Almost everyone who watches daytime TV has seen or heard of Thomas Beatie, the so-called “Pregnant Man.” Beatie’s marriage is dissolving, and he and his spouse are working on the custody of their three children, splitting up the marital assets and all the rest. In the middle of this sits a Maricopa County, Arizona Superior Court Judge who is stymied by all the legal challenges posed when a man who used to be a woman tries divorce his female wife.
Thomas was born Tracey, a woman, but back in 1997 Tracey began medical treatments to change herself physically from a woman to a man. After a series of operations, Tracey, now Thomas, was allowed to change his gender on his birth certificate from female to male. However, his reproductive organs were still female and with the help of a sperm donor, Thomas and his female wife produced three children. Thomas made the rounds on TV and in magazines as the “Pregnant Man,” complete with beard and bulging belly. Nine years later, Thomas and his wife are splitting but there is a major catch. Arizona does not allow same-sex marriage and does not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. And Thomas is, in the eyes of the court, the birth mother of the three children.
This is where the legal headache becomes a migraine. Thomas was permitted to legally change his gender to male, which allowed him to marry the woman who is now his wife. But being male on paper is not the same as being biologically male. The body that delivered the babies is not in dispute – it was Thomas. The Superior Court is puzzling over whether Thomas and his wife are actually a same-sex couple and thus not legally married, or if the gender change on the birth certificate makes it legal even though the birth mother is biologically male. Stumped, the judge asked the Arizona
Attorney General to weigh in but the AG quickly (and perhaps wisely) declined to do so. Both Thomas and his wife say they want to get the divorce done and move along but the judge stepped on the brakes, saying he may not have jurisdiction.
There appears to be no legal precedent and that is what has the jurist so concerned. The couple’s lawyers point out that property division and child custody could be decided under common law while the sexual conundrum is being worked on but the judge will not be rushed and is continuing to scour the law books for ideas.