I will say right off the bat that I’m not the biggest fan of Dancing with the Stars. I like it enough to watch when someone I like—or greatly dislike—is on the show, much like I’ll watch American Idol on only a spotty basis. I really like dancing as an art form, especially given my total lack of physical grace, because I love to see the human form do things I didn’t know were possible, and then whoa, there’s music and lots of feathers to boot! But DWTS sometimes makes me sad, because the “stars” in question often seem to be scrapping for whatever vestiges of glory they can still obtain, and the whole faded Lola a la Copacobana thing is not my speed.
In short: I will watch Margaret Cho, Ralph Macchio, Jennifer Grey, Joey Fatone, and a whole host of others out of love and interest. I was not a fan of Kate Gosselin, Bristol Palin, or The Situation, but I still kept up with their performances. And that said, I do like how DWTS has included lots of out gay and lesbian personalities, like some of those I just mentioned and other folks like Lance Bass. It was only a matter of time before a trans man was selected for the dancing show. And so we have Chaz Bono, the “most famous” trans man out there. Or is he?
Everyone has forgotten all about little ole Thomas Beatie, known more popularly as “the pregnant man.” Yesterday Beatie took to hyperspace to proclaim that Bono had “stolen his thunder” along with his spot on the show. My initial comment on Facebook was for Beattie to keep it classy. But I suppose we’re beyond that already.
Beatie was most definitely not the first transmasculine or transsexual man to give birth to a baby after a sex change, not by a long shot. He’s just the first person to attempt to commodify it for himself with a book and television talk show appearances. Many transfolk I knew at the time his book was hitting the market were quietly annoyed, in part for his bald media hogginess, which apparently he still espouses, and in part because it’s the first ones to the microphone who dictate the terms of the discussion. Openly trans men everywhere, including myself, now had to field rather invasive questions about how easy it was for us or Beatie to get pregnant, whether we were interested in such things for ourselves, and how the legal system would understand such parenthood. It was like a whole new aggravating world of educating the non-trans.
Some of that isn’t Beatie’s fault, except that none of his statements to the media supported not bothering other trans people. Like I wrote about with regard to Chaz Bono’s first round of media interviews, trans people who put themselves on the national stage—or who have it thrust upon them, as has happened to some extent to Chaz—need to think about the words that come out of their mouths because for better or worse, they’re serving as spokespersons for the rest of us.
Dancing with the Stars is not Beatie’s vehicle to maintain some kind of human interest in his life. And it is even more infuriating that he thinks ABC should have selected him over Bono because his body is in such better shape. To that I give a resounding “Screw you, Beatie.” Fat people can dance. Chubby people still have moves, if not evidenced by my ACL-snapping pivot move to “Billie Jean” during my wedding reception.
Also, people work on their health, and projects, and family life all the frigging time with no oohs and ahs from a studio audience. They do these things because they’re important in and of themselves. Being transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, or gender nonconforming isn’t a commodity one should market like one’s haircutting license. It’s a necessary state of being that, if people like Beattie will only try to remember, was our only option for continuing to walk this planet. The way Beattie insists on marketing his gender only adds fuel to nasty ideas about transfolk. I have a whole lot more sympathy for trans artists, writers, intellectuals, and activists who prioritize community building and empowerment than self-serving accolades.
Beatie should have cheered for Bono’s selection, even if he wanted a spot himself. The world is certainly large enough for there to be many, many trans-identified people known in their fields. If we’re going to celebrate Beatie’s ability to have three children, then let’s put our hands together for the thousands of transfolk who parent and parent well every single day.
Also, let’s stop calling Beatie “the pregnant man.” I’m all for switching this to “the spoilsport.”