Building Families with Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Dear Everyone,

This is not an easy letter to write, so I will do my best to be concise and to the point. In an online parenting forum, a hypothetical question was posed by a female member in reference to her husband being approached  by a lesbian couple to donate his sperm so that they could build their family. She wanted to know how others would feel.

Can you imagine the responses?  If not, some went a bit like this:

          -“Hands off my husband!” 

-“If they can’t have a natural baby then they shouldn’t have one at all.” 

          -“Go to a sperm bank!” 

-“Another reason why being a f*g doesn’t work.” 

          -“It’s just sperm…totally different than me donating eggs.” 

-“There’s so much legally wrong here.” 

          -“Sure, as long as they don’t have sex with him.”

The question actually isn’t that difficult. In fact, it was pretty straight forward. An infertile couple asked a friend to donate genetic material so they could conceive a family. However, the unethical advice and judgmental comments were a bit much to handle, albeit expected. So let’s unpack a few major things.

To those that have never struggled with fertility issues please pay attention:

  1. Turning to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a deeply personal, and often last resort for anyone. Nobody wants to hear that they’re infertile. Nobody wants to feel inadequate when it comes to procreating. And while you may want to offer an opinion on how YOU feel about it (based on what was asked), I advise you to step back and ask yourself, “What would I do in this situation?” And think (I mean really critically think) long and hard before you type.
  1. Telling someone how to go about building their families is one hundred percent wrong. Always. Nobody has the right to dictate how others build theirs. Period.
  1. Infertility is an issue that knows no boundary and can strike anyone, very much like cancer. The thing about infertility is that for many, being infertile (or being called infertile), can affect people deep to their core. The sad things is that there is so much shame around infertility that most people do not open up, rather, they suppress how they feel and bottle it up. When a couple, any couple, cannot procreate with a night of love, the heartache that this brings is incomprehensible. ART is available to all people, regardless of their gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. To tell someone that, “well, you chose to be in a same-sex relationship therefore you can’t have kids,” is literally the most ignorant thing to say on so many levels.
  1. Never tell someone that is looking into ART as a means to build a family that they’d be “better off adopting rather than creating designer babies.”

Did you not design your own baby:

  • By finding your spouse attractive?
  • Ensuring that they’re in good health?
  • Is someone who’s was smart and met your moral standards?
  • Maybe they graduated college which was important to you?
  • Seeking out someone that agreed with your personal ideals?
  • Maybe they had a passion for the outdoors that you shared?
  • Or they loved the same music or animals?

 My point is, sit down, be quiet and just think – we’re actually not that different.

You’ve no idea what you’re saying since you, too, planned a “designer baby” just like us. The only difference is we get to see things like health information up front while reviewing donor paperwork.

  1. When it comes to ART, the act of sex is always removed. Conceiving a child through sexual intercourse is the method most heterosexual couples are blessed to use as their primary reproductive option. However, when it comes to couples (heterosexual or otherwise) who cannot have a baby via sexual intercourse, their options are not to have sex with someone else. Take me, for example, as I was asked which one of us had sex with our surrogate:
  • First of all, gross. I’m gay;
  • Second of all, she’s a married woman – that’s asking someone to have an affair and is ethically wrong on many levels. That’s not how relationships work, nor is that how ART works. Ever.
  1. The legalities of ART, while evolving like any other area of law, are well known. Those that think this would cause a “legal” issue are sorely mistaken. If anything, a legal issue would arise if there was poor psychological vetting (yes, psychological evaluation is a part of any legal and reasonable ART process).

Folks without fertility issues (regardless of their sexual orientation) really should critically think about the Assisted Reproductive Process before arbitrarily commenting and offering advice on what to do and not to do. Until you as a person or couple are rendered unable to produce a child, (and I don’t care if you’re heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual, whatever) then you don’t know the hurt, the pain and the feeling of biological failure when all you want is to have a family and fulfill a life ‘s dream.

Sincerely,

A Father Whose Family Was Built via ART