas Beattie to be intersex because Thomas Beattie isn't born intersex.

Anonymous said...

I think Nicky is pretty spot on except for the hating on trans people part.

I feel like a lot of transsexual people have a really bad understanding and appropriation of intersex people's experiences that needs to stop, but at the same time I also think that transsexual people's identities are legitimate.

I definitely think that transsexual people who appropriate intersex experiences could be called out and asked to stop without insulting and delegitimizing them in the process.

Diane J Standiford said...

Wow. I have a male brain in female body. Trapped for life. Beattie has not stated, that I've heard, that he was born with a penis et. al.; hermaphodites have all body parts and for years ddoctors just decided with parents which parts to remove or keep and they were(still goes on I believe) treated over years with hormones. If the brain was male and the parents chose male---no problem; if not, the person suffered greatly. Beattie was not born w/any male body parts (except most important part--brain), so no, not an intersex (new word to me)...I understand Nicky's frustration because if I had been lied to and been so close to being male...hard to live with.

Das said...

So, QueersUnited, wrangling over terms aside, may I take your meaning here to be something along the line of Beattie's tapping into something that is deeply meaningful in human ways of thinking, tapping into the same source that gave birth to the hermaphrodite of ancient in the first place?

Maybe he is.

Nicky said...

See, what I am trying to get to, is that a lot of trans people out their who, misuse, hijack and mislabel themselves as intersex, when they don't have a clue or what it really means to be born intersex. Their perception in their head,is that they think intersex is blame free, the grass is greener or that they associate intersex with their view and lifestyle. I even have heard some trans calling themselves intersex when they don't show and present the clinical, biological, physiological and genetic DNA signs of being intersex. They just use the label, like if it's interchangeable to them or they use it as a way to escape being called trans or use it as an excuse when people ask them why they are that way.

See, I agree that Thomas Beatie can't be called an intersex. When you start attaching the intersex label to Thomas Beatie who clearly can't be intersex, that creates a whole set of confusion and identity issues on what's intersex and what's trans. As a result, it would cause a huge mix up.

Queers United said...

Sex is about biological sex, male, female, somewhere in between physically. Gender is about identity (in the head) male, female, somewhere in between, but gender identity is internal and can be expressed externally.

Nicky said...

But you can't mix those two up. Gender is about the brain and sex is about biology. So you can't say that gender identity is the same as biology without proof.

Queers United said...

I keep saying in every post I make that intersex and transgender are 2 different things. I support both.

Nicky said...

But why do you combine the two, when you should separate them. The way you are doing it, it makes it look like that intersex is part of trans or that intersex is the same thing as trans.

Seth said...

Nicky, are you familiar with the terms "tilting at windmills" or "straw man argument?" QU has never said that trans and intersex are the same. Examining the similarities (and differences) is not equivalent to saying that they are the exact same. You're looking for a fight so you can call transfolk "it" (or any pronoun but the one they'd prefer) and talk about how their identities aren't valid. Most of your comments are just thinly veiled attempts to get a platform for your hatred toward those of us who only want to be your allies. Hopefully you'll realize that someday and we can work together, whether we identify as being the same or not.

Queers United said...

Thank you Seth.

Jay said...

i don't think this is a viable argument. for one thing, i don't think you understand the changes one goes through with testosterone. as a transgender man who has been on testosterone for a year now, it is impossible for testosterone to grow a clitoris into a penis. while transmen (myself included) refer to our genitalia with male words, testoterone does not make us have penises.
also, as an intersex ally, i find the term hermaphrodite pretty offensive in general. it's an antiquated medical term which for all purposes is impossible, as you point out.
like some other comments above, i think you're confusing two separate issues.

L said...

@Nicky: It is true that *some* transgendered individuals often feel as if being transgendered and intersex people share the exact same experiences, and no, it isn't fair for you to be belittled by people who don't understand you. However, Thomas Beatie is not a woman and *certainly* not an "it" and for you to say so is extremely disrespectful. I understand why you're angry at the transgendered community, but taking it out on one person you've never spoken to just because he's a member of that community isn't right either.

