The Need For More Dialog About Barriers LGBTQ Couples Face When Trying To Conceive

By Chelsy Ranard

It wasn’t that long ago that same-sex marriage became federally legalized in the United States – just two years ago, gay and lesbian couples could be legally married only if their state allowed it. Now, the United States has joined the list of countries supporting the position that same-sex couples have the right to marry. While marriage is now legalized, same-sex couples looking to start a family within that union have to begin a difficult journey. The legal process has improved, but the journey it takes to create life is a difficult one that would benefit from a wider knowledge on the subject between everyone whether single, married, same-sex, or heterosexual.

In a heterosexual relationship, when a woman has a child, that child’s parents are not immediately in question. The woman is the child’s parent, and the child’s biological father is the child’s other parent and they retain all of the guardian rights. For same-sex couples, it’s not quite that cut and dry – and varies greatly based on each circumstance.

Luckily, if a child is conceived through an IVF clinic, a surrogacy agency, or an adoption agency, many of the questions about guardianship are already taken into consideration and couples are given the information needed to make sure their guardianship is legal. For those who go about things without an agency, through a friend or family member willing to donate sperm or offer services as a surrogate, it’s up to the couple to file for guardianship of the child and protect themselves.

Ever since same-sex marriage has been legalized, the legal battles are much less worrisome. When couples weren’t able to get married, or agencies didn’t have to recognize their union, it was a much scarier process for couples not being able to be a child’s legal guardian. Which causes a lot of daunting consequences if the child’s legal mother or father is incapacitated in some way which would leave their partner with no legal rights to their child. And, in many cases, same-sex partners were unable to adopt or foster at all. Now, the legalities of same-sex partners having a family still require legal guardianship paperwork, but it’s no longer legal to deny guardianship because of sexual orientation.

The legal process is a lot more functional now that same-sex couples have been granted the right to marry and both couples and singles have the right to adopt children regardless of sexual orientation – although, gender identity is not added to every state’s non-discrimination protections. However, the act of conception is a journey in itself.

Whether each person is using IUI (intrauterine insemination), IVF (in vitro fertilization), surrogacy, or adoption, each method of conception is a long and difficult process for many. These procedures are no longer specific to heterosexual couples with fertility issues; there are now clinics that offer fertility support specific to same-sex couples. However, the cost of conception is hefty.

These numbers vary drastically based on location, fertility, and if the person is using an agency or not, but the journey is not an easy one financially or emotionally for many people hoping to having a child. Many insurance companies do not offer insurance for any of these options, so couples looking to have children have to save for years and years before finally adding to their families.

Same-sex couples, LGBTQ singles, heterosexual singles, and infertile heterosexual couples all have these fertility treatments in common. The reasons for the treatment may be different, but the need is the same. In order to create a community of people that can share their experiences, it’s important to raise awareness on the similarities in these situations.

While the emotions may be different for those dealing with infertility than with those that are dealing with the basics of conception for their situation, creating a dialogue among the different faces behind alternative conception can be extremely helpful and educational. For instance, adoption is a highly emotional experience whether you’re infertile or not, and it’s an experience that is easier when you have advice from others in the same situation.

Science is always evolving and doctors are beginning to learn more about the options for all types of families to have children. IUI is the most cost effective choice, IFV was found to produce live birth rates of up to 68% after the sixth cycle, some surrogacy services specialize in same-sex surrogacy, and adoption is now legal regardless of sexual identity.

Whether laws change or not, there are still people who believe that a child raised in a home with LGBTQ parents is harmful to the child’s development. In reality, a child raised in a home with LGBTQ parents is a child whose parents have sacrificed for. If more people realized exactly what goes into creating a family for same-sex parents, maybe they’d think about that opinion a little differently.

South Dakota, Alabama, and Texas have recently introduced bills to try to prevent LGBTQ people from adopting – proving that pushback still exists. Across the United States, there are over 400,000 kids in the Foster Care system waiting to be adopted, so it seems highly unproductive for states to place restrictions on same-sex couples should they wish to provide a loving home for these vulnerable children. A recent report out of California showed that in the span of a decade (2004-2015), the number of families willing to open their homes to foster children (either temporarily or on a permanent basis toward adoption) decreased significantly – from over 8000 to less than 4000 to be more specific.

Fortunately, many perspectives are changing in terms of LGBTQ policy and social outlook in a positive way. With social perspectives swinging in a favorable direction, it’s easier for the LGBTQ community to raise awareness on the issues affecting them including mental health, discrimination, conception, and how all of those things are tied together.

Lifestyle stories about real people on their journey towards parenthood are important in starting that dialogue. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for children, and many lesbian couples are taking that principle and applying it to their parenting and their ability to have both parents breastfeed. For gay men looking to have children, their journey is much different and requires surrogacy or adoption – the more costly options in family building for same-sex couples. The more people are aware, the more they can come together in support of each other in similar circumstances.

The decision to have a child in a same-sex relationship is not an easy decision. It’s an agreement to spend a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of emotions on something that may never happen. Our society is evolving in the way it views the LGBTQ community, but it’s not fully aware of the daily struggles that heterosexual people wouldn’t think twice about.

It’s not only discrimination, policy issues, safety concerns, and equality – it’s also things like conception. Things may be like this for a long time in terms of same-sex couples seeking to grow their families, but perspectives don’t have to be. The more people are aware of, the more support they can offer. The most difficult journeys are easiest to walk with the support of others.




Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is passionate about feminism, is a shark enthusiast, and can be found playing Frisbee with her dog, Titan. Follow her on Twitter.

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