Transgender, transhumanist: America’s highest-paid female CEO
America’s highest-paid female CEO used to be a man. Martine Rothblatt, co-founder and former Chief Executive Officer of Sirius XM Satellite Radio, and founder and current head of United Therapeutics, had sex reassignment surgery in 1994 at age 40. Last year, Rothblatt made $38 million at United Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company she began in 1996 to develop treatment for her daughter’s pulmonary arterial hypertension.
Rothblatt recently topped a list of the 200 highest-paid CEOs in the United States. Of the high-earners on the list, only 11 were women and their median pay was $1.6 million less than that of their male counterparts. Rothblatt, when asked how she felt about seeing her name atop the list, tells New York Magazine, “It’s like winning the lottery.” Despite her success, she is uninterested in serving as a role model for women. She says, “I can’t claim that what I have achieved is equivalent to what a woman has achieved. For the first half of my life, I was male.”
Martine Rothblatt grew up Martin Rothblatt in Southern California, the child of observant Jewish parents. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1981. She went on to the UCLA Schools of Law and Management, where she earned her J.D. and MBA degrees, respectively. Rothblatt also earned a Ph.D. in Medical Ethics from the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary College, University of London. Rothblatt spearheaded initiatives that led to the integration of satellite technology into GPS tracking systems for mass transit and satellite radio companies both in the U.S. and abroad.
After her transition in 1994, Martine published a book entitled The Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on Freedom and Gender, in which she argues that society should move away from using “dimorphic” (as she refers to them) gender categories. She writes, “There are five billion people in the world and five billion sexual identities… Genitals are as irrelevant to one’s role in society as skin tone. Hence, the legal division of people into males and females is as wrong as the legal division of people into black and white races.” She proposes the use of a spectrum when expressing gender and sexual identities to allow for “the right of creative self-expression.”
Rothblatt has suggested a new vocabulary in place of traditional words. For example, she proposes the use of “spice” to mean husband or wife, and “Pn.” for “person,” instead of “Mr.” and “Ms.” Rothblatt herself prefers to be called “Martine.” Her four young grandchildren refer to her as “Grand Martine,” rather than “grandma” or “grandpa.” Rothblatt’s wife of 33 years, Bina Aspen, describes her own sexual identity not as “gay” or “straight” but “Martine-sexual.” The Rothblatts have four children, and the kids refer to Rothblatt as “Dad” while at home, and “Martine” in conversations with outsiders.
Rothblatt takes pleasure in using the prefix “trans;” she likes the association it brings of crossing barriers and resisting definitions. A “trans” existence for Rothblatt doesn’t just apply to sexual identity but also to human identity. She tells New York Magazine of her interest in transhumanist ideas: “Transhumanism—and there are a zillion flavors of that… is to me the belief in transcending human limitations.” Together, the Rothblatts founded Terasem, a transhumanist organization dedicated to creating immortality and “cyber-consciousness” through artificial intelligence and cryogenics. As an example of the capabilities of technology, Rothblatt commissioned a lifelike robot bust of her wife called Bina48.
Martine Rothblatt is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Paul Mahon, a lawyer for United Therapeutics and Rothblatt’s good friend, says of her, “She isn’t any one thing…Martine is a universe in herself. You peel back the onion and you get broccoli.”
This is no I Love Lucy. Maybe Ethel Loves Lucy.September 30, 2016
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