@QU: I enjoy your blog most of the time, but I find this discussion to be inappropriate. Transfolk are often prodded and questioned about their bodies because cis people expect to have their curiosity satiated about something that is none of their business. Although your intent is not to question Thomas Beattie's gender identity, it comes across as though his body is an question to be pondered. Theoretical questions are one thing, but I find it uncomfortable when the discussion is about a specific person.

Queers United said...

Jay - I certainly don't have first hand experience, but from what I have heard from some transmen I know is that a small penis does develop, and some grow as large as about 4inches.

L - Thanks for the kind words, I am sorry if you tell this convo is inappropriate. The idea is not to question Mr. Beaties gender identity, his decision or even to focus on him as an individual. I use his story because the concept of a pregnant man was unheard of and unknown before his story hit the world.

As for "hermaphrodite" being an antiquated word, it is, but I can't help but scratch my head and wonder if the term could be applied to someone who is ftm and chooses to give birth. Just like queer, tranny, and dyke, have been reclaimed in some communities, and now fag on a smaller scale, I wonder if hermaphrodite could be used in a positive context.

Nicky said...

L- The only thing I am angry at is when you see trans people misusing the intersex label without knowing what it feels like to be born intersex. They think being intersex is easy to them and they think that being intersex gives them a free pass. They seem to cheapen the experience of those who are born intersex.

Then explain why is it fair for a trans person and the trans community to use, abuse and prop up the intersex identity for their own gain. Why is it that the trans community is allowed to cheapen the experience of those who are born intersex and erase the experience of those born intersex.
Here's my question, how come I don't see people who call out trans who misuse the intersex label and tell them to stop misusing the intersex label.

As for Thomas Beatie, She's still a woman because of her reproductive tract that is still inside of her and here's something to think about. What would call a woman a woman because she had her breast removed because of cancer? Would you call a woman a woman because she had her ovaries and uterus removed because of cancer.

Seth-I see it because when someone draws similarities, they tend to mix them up without clearly separating them. I think that you don't understand what it's like to be intersex and I think you see intersex through the eyes of the transfolk and don't know fully what it's like to be intersex. My comments are far more solid than yours.

L said...

Nicky: You're right, it isn't fair. No community should ever appropriate or silence the experience and voice of another group of people.

You're also right that transgendered people who misuse the term intersex should be called out. If people haven't been doing the callouts then that isn't fair to you, either. All I can do is try to call it out as I see it and inform other people enough so they can do the same. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to call out you or anyone else for using improper pronouns.

If a woman has a hysterectomy/masectomy, she is still a woman as long as she identifies herself as much. Gender identity is more complex than what chromosomes or genitals a person has. I've heard a problem that some intersexed people have is that while their parents may assign them one gender, they grow up identifying as the other. In that case, what do you call them?

Nicky said...

L-your right, How come people in the LGBT community don't call out and tell those who misusing, misappropriating or silencing the experience and voices of another group. How come people don't call out transgender people who misuse the term and how come they don't tell them to stop using the intersex term when they don't qualify to have the term. How come I see trans people who still continue to misuse the intersex term and aren't called out and told to stop it. Every time I call them out for misusing the intersex name, I get called out, but when they use it, they don't get called out and i see it as being unfair and not right at all. I see it as their trying to erase my experience as an intersex and silencing my experience as an intersex at my expense for their gain. That ain't right and that ain't fair and I wonder why people aren't calling them out when they don't qualify to be intersex and don't have the right to speak on behalf or speak for the intersex community.

They would still be called intersex, because under the original HBSoC guidelines written in the late 1970's, intersex people are not expected and never required to meet the guidelines and standards of the Transsexual community. They would be called intersex regardless what gender they were chosen or chose.

