Who’s fit to be a parent? That’s a question a lot of
people would love to answer but it never applies where parenting is
straight-forward (pun intended). If you can conceive and birth a child then you
can have as many as you like and raise them in whatever way you want. Lord
knows, we even have organized religions that damn you to hell if you don’t have as many as you possibly can.
The Catholic church
aside, we tend to like it this way. It’s a free choice whether
to bring another being into the world and what values to teach them once they’re here. But for many people, it’s not a matter of choice
at all. Or at least not a simple one. I’m thinking of those in
the LBGT community who can barely get sperm and an egg in the same room, let
alone swimming up the same canal.
Questions of alternative
reproduction haven’t really been important in the gay community.
It’s a “women’s issue” mostly. Sure, there are those who’ve started families with
the help of cold insemination clinics, warm donations from friends, through
adoption, or agreements with someone of the opposite sex to procreate and
parent together. For many of these it’s also been important to
have gay families recognized as “normal.”
But loads of others in
the community don’t think parenting, or how to get pregnant, is
a gay issue at all. I received a mixed compliment lately when an Xtra reader
told me she normally skips parenting stories because they don’t apply to her, but she usually reads my column because she likes it.
And at a queer conference last June, I had the pleasure (honestly) of listening
to Sky Gilbert rant about wanting gay pride day to celebrate sex and the joy of
fucking, rather than how many dykes are pushing strollers and how many fags are
holding little hands.
I support Sky Gilbert’s desire. I mean, I support the celebration of sexuality and pursuing
sex for pleasure. But as a mom, a queer and a sexual being, I don’t want my identities divided. I’ll push my stroller or
dance with my daughter in celebration of everything that’s given me joy, including being queer, having sex, loving my kid or
(really rare) getting a good night’s sleep.
In our culture we have
been legally denied the right to express ourselves sexually, and in many
countries it‘s still a capital offence. It’s appropriate that some
of us fight for that freedom. But due to the nature of procreation we are
physically denied the choice to be parents. It’s not that healthy
nurturing of a child requires equal involvements of male and female, it’s just that the ingredients are set up that way.
Our generation has
witnessed endless scientific investigation into alternative methods to have a
child, but mostly for the benefit of sperm-and-eggers who can’t make it happen. Any advantage to queers who’ve managed to access
services such as a sperm bank, alternative insemination or adoption, is a kind
of spin-off of the original objective.
I think queers should
take up these issues, and not only those who have an interest in parenting.
Just as Sky Gilbert and others want to have company in pushing society to
acknowledge the joys and diversities of sex, myself and others wouldn’t mind a few more voices talking about alternative methods of parenting
as gay issues. Because if we don’t get pregnant or father
a child in our pre-coming out straight relationships, then how do we do it?
Sure, the certainty of
not having a child is also pretty terrific. It’s been years since I’ve spent money on birth control, counted days on the calendar or waited,
anxiously, for a telltale sign. All that sex with no pregnancy fear, you have
to wonder sometimes why everybody doesn’t just come out.
But rather than assume
this as the “norm” for queers and never bother about pregnancy or parenting because “it doesn’t apply,” why not consider it as
something important if only because it is so removed? If we don’t advocate for alternative pregnancies or parenthood as part of our
right, then we might as well go along with the idea that parenting is
For example, there’s the very controversial issue of surrogate motherhood. I didn’t think of it as a gay issue until I knew of a woman who was considering
carrying a child for a gay male couple. The idea sparked lots of argument and
debate, and brought out lots of opinion. Personally, I’m not much in favour of
surrogacy because it seems too likely that women will be exploited. But looked
at as a gay issue, I saw something else.
I saw a gay man wanting to parent his
biological child and being denied that opportunity solely because of his
sexuality. If we take the position that surrogacy is wrong, then we don’t leave too many options for such a person to fulfill their wish, a wish
that thousands of straight couples take for granted everyday as they plan out
their families and pick out new names.
People who are fit to be
parents are not those who are sexually attracted to the opposite sex. They are
not those who love only one person at a time. They are not those who can buy a
house first and afford to fix up the nursery. They are not those who go to
church and they are not those who have a good job.
They are people who can
love, and who can let love lead them. And that’s all the qualifications
we should demand.
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