The Charlotte Observer (the “CO” as I’ll call it going forward), my hometown newspaper, has done a 5-part series chronicling the pregnancy of Liam Johns, a 30-year-old transgender man from North Carolina.
The paper first reported on Johns in April 2016, about a month after the passage of the state’s controversial HB2 “bathroom bill.” The CO – along with their sister paper the Raleigh News and Observer – was virulently against HB2, which their editorial pages, straight news pieces, so-called fact checks, and even their sports columnists made very clear.
Their 2016 feature on Johns, who was not pregnant at the time, was just one of many transgender stories they peppered the paper with throughout the year in an effort to express their solidarity. Meanwhile, other pieces portrayed HB2 proponents – including sexual assault survivors – as either backwards-thinking women or hate-filled bigots.
From a May 2016 editorial:
You've outdone yourself with this gem, Charlotte Observer. https://t.co/dNUJteCl2Z #ncpol #hb2 #WarOnWomen pic.twitter.com/0UXcpT1uZ1
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) May 15, 2016
From October 2016, the front page of one of their Sunday editions:
An article from 4 days ago on their site is on the front page today. The Observer's shameless demagoguery war on #HB2 continues. #ncpol pic.twitter.com/tkf3RUcmfQ
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) October 16, 2016
More from the Observer. How many of these "attacks in 50 counties" were substantiated? #HB2 did not cause any of this, Rick Thames. #ncpol pic.twitter.com/XykGWswUWy
— Sister Toldjah 😁 (@sistertoldjah) October 16, 2016
The purpose of what I’m about to write is not to poke fun at the couple in the CO’s just-published series. The two agreed to have their private journey to fatherhood documented and published by the paper, and unfortunately the paper exploited and sensationalized their story to promote the myth that men can give birth.
Using the hashtag “#TeamPregnantDad”, the first chapter in the CO’s documentary focused on “the man in the maternity ward”:
Liam, for as far back as he can remember, has longed to have children. But it was only recently, in his late 20s, he imagined himself pregnant.
He’s not the first transgender man to have a baby. While there’s no official data or record-keeping on trans men giving birth, the recognition of “first” is typically given to Thomas Beatie. Beatie appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008, when he was about six months pregnant. Although headlines announced Beatie as “the world’s first pregnant man,” trans health experts say it’s likely hundreds came before him.
What does the CO not tell you about Beatie? That even though the transgender man had gender reassignment surgery, Beatie had kept the female reproductive organs he was born with, which is how “he” was able to get pregnant (bolded emphasis added):
Five years ago, Thomas Beatie, then 34, gave birth to a girl called Susan.
The American man was born female but subsequently underwent gender reassignment – keeping his female reproductive organs – after having breast surgery to remove glands and flatten his chest.
Since then Thomas has given birth to two other children, Austin and Jenson.
As far as Liam’s road to transitioning and pregnancy goes, the CO makes you read between the lines to figure out that he, too, still had the female organs he was born with in order to get pregnant (bolded emphasis added):
The road to becoming Liam started with small steps in high school, when he shaved his head, wore men’s clothing and confided in a few close friends he was transgender. Later, with the help of hormone injections, Liam grew a beard and soon after, legally changed his name and gender. Then, at 27, he had cosmetic surgery to remove his breasts and reconstruct his chest.
After 10 years of physical transformation, Liam says, he finally felt comfortable in his own body. The confidence — he hoped — would be enough to challenge one of society’s most-ingrained assumptions: that only women give birth to babies.
[In the summer of 2017] Liam, fresh off a broken engagement, had already been off testosterone injections and was trying to start a family for almost a year.
Hold up: “society’s most-ingrained assumptions: that only women give birth to babies”? I’m sorry, but that’s not a societal “assumption” – that’s a biological, irrefutable fact. Why would any reputable news outlet that seeks to serve their community with reliable information suggest otherwise?
It is an irrefutable fact that every transgender “man” who has ever gotten pregnant has done so with the lady parts “he” decided to keep during their transition.
Men cannot have children.
No matter how many times the CO and other mainstream media outlets write otherwise, that fact will never change.
In addition to their multi-part series, the paper produced a 13 minute video of Johns and husband Duane Danielson’s experiences:
The comments on the articles are disabled, but you can let the paper know your thoughts on their series by sending them an email, or sending a tweet to executive editor Sherry Chisenhall or editorial page editor Taylor Batten.
—Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter.–