Queers United said...

I think trans people who want to appropriate the word intersex might look to a word like intergender to better describe what they are trying to describe. That it is biological but in the mind not the body parts as it is with intersex. Intersex and Trans are both biological, but they are different.

Nicky said...

Not really. Trans is not biological because their no proof and the current academic, medical and scientific community can't agree to that. That's why trans still sit in the realm of the psychological conditions. I don't think the word intergender would fly and look good because it would still be in the same context as with intersex. Even as an intersex, i still think that their are trans who misappropriate the intersex name and label should be called out.

Diane J Standiford said...

Nicky, no offense taken, uh-hem, but homosexuality/lesbianism are also sitting in the psych ward of "no proof." Intersex is clear to the eye at birth. What's with all the calling out? Seriously, we all need to love each other, since few others will. Great post! You got us thinking.

Queers United said...

Thanks Diane, I always aim to get people thinking with Open Forum questions. I myself contemplate them often so I figure if they are thought provoking why not blog about it.

Nicky said...

Well Diane, I'm calling out those, especially those in the transgender community who are misusing, misappropriating and misidentifying as an intersex when they aren't even intersex in the first place. I am even calling out those who think they can speak for or speak on behalf of the intersex community, when they don't even have the right to unless they are born intersex.

The problem here is that you have trans people labeling themselves as intersex when they aren't intersex and don't fully know what it's like to be intersex and what it means to be born intersex. The freely use that label like it's something they can do without ill regard to the real intersex they might hurt or damage. It's like they just use the label freely and don't understand that they might and may hurt the real intersex out their.

What's not fair is when people are not calling them out for misusing the intersex name. It's like they are letting them get away with it and not telling them what they are doing is wrong and not right. What's not even more fair is when people let trans people speak on behalf of the intersex or speak for them, when intersex people have a voice and have a right to speak up on it's
own. It feels like people are letting trans people erase and silence the intersex people's voice and experience.

polerin said...

nicky: I'm not going to say that there are never transpeople who claim to be intersexed, and I would call out any who did so incorrectly. I don't know what it is to live your life, and won't try to tell you. Stop telling me what mine is.

Stop telling me I don't know what it's like to have a secret. Yes, I've not had doctors hide my medical records. I had to hide a large part of who I was from my family, the people I respected, my friends, and the very people who should have been helping me. I am out, but only partially. If someone googles me, they'll find my blog comments, my livejournal, etc. All under the name I use across many communities and that is known by my work.

You are yelling at the top of your lungs about how we are erasing your voice, your experiences, when the majority of the transpeople I've talked to would never dream of calling themselves intersexed, and would most defiantly NOT do so because it's, "free from blame." I do not blame myself for being trans, I do not think it is shameful, and I won't let you or anyone else tell me it is, or even imply it. YOU and other people like you who attempt to say that the physical is the real are the reason that transpeople feel shamed, the reason I spent the nights crying into my pillow, the reason I walked through the first part of my life angry, alone, and full of hate for the entire world.

We are not you. That doesn't mean that we are invalid.

Nicky said...

Well, I am calling out those in the Trans community who are misusing and misappropriating the intersex community and calling them out. I think that their are trans within the trans community who are getting a free pass to erase and silence the experience and voices of the intersex community and no one is calling them out on that. It's a shame and it's not fair that trans get's a pass to erase and silence the intersex, but when we intersex speak out about it, we get shouted down for speaking up.

Queers United said...

Nicky it is also equally unfair and offensive when you transbash and diminish the lives of those who are transgender. How about we strike an agreement here? Trans people are not intersex, but you don't have a right to call them sick, perverted, freaks or other adjectives you have used disparagingly against them in the past.

Nicky said...

Then why do Trans get a free pass to bash, silence and erase the intersex, but when I call them out on that, i get called bigot for calling them out and calling them out for misusing the intersex name.

