Thomas Beatie — who rose to fame as the first legal man to become pregnant — is officially divorced after a tumultuous years-long court battle.
Beatie had filed for divorce from his wife, Nancy, in 2012. But in 2013, lower court Judge Douglas Gerlach refused to grant the divorce, ruling that Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages invalidated the union.
“Sadly, I feel that [Gerlach] used personal bias instead of supporting the law,” Beatie tells New Times. “He was also unwilling to recognize my legal sex change to male due to my pregnancies.”
Last year, the lower court's ruling was overturned by the Arizona Court of Appeals when the court declared that the 2003 marriage was not a same-sex union at the time. It was a critical victory, before the United States' legalization of same-sex marriage, which allowed Beatie to retain his male and transgender identities.
“It was an important step for transgender reproductive rights,” he says. “It really is more than being legally respected as a man; it is validating my identity as my children's father.”
If the ruling had come after same-sex marriage was legalized, it's possible the case would have gone uncontested as both heterosexual and same-sex marriages are now valid.
“It wouldn’t have mattered to the court, but means the world to me and any one else who may find themselves in a similar situation,” he says. “Now that this ruling is on the books, it will be easier for transgender people to marry and divorce without the sanctity of their union being mocked.”
Born as a female named Tracy Lagondino in Hawaii in 1974, Beatie says he always identified as a man. In his 20s, he began transitioning — using testosterone injections and undergoing a mastectomy to remove his breasts.
Shortly after he began living as a man, Beatie met Nancy, who had undergone a hysterectomy and could no longer have children. Because of this, Beatie chose to keep his reproductive organs, despite undergoing continuing treatments to give him the outward appearance of a male.
The couple married in an opposite-sex marriage in Hawaii in 2003. They used sperm from an anonymous donor, and Beatie underwent artificial insemination, conceiving his daughter in 2007.
He gained fame with appearances on Oprah, posing for photos while heavily pregnant but with facial hair.
The couple had two more children before splitting in 2012. In divorce papers, Beatie claimed Nancy was a volatile alcoholic who attacked him in front of the children. Beatie later was arrested after Nancy accused him of stalking her and placing a GPS tracker on their shared vehicle.
Beatie was given temporary full custody of the children and now splits custody with Nancy.
Because of the legal hitch, the divorce took years to finalize.
“In all, it took a little over three and a half years — 1,295 days to be exact,” Beatie says. “Divorce is hard enough as it is. I wouldn't wish this time frame on my worst enemy.”
During his extended legal battle Beatie’s surgeon and representatives from the Transgender Law Center testified on his behalf.
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“At that point, [Gerlach] set the court in motion to put my identity on trial. That is no comfortable thing for anyone to endure,” he says. “I felt interrogated, embarrassed, frustrated, and angry that a government led by one man's scrutiny could try to take away my rights and the core of who I am.”
Surprisingly, the divorce’s final snag was ownership of Beatie’s beloved shark-tooth collection. He agreed to hand over his prized collection, which includes 70 shark teeth, to Nancy to put an end to the long divorce drama.
Beatie now plans on marrying his longtime girlfriend, Amber, whom he met at their children’s daycare center.
“I still believe in love,” he says. “Amber is beside herself right now — we both can't believe the divorce battle is over . . . We can actually legally marry each other now. We want a real wedding.”