Thomas Beatie's sex change treatment made him legally male, but he retained his female reproductive organs and he's not afraid to use them.
The mountain town of Bend, Oregon is not exactly famous for its progressive attitudes to sexual identity and family values. It's a part of the United States where men are expected to be men.
They wear cowboy hats; carry hunting rifles in their pick-up trucks; and have partners who are both female and heterosexual.
So, when Thomas Beatie came out last week with the bombshell news that, first, he was a female-to-male transsexual and, second, he was five months pregnant, it didn't exactly prompt the local populace to throw him a ticker-tape parade.
In fact, it stirred a national, and international furore. Could the news possibly be true, or was this just another "pregnant man" hoax like others that have popped up in the news media over the years? Beatie's neighbours, who assumed he was a regular guy with a wife and a small business, expressed both shock and scepticism when approached by reporters.
Beatie himself vanished after the publication of his announcement, which he made in the "First Person" column of the gay, lesbian and transgender magazine The Advocate. A "closed" sign hung over the door of his screen-printing business (intriguingly called Define Normal) and nobody appeared to be at the home he shares with his wife Nancy.
His story is remarkable – though not without precedent, according to hormone and reproductive health specialists. Born Tracy Lagondino in Hawaii, he underwent a sex change about 10 years ago and became legally male, although he chose to keep his female reproductive organs. He lost his breasts and developed facial hair, which he trimmed into a neat beard.
He and Nancy, who have been together for as long as he has been a man, moved to Oregon two years ago and decided to start a family. Nancy had had a hysterectomy and was unable to conceive, so the task of getting pregnant fell to him.
He stopped taking testosterone, waited several months for his menstrual cycle to resume, and set about the business of artificial insemination.
A first pregnancy almost killed him – he conceived triplets ectopically and had to undergo emergency surgery. But now, according to his first-person account, he is pregnant with a child, a girl, who is due in July.
The Advocate said it had checked with Beatie's doctor to make sure his story was true, and several med
ical experts have come forward to say his pregnancy is within the bounds of medical possibility. A photo accompanying his piece on The Advocate website, above, shows him naked from the waist up with a bulge in his belly.
Legal, social and political challenges have been considerable, and likely to get worse now the story is out.
"Doctors have discriminated against us, turning us away due to their religious beliefs," he wrote.
"Health care professionals have refused to call me by a male pronoun or recognise Nancy as my wife. Receptionists have laughed at us. Friends and family have been unsupportive; most of Nancy's family don't even know I'm transgender."
He has dealt with nine doctors to date, including one who questioned whether he was fit to be a parent and another who bowed out saying he didn't want to work with "someone like me". When his own brother found out about the end of the ectopic pregnancy, he said it was a good thing and allegedly added: "Who knows what kind of monster it would have been."
Beatie's first-person account stressed that the desire for a child is universal, and suggested he had as much right to conceive and bear one as anybody else. "Wanting to have a biological child is neither a male nor female desire, but a human desire," he wrote. "To Nancy, I am her husband carrying our child. I will be my daughter's father, and Nancy will be her mother. We will be a family."