So it turns out that Thomas Beatie is not being granted his divorce, for the worst possible reason: his marriage has been declared invalid, and a marriage that never existed can’t end in divorce.
This is one of the many reasons trans people need marriage equality: so that we do not have to exist in a this legally unclear environment where a judge can decide whether or not we were ever married, even if we were for 20 years, like Christie Lee Littleton was.
That said, Beatie’s case is a little different – not that it does him much good – in that what Beatie had or had not done to establish his identity as male at the time of the marriage was unclear:
“The decision here is not based on the conclusion that this case involves a same-sex marriage merely because one of the parties is a transsexual male, but instead, the decision is compelled by the fact that the parties failed to prove that (Thomas Beatie) was a transsexual male when they were issued their marriage license,” he wrote in Friday’s ruling.
What’s more interesting to me as a gender studies person is this detail:
Beatie is eager to end his marriage, but the couple’s divorce plans stalled last summer when Gerlach said he was unable to find legal authority defining a man as someone who can give birth.
precisely because it involves the definition of a “man” – which, as any good gender studies student knows, is a cultural construct in the first place. (So is male, but far fewer people seem to understand that sex, or biological gender, is also culturally constructed.) As a feminist, I’m particularly concerned when the ability or inability to bear children starts getting involved in definitions of who is or isn’t a woman or a man.
But same sex marriage would, at least in some way, prevent this kind of bullshit at least in part, as it wouldn’t matter if Beatie was or was not a man at the time of his marriage. The issue of whether he could be a man and also give birth to his own children is, effectively, a different issue altogether.
(Interestingly, Beatie lives in AZ, where he could also, very shortly, be facing the fact that he may be legally required to use the ladies’ room, depending on what it does or doesn’t say on his birth certificate.)