Sunday, September 6, 2009

Same-Same - “Gay Census: Babies” by Travis de Jonk

The results are in from the Gay Census. So far we’ve looked at gay marriage, sex and drugs. This week we’re taking a look at the issues surrounding gay parenting and surrogacy. How many of us already have children, and how many of us are keen to take the plunge into parenthood?


The survey found that approximately a third of us would one day like to have children. 28% of gay male respondents want kids, 1% already have kids and wanted more. Unsurprisingly, lesbians were more inclined to want children and were also more likely to already have them. 40% of women wanted kids and 3% of those already had them and wanted more. It’s a positive and promising sign according to Rodney Chaing-Cruise, co-moderator of Gay Dads Australia.

“The statistics are quite interesting and illustrate that the desire for gays and lesbians to become parents is very strong. I would suggest at least amongst gay men it’s becoming stronger, particularly as the options of surrogacy are becoming more widely known,” he said.

Discussion of the issues surrounding parenting have become of greater interest to the community, and are starting to become more reflected in aspects of our culture and activities.

“Attitudes towards parenting and children are changing – slowly – within the LGBTI community too,” says Felicity Marlowe from the Rainbow Families Council. “For example the Melbourne Queer Film Festival held a kids movie session at this year’s film festival for the first time.”

When it comes to methods of creating a family, surrogacy, adoption and donor / insemination were the most preferred options. The gay men surveyed were pretty evenly split between adoption and surrogacy as options for how they would create their families. 46% opted for surrogacy as the chosen method, while 48% preferred adoption.

Lesbians respondents preferred the donor / insemination option overall – 62% would choose a donor to help facilitate creating their children, rather than going down the adoption path (25%).

Despite its popularity as an option, the unfortunate reality is that adoption is simply still not really an option for most gays and lesbians in Australia.

“In relation to the gay parenting aspects it is true that surrogacy done in the US, Canada and India is providing gay men with the opportunities to be dads and fulfill their desire to be parents. It’s a desire that straight people have as well. The adoption statistics are very interesting and I suspect they are merely a reflection of ‘we would do it if we were allowed’,” said Chiang-Cruise.

Adoption is essentially illegal for gay and lesbians in all states except WA. ACT and Tasmania allow for “second parent” or “known parent” adoption. The lack of available children for adoption in Australia is a well documented problem. This is on top of the fact that gays and lesbians generally don’t have a legal right (in most states) to access adoption. International adoption is also banned for all gay and lesbian couples from Australia.

So who do we most want to help facilitate the process of creating our families? The clear majority of those surveyed (66% of gay males, 63% of lesbians) said they would want the donor / surrogate to be a good friend, with a slight preference for a queer friend over a straight one. The second most popular option was for an uninvolved donor or surrogate, paid or unpaid, with a 24% of gay men favouring that option, and 27% of lesbians.

The above figures appear indicate a preference for an ongoing relationship with donors, someone who will assist in creating a family and will continue to have an involvement in the child and family’s life. However, according to Lee Matthews, founder of the Gay Dads Australia network, for those creating their family the most important focus is the welfare of the child and treating both parents as equal, rather than focusing on who is or isn’t involved biologically.

“All the dads we know rarely acknowledge whose sperm was used, and make sure that everyone treats both guys within a relationship as equal parents,” said Matthews.

“What’s paramount is that their children see their parents as equal, and also that those around them – extended family, friends, school teachers – do too. Genetics might be topical at time of conception but social circumstance wins out as soon as your kids are part of your life.”

Both Marlowe and Chaing-Cruise agree with Matthews.

As a result of strong community campaigning from organisations such as Rainbow Families Council and Love Makes A Family, parenting options are slowly becoming more available and GLBTI families are more recognised – so is greater awareness of the complex issues surrounding parenting. Traditional terms such as father, mother, biological, natural and parent have radically different implications when used to describe roles within a GLBTI family context.

“Language is a fraught area of discussion as we are trying to create families that do not fit the words or terms the mainstream world uses to explain everyone’s roles/responsibilities with a family structure,” explains Marlowe.

“I think our LGBTI parenting community takes the use of language very seriously and thinks long and hard about what to call ourselves and what words to use to describe our families.”

[Link: Original Article]

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