Many of you are raising Millennials, which means some of you have experienced your child’s first prom, first heartbreak, and their first day at college. These are rites of passage for most teens, but for a smaller percentage of you who are raising a child who identifies as LGBTQIA+, there may have been an extra layer of worry or pride. You may have been there when your child first came out, a rite of passage only LGBTQ+ folks have to make.
Your child looked at you and told you they are gay or bisexual. Or perhaps they came to you in tears, telling you their gender assignment doesn’t match their gender identity. Hopefully you were the first to scoop up your child and tell them how much you love them. But, as you watch your LGBTQ+ child fall more in love with the same-sex person they are ready to make a life with, I know you can’t help but wonder one thing: HOW WILL I GET GRANDBABIES?!
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, there are 6.1 million 18-35 year old LGBTQ identified people in America. Another report done by Family Equality, reported that 63 percent of these LGBTQ Millennials are looking to add to or start a family through one of many options. As a nonbinary transgender person who did not give birth to babies, I can promise you that the three children I have are very much mine, and baby making and family building can and does happen between same-sex couples. But how?
All babies are made one way: sperm meets egg. There are many ways that this can happen, and depending on the situation, the outcome of said conception and pregnancy can vary. Whether single or in a relationship, the love and intention that is needed for LGBTQ+ folks to build a family can’t be measured.
Some folks choose to build families through pregnancy and some build family through foster care and adoption. While I am focusing on queer folks here, these family making options can be resources for heterosexual and cisgender people too. Straight people and couples need fertility help more often than they are willing to discuss.
Here are some common ways folks turn love into family.
How Same Sex Couples Can Have Families
My former partner and I each had a working uterus and a combined desire to start a family. While I have never had the desire to carry a child she wanted to become pregnant, but we needed sperm. At the time, I identified as a female, but donor sperm is not just for lesbians. Anyone with a working uterus, in any type of relationship, may need one more ingredient to make a baby.
Some couples use a known donor to fertilize an egg of the gestational carrier. This donor could be a friend or a family member. In some cases lawyers are involved to terminate the parental rights of the donor. A donor may make their contribution in a cup at home for in home intravaginal insemination via a medical syringe or the donor could donate at the doctor’s office for a nurse or physician to perform intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Both of these methods can also be used with an unknown donor. My partner conceived our three children via frozen sperm purchased through a cryobank. We had access to medical history, including mental and physical health, several generations deep. We were able to see baby photos, hear his voice, read essay answers, and analyze our donor’s personality test results. Short of meeting our donor, we had everything we needed to make a decision that felt right when choosing him.
Parental rights are signed away when a donor works with a cryobank, so the legal aspects are taken care of, but some donors are considered open. This means a sperm donor is willing to meet any offspring they helped to create. My partner and I chose this option because we wanted our kids to have the chance to meet their biological father if that was important to them. In our case, when our kids turn 18 we can contact the cryobank, which will contact the donor, to set up a meeting.
Donor Egg/Embryo Surrogacy
When sperm is available, but not a uterus with an egg waiting to be fertilized, individuals may choose to purchase donor eggs and then fertilize them via In Vitro Fertilization. Healthy embryos are then transferred into a gestational carrier’s uterus. In some cases a surrogate may be the egg donor. In this case a child conceived will have both the intended parent and surrogate’s genetics, so parental rights of the surrogate will need to be removed.
Some couples use a surrogate to carry a donor embryo, meaning the intended parents will not have any genetic link to their child but they will be part of the pregnancy and labor and delivery process before bringing home their baby. Surrogacy is very expensive, and while using a known egg donor or known surrogate is a bit cheaper, the costs can range from $70,000-$150,000.
Fostering and adopting children is a popular way LGBTQ+ people build or add to their family. Even though there are still restrictions and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, there are many options to pursue. Some individuals and couples seek adoption through the state, a private agency, or a private, self-matching, person-to-person process.
Working with international adoption agencies can be more challenging for LGBTQ+ people than dealing with domestic agencies, but international adoption is a possibility. Depending on the situation, an adoption can be either closed (no contact with the biological parents) or open (the adoptive parents and biological parents have agreed to certain forms of communication and contact).
Adoption is also used with LGBTQ+ couples when one parent has a biological connection to their child but the second parent does not. I am listed as a parent on the birth certificates of all of my children, but I may not be legally recognized as a parent in places where same-sex relationships or LGBTQ+ parents are not allowed or are punishable. To be sure my rights and the rights of my children are protected, I adopted my children because I don’t have a biological connection to them.
None of these options are cheap, nor are they seamless. Depending on the state you live in, the insurance company you have, or the company you work for, the expense and ease of fertility help and family building will vary to wide degrees.
Family Equality and Gay Parents To Be are great websites to learn more about LGBTQ family building. To talk to someone directly, contact your local hospital’s fertility clinic, Planned Parenthood, or Pride center.
And parents, I know you are excited for those grandbabies, but be patient. The hurdles LGBTQ+ folks have to jump over, often just to prove their worth as human beings, feel insurmountable at times. Be ready, but be supportive. LGBTQ+ family building can take years of planning and waiting. Your child will need your love and strength more than ever. I promise it will be worth it.
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Amber Leventry is a queer, non-binary writer and advocate. Their writing appears on The Next Family, Sammiches & Psych Meds, Babble, Ravishly, Scary Mommy, Longreads, and The Washington Post. They also run Family Rhetoric by Amber Leventry, a Facebook page devoted to advocating for LGBTQ families one story at a time. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.