Mind your own business

Medical histories are not for public consumption

L ast Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times published an article about Scott Moore, a trans man who chose to become pregnant and intends to bear a child in about a month (“World’s Second Pregnant Man Ready to Give Birth,” January 27).

The story’s headline calls Moore the “second pregnant man,” referencing the sensationalized story of Thomas Beatie as the first “pregnant man” from 2008. These titles aren’t actually accurate. We know of at least one other trans man, Matt Rice, who bore a child – and it’s quite likely that there are many more – a fact takes away the “novelty” of the story.

There are several problems with the Los Angeles Times piece. For example, the author mentioned the pre-transition names of both Moore and his partner, Thomas (who is also a trans man). Reporting in this way encourages readers to think of the Moores as not “real” men, invalidating their identities.

The delegitimization that trans men have to deal with becomes inescapable during pregnancy because our society cannot conceive of a man getting pregnant. Denying a trans person’s identity in this way damages their wellbeing – leading to anything from depression to suicide.

What struck me most in the article was this bit: “Thomas started taking testosterone in 1999, had his 44GG breasts removed in 2004, had a hysterectomy, and had a penis made out of flesh from his thigh attached.”

I find it incredible that the article’s author thought that the medical history of the partner of the “pregnant man” – the ostensible subject of the story – is in any way relevant to the story, especially since Scott Moore’s own medical history is absent from the piece. Perhaps the author thought that Scott’s partner would provide an example of the physical changes that trans men have when they transition. Still, I had to reread that sentence a few times to try to understand why exactly Thomas’s medical procedures were relevant.

But the presumption that someone else’s medical history is completely open for discussion is even more troubling. The privacy that surrounds most people’s medical histories is a privilege that trans people do not have in our society. People who aren’t trans assume that they have a right to ask anything they want once a trans person comes out to them.

I’ve seen this in my own life. People all too frequently ask me whether I’m going to have sex-reassignment surgery or how I have sex. When I’m comfortable with the person, I try to answer honestly. But really, I find this fixation on the physical aspects of transition rather silly at best and invasive at worst.

Some would argue that the Moores have opened themselves up to questioning about this issue by discussing their story with the media. But no journalist would ever interview a pregnant woman’s partner about their medications or past surgeries without a clear connection to the story – it probably wouldn’t even enter their mind.

This lack of privacy affects other groups as well. For example, someone who has a prosthetic limb might face interrogation about how their prosthesis works. This may seem like an innocent question. Asking it, however, prevents the person who has the prosthesis from determining their own boundaries and, ultimately, from living their life in peace.

We need to extend our sense of privacy to cover everyone’s medical history. After all, it’s possible for anyone to develop a condition they’d rather not talk about. So next time someone you know has a “fascinating” history, take a step back and put yourself in their place. They’re probably sick of all the questions.

Quinn Albaugh writes in this space every week. Don’t ask them about their sex life: binaryforcomputers@mcgilldaily.com.