My very first night in Baton Rouge I was staying in a hotel. I knew this town was going to be my new home, but I was nervous, had just driven 1700+ miles in two days, and was far far away from anything familiar. I didn’t know it at the time but I was on the edge of the entire world changing. I was on the edge of everything shifting far more than I expected.
Looking back it is a bit amusing to recall what I watched on TV that night. I was knocking on the “queer” door without even realizing it. I sat with my knees up under my chin in the giant hotel bed. Everything was damp from the humidity in the air and the air conditioner running non-stop. I was watching an intense episode of Oprah that was being rebroadcast during the evening hours.
Oprah was interviewing Thomas Beatie, the world’s first pregnant man. He told his story of transitioning from a gorgeous Hawaiian beauty queen to a rather handsome man who had decided that he wanted to have a biological child.
I sat there captivated by his story. The story felt “wrong” in that Mormony way. A woman taking hormones, having surgery, and living as a man was certainly not a church approved sort of message let alone the idea of an individual like that having a child… I felt guilty watching Oprah interview him. I felt guilty for sympathizing with him and his story. I felt guilty for liking him and hoping that all would go well for him and his child.
Seeing Thomas cracked the “queer” door open just a little bit for me. In some ways he showed me how ordinary and normal LGBT people could be… Not that his story was ordinary, but he himself, his personality, his mannerisms, the way that he looked was so ordinary… He seemed like just a regular guy despite this extraordinary story. Hearing his story somehow made space for my ordinary little self to consider the word “queer” in a new light. In an accessible light.
Yesterday I saw this story about him and his wife in the Huffington post. He is getting divorced apparently after the relationship turned abusive. His wife hitting him and kicking him. It broke my heart. If I were a praying person I would probably pray for him right now. I find myself thankful that he could stand up on Oprah and share his story. I am thankful that he made space for "queer" to become part of my vocabulary.