25th September 2012 | by Rachel Epstein
Fertility and parenting options for GBQ men
Written by our guest contributor, Rachel Epstein, Coordinator, LGBTQ Parenting Network, Sherbourne Health Centre.
For cisgender (non-trans) gay/bisexual/queer (GBQ) men who want to become parents, the options most readily available are adoption, surrogacy and co-parenting with someone (or more than one person) who has the capacity to get pregnant. International adoption is currently almost completely closed to openly-identified LGBTQ people. If one is willing to be closeted through the process, sometimes it can happen. However, both public and private domestic adoptions are quite possible in Canada, with many local Children’s Aid Societies, especially those located in larger urban centres, actively recruiting LGBTQ prospective parents and, in some cases, actively training staff to work more effectively with LGBTQ communities.
A recent Ontario study1 surveyed adoption licensees in Ontario about their policies and practices with regards to LGBTQ adoption, and interviewed 43 LGBTQ adoptive parents about their experiences in the system. Several issues were particularly striking. It appears that lesbian and gay couples who come closest to resembling heterosexual couples have an easier time in the adoption system. Bisexual, trans, and single people, and those whose relationships do not resemble traditional “couples” encounter more barriers. Bisexual people, in both opposite- and same-sex relationships, often feel they have to “leave out” certain aspects of their identities in the home study process and generally encounter a lack of knowledge and understanding of their identities and experience2. This echoes sentiments often expressed by bisexual people about a sense of invisibility and a discounting of their experience1.
GBQ men interested in surrogacy as the road to parenthood are faced with the complications that all those exploring surrogacy face – stemming both from the complexities of the process (usually involving both an egg donor and gestational surrogate) and the prohibitions of the Canadian Assisted Human Reproduction Act that make it illegal to pay egg donors, surrogates or third party helpers. A recent CIHR-funded study – Creating Our Families: A pilot study of experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people accessing Assisted Human Reproduction Services in Ontario – found that many of the people going through a surrogacy arrangement, wanted to be able to compensate their surrogate. GBQ men sometimes face additional issues involving sperm quarantine requirements that impact them unfairly in situations where, as the intended parent, they are the sperm provider, not the sperm donor, a term which implies relinquishment of parental status.
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1. Ross, L., Epstein, R, Anderson, S., & Eady, A. (2009). Policy, practice, and personal narratives: Experiences of LGBTQ people with adoption in Ontario, Canada. Adoption Quarterly, 12, 272-293.
2. Eady, A., Ross, L., Epstein, R., & Anderson, S. (2009). To bi or not to bi: Bisexuality and Disclosure in the adoption system. In R. Epstein (Ed.), Who’s your daddy? And other writings on queer parenting. Toronto: Sumach Press.