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What’s the big deal about LGBTQ families?

Written by our guest contributor, Rachel Epstein,Coordinator, LGBTQ Parenting Network, Sherbourne Health Centre.

Sometimes people wonder: what’s the big deal about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) families? Aren’t they just like everybody else?  Well, yes, in many ways we are.  The joys and challenges of parenting are pretty much the same no matter who you are, though of course all of our experiences are influenced by many factors, including where we live, our access to resources, issues of culture, race and ability, and by who is around to support us in our parenting journeys.  But, while LGBTQ parents share much with other parents and prospective parents, there are some aspects of our experience that differ.

For example, we seldom wake up pregnant. The process of bringing children into our lives can be a long and challenging process, sometimes involving a heavy financial burden, complex negotiations, and false starts.  While, of course, this is also true for some heterosexual people, it tends to be our common experience.

Many LGBTQ people make use of Assisted Reproduction (AR) services in order to create families.  Some fertility clinics in downtown Toronto estimate that as many as 15- 25% of their clients are from LGBTQ communities.  However, the framework that many clinics seem to operate within assumes that the people using their services are heterosexual, dual-income couples dealing with infertility.  LGBTQ families often don’t look like this traditional nuclear family – and we enter fertility clinics with some unique and important differences from heterosexual couples who are seeking assistance to conceive.

Of course there are different family planning approaches available to people across the LGBTQ spectrum and our family configurations vary as well. LGBTQ families can include single parents, two-parent families comprised solely of a couple and their children, two-parent couple families with non-parental involvement of sperm donors or others, and co-parenting families involving more than two people as parents, including adults who are not romantically involved with one another. We also use a range of methods to bring children into our lives including donor insemination, egg donation, surrogacy, adoption, and sometimes heterosexual sex.

Resources on LGBTQ parenting 

The LGBTQ Parenting Network (Sherbourne Health Centre) and Queer Parenting Programs at The 519 Community Centre in Toronto, offer four LGBTQ family planning courses: Dykes Planning Tykes, Daddies & Papas 2B, Trans-Masculine People Considering Pregnancy; and Queer and Trans Family Planning(s).  These courses provide those considering parenthood with a place to get information, grapple with important decisions, meet and hear about the journeys of other LGBTQ parents, and most importantly, to build community.

For information about these courses as well as a wide range of resources on LGBTQ parenting, click here. Sign up for the LGBTQ Parenting Network e-newsletter on the home page.

Fertility Matters Canada (formerly The Infertility Awareness Association of Canada (IAAC)) now features a regular LGBTQ column in their quarterly magazine, written by LGBTQ Parenting Network coordinator, Rachel Epstein.  To view these columns or subscribe, go to: www.fertilitymatters.ca

Some Canadian resources worth noting:

Who’s your daddy? And other writings on queer parenting edited by Rachel Epstein (2009)
For further information about this book, click here.

All in the family by Paul Gallant
To access this IN TORONTO article, click here.

And baby makes more: Known donors, queer partners, and our unexpected families edited by Susan Goldberg and Chloe Brushwood Rose (2009)

Beyond Expectation: Lesbian/bi/queer women and assisted conception by Jacquelyne Luce (2010)
For further information about this book, click here.

Rachel Epstein can be contacted at:  parentingnetwork@sherbourne.on.ca

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