A funny (funny peculiar not funny ha-ha) thing happens when you aren’t a typical cisgendered heterosexual person; people feel that they have the right to ask deeply personal questions. Furthermore they also assume that you are obligated to provide them with an education on the object of their curiosity. This happens to me a lot and I know many people have the same experience whether it is because of their sexuality or because of having had fertility treatments. This post may be a bit ranty, proceed with caution.
So here are a couple things that you should really not say to a lesbian couple who have kids:
Oh did you adopt?
In South Africa, adoption is not an easy process. Caucasian babies up for adoption are rarer than hens teeth and those that do come up for adoption are usually placed through a Christian organisation, which means the likelihood of the child/ren being placed with a gay couple is almost 0. The number of children needing adoptive homes is astronomical but the system to put those children into homes is a bureaucratic nightmare. Go read up a bit about adoption, educate yourself. Ignorance is not a valid excuse for being insensitive. (Often this question comes with a story of a friend/cousin/colleague/friend-of-a-friend/Angelina Jolie who adopted)
So how did you have kids?
I am really not interested in discussing the details of our reproductive interventions with anyone that asks. Sometimes another lesbian couple or infertile couple will ask because they are in the family planning phase too and in that case I will discuss every detail of reproductive options and what we did, but as a general rule my answer tends to be “we had help from a doctor” and I leave it at that.
Oh so did you do IVF?
IVF is not the stock standard method of Artificial Reproductive Technology for lesbian couples. Usually people would try artificial insemination (AI) first. IVF is very expensive and requires a lot more medical intervention.
Wasn’t it expensive?
Again, none of your business.
Who’s the father?
This is without a doubt my biggest bugbear question. By asking this you are completely erasing the validity of our family structure. There isn’t a father. There are two moms. There is no, never was, and never will be a father (unless one of us decided to transition but that is a completely different can of none of your business). We did have a donor who supplied a genetic contribution to help us create our kids.
So did you use an anonymous donor, so what you picked them out of a book or something?
Good heavens! Really? How many times must I repeat… it’s none of your business! Donor sperm can be either anonymous or from a known donor. Families can choose to have any spectrum of involvement with the donor from absolutely none to have them actively involved in the kids’ lives. This is entirely based on what works for that specific family and they have absolutely no obligation to explain their family structure to anyone.
So who is the mom?
Uhm… two moms.
I mean who’s the real mom?
Me: Looks at wife…touches her. Looks at self…prods self. “I’m quite sure we’re both real, thanks.”
Getting caught up in the thought process that genetics = real family is very short sighted. There are many families who don’t share genetics. It doesn’t mean they are any less real. Think about it for a moment…
Thanks for bearing with me being a ranty-pants.
So… if you are a gay/lesbian couple who are looking to start a family there are a lot of resources with info about how to go about it. A good place would be to contact your gynaecologist or a fertility clinic. You can also speak to Medfem, Vitalab and BioART (all of whom are gay friendly) in Johannesburg. For gay couples looking for surrogacy options try Nurture.
Infertile couples looking for information and support can try the Fertilicare forum. It was a source of endless support for me through our TTC (trying to conceive) journey. There is also a Rainbow Room for LGBT couples, although I found the entire community supportive and have made some awesome IRL friends through the forum.
There are very few specific resources on South African options for gay/lesbian couples wanting to start families. Luckily we do live in a country where same-sex couples have full parental rights, however it is a good idea to be married beforehand to prevent complications with registering births etc. As much as we live in a country where our families are legally protected by the constitution there are a couple stupid bureaucratic hiccups in the system such as two ID numbers of the same sex can only be added to a birth certificate of a child at the Home Affairs Head Office in Pretoria which means there will be a delay in getting the birth certificates.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to ask… ha ha ha!