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Arizona "pregnant man" to appeal ruling rejecting divorce

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - A transgender man who made worldwide headlines after he married and gave birth to three children will appeal an Arizona judge's ruling denying him a divorce from his wife of 10 years, his attorneys said on Tuesday.

Thomas Beatie, 39, was born a woman but began living as a man in his 20s, initiating hormone treatments, undergoing breast-removal surgery and legally changing his name, though he kept his female reproductive organs.

He married his wife, Nancy, in Hawaii in 2003, a year after his double mastectomy, and went on to bear three children, conceived through artificial insemination and donor sperm and Beatie's own eggs.

He drew worldwide media attention, and stoked public debate about the boundaries of gender identity, when he went public with his first pregnancy during a 2008 guest appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," in which the thinly bearded Beatie was shown undergoing an ultrasound examination.

The birth of his first child, a girl, at an Oregon hospital in July 2008, was announced by People magazine, and Beatie became widely known as "the pregnant man." His second and third children followed in 2009 and 2010.

Now an Arizona resident, Beatie filed for divorce last year, seeking dissolution of his marriage and hoping to wed his new girlfriend.

Last Friday, Maricopa County Family Court Judge Douglas Gerlach ruled that Beatie had failed in his divorce petition to prove that he was a man when wed in 2003, and thus was unable to show that he and his wife were a heterosexual couple.

Because same-sex marriages are not recognized as valid in Arizona, Gerlach held that he could not grant Beatie a divorce.

The judge on Friday approved a property and custody settlement for the couple, but Beatie said he was pressing ahead for a full-fledged divorce.

"This is not an easy fight, but it's the right fight," Beatie said at a press conference in Phoenix, accompanied by his attorneys and his girlfriend.

"I'm standing (up) for my identity and my ability to have biological children. It doesn't make me any less of a man ... I'm a man, I'm a husband and a father," he added.

Beatie, who held hands with his girlfriend while speaking, said the divorce is vitally important to his children and any additional offspring he may have in the future.

Growing up in Hawaii as a girl - his given name was Tracy Lagondino - Beatie had joined the Girl Scouts and even entered a teen beauty pageant before embarking on his gender conversion, taking testosterone injections and flattening his chest.

He ultimately changed his gender on his passport and driver's license, and was recognized as a man under Oregon state law. But like many individuals who identify themselves as transgender men, or "transmen," Beatie opted not to remove his ovaries and other female reproductive organs he was born with.

His spouse, about 10 years his senior, already had two grown daughters from a prior marriage was no longer able to become pregnant because of a hysterectomy. To prepare for his pregnancies, Beatie halted his hormone injections and resumed menstruating.

When Beatie filed for divorce last year, the judge questioned whether he had jurisdiction since Arizona only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman.

In his long-awaited ruling last week, Gerlach said he lacked adequate information about whether Beatie was a transgender male when the marriage license was originally issued in Hawaii.

"Thus, it is not necessary to, and this order does not decide, whether Arizona law allows a person who was born a female to marry another female after first undergoing a sex change operation," the judge wrote.

He added that equating a double mastectomy to a sex change operation would be a problem under state law.

"If adopted, (it) would lead to circumstances in which a person's sex can become a matter of whim and not a matter of any reasonable, objective standard or policy, which is precisely the kind of absurd result the law abhors."

Beatie attorney David Michael Cantor said the judgment was riddled with errors and that he is confident the judge's order will be overturned.

"We're not going to stand for this," Cantor said. "The judge has made it sound as if Thomas did something wrong."

He said he could seek review by the Arizona Court of Appeals or possibly the U.S. Supreme Court.

(Editing by Tim Gaynor, Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)

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