It seems to me that it's unfair and so wrong. So I wonder why is the LGBT community letting the Trans community get a free pass to bash, silence and erase the intersex community.

Queers United said...

I have yet to see an example in all my readings of trans and intersex websites and the comments on this site, any indications of trans on intersex bashing nor have I seen intersex on trans bashing except from you.

If I did see a trans person bashing an intersex person degrading their lives, referring to them as freaks or "it" I would delete that language, as that is anti-intersex, much like the language of some of your posts which i have deleted that are transphobic.

Nicky said...

It seems to me that trans people are getting a free pass in the LGBT community to claim intersex when they aren't intersex in the first place. It also seems that the LGBT community is letting the Trans community silence and erase the intersex community's experience by claiming their their experience is the same as their when in fact that the trans community is lying. I see it as the LGBT community is letting them get away with it and not doing an damn thing to put a stop to trans people claiming intersex when they don't know what it's like to be intersex or understand what it means to be intersex. What I see it as hypocrisy and a double standard here.

Queers United said...

What I see is a broken record and a transphobe. I am very disappointed, but I will no longer engage in this convo because it is like talking to a wall.

Brian Jillson said...

After reading the previous posts, I think everyone should take a few courses in human physiology so they can grasp a better understanding of how the body functions and developes... then you wont have to speculate.

Anonymous said...

Nicky...Please stop giving intersex people a bad name. Perhaps you can get banned from here also.

To the original comment:
Essentially Thomas Beatie does have both a penis and a vagina, which by birth is impossible but through surgery can become a reality.

This statement is not true I was born with a penis testis vagina and uterus so please check your facts before you make untrue statements.

Thanks Prince....ss?

Anonymous said...

Actually, Nick...you're wrong about Beatty being a transsexual too. Beatty transits gender, not sex. If sex had been transited there would be no pregnancy!

Joanne

Anonymous said...

I'm also intersexed and just stumbled on this discussion today. I am appauled at Nicky's assault on Transsexuals and arrogance.

For point of anatomy anyone can be born with a penis and vagina. The clitoris and penis are actually the same organ. A penis is an overgrown clit, the scrotum is labia that have fused.
Intersexed people have all been abused in our society. But what Nicky did in this discussion was terrible. If any of you return to read this please know that Nicky does NOT represent all intersexed people. I belong to the largest organization of intersexed people in the world and our mission statement says we never reject anyone claiming to be intersexed and never require some kind of physical proof or claim to own a definition of what conditions do or don't constitute it. The organization is Organization Intersexe Internationale, or OII.

Jim Costich

Anonymous said...

I dunno. The first baby, I thought good on you. The second, I thought, this guy's taking the piss. I don't have any objection to him doing what he wants with his body - but I do take exception to his sticking his body in people's faces through the media. He's not a hermaphrodite, he's not a woman, he's not a man. He's a transman having a baby. What is so difficult about that?

Anonymous said...

I take something back from this - I do not know whether the guy's involvement with the media was because he was used, or whether it was an opportunity for income in a context where trans people are often discriminated against in employment etc. I do take exception to the media sticking his body in people's faces, and I am sure he would rather not have been the focus of this attention.

I also want to add that Nicky is not representative of intersex people, many of us support trans people in making the choices in their lives they need to. If he is who I think he is, his transphobia is only matched by his homophobia, and results from his own unresolved gender and sexuality issues. Unfortunately, many intersex people have been left with a legacy of harm as a result of their treatment by the medical profession, the education system, parents, family and peers.

As a transman Thomas is a man, but not like most other men. I think it a shame that his androgynous features should be focused on in the context of hermaphroditism, when he clearly sees himself as a man. I do get angry that for some reason trans and intersex people's genitals seem to be up for public discussion in a way that other people's genitals are not. Our genitals are our business and should not be exploited for public curiosity.

We are more than our genitals, and a penis does not make a man a man, nor does a vagina make a woman a woman.

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