Biokids

While we are on the topic of Labor Day, let’s talk about babies. In particular, let’s talk about fatherhood. Nobody wants to speak frankly about gay men and kids, and I think that is a problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want kids myself, and never have. I went so far as to get The Snip as added protection against accidents (as if I had to worry about accidents, or indeed anybody wanting to touch my penis ever). Admittedly, I am a freak, but there are also lots of successful, well-adjusted gays who don’t want kids: CB, Travel Penguin, Blobby, Sassybear, and probably many others.

Having said that, there are gay men who want children. Poor Steven has expressed regret at not having kids, and John Gray has (wistfully?) commented that he would make a good dad. The standard prescription for this is to make like Dan Savage or the couple from Jesus has Two Daddies and adopt. That is fine if it works for you, but there are men — even gay men! — who for whatever reason want their own biological children. This may be irrational but I think this urge lives underneath our rational thought. Our genes want to propagate themselves, and those whims are difficult to resist.

So if you are a gay man who wants to have biological children, what do you do? If you are rich, maybe you can pay to rent somebody’s womb, find an egg donor, and then have a baby carried to term for you. You can then rip the infant from its mother and raise it as your own, which raises no ethical concerns whatsoever.

What if you are not rich? Then life gets trickier… or does it? After all, many gay (and to be fair, bi) men in the blogosphere have fathered biological children: Two Lives from If I Do the Right Thing, BearToast Joe, Buddy Bear from One Step at a Time, and of course Michael54 from My Secret Journey. Although it seems Michael54 has a tough relationship with one of his kids, for the most part this group of bloggers has been grateful for their children. Of course, all of these bloggers have something else in common: they married women. Some of them married women accepting that they had homosexual attractions, and some of them married in the hopes that straight marriage would cure them.

I feel this is a problem. Is the best gays can do to marry women, have kids, and then lead lives as openly gay/bi men later on? Is it okay that gay men who hate themselves and desperately want to be straight get rewarded with biological children, and gays who come out early enough in life that they don’t get straight married have no options other than renting a womb?

The lesbians have figured this out, possibly because wombs tend to be more prevalent in the lesbian population. Lesbians watch some educational movie on the miracle of birth, decide that they want to be moms, and then hit the Internet or male-order catalogues for a vial of sperm and a turkey baster. Before you know it, Heather has two mommies. But it seems way more complicated for same-sex couples with no wombs between them.

Andrew Solomon, the aforementioned author of Far From the Tree, offers a glimmer of hope. He has a complicated, multiple-state web of biological children, where he and his partner had some lesbian friends carry their kids to term, and in return he and his partner provided sperm for those lesbians. Maybe this is not that different from renting a womb, but it feels more egalitarian somehow. To some extent it reinforces heteronormativity, though: it turns out the homophobes were right, and you really do need Tab A to fit into Slot B if you want babies.

I don’t have a clear answer for this. I do think it is a difficult truth that we should acknowledge, especially as kids come out of the closet earlier and earlier. Some of those queer kids are going to want kids of their own, and it is not clear to me what ethical ways there are to deal with that.

Mind! It is not as if the straights have everything figured out either. Nobody wants to acknowledge that women are more fertile (and maybe have healthier babies) when they are quite young, in their late teens or through their twenties. Biologically this makes sense, but socio-economically we have decided this is a bad idea, because (surprise!) straight couples want financial and life stability before having kids, and that often means that women get to have careers. Thus we end up with Facebook and Apple offering to freeze eggs for their female employees, so they can put in 80 hour weeks at their Silicon Valley jobs while worrying less about their biological clocks. Too bad freezing eggs is expensive. What do the rest of the straight people do, now that we expect kids to go to school until age 25-30 and then wait another 10 years to get out of precarious employment?

Also, can we please outlaw two parent households? I won’t go so far as to call two parent households child abuse outright, but I am tempted. Children need way more than two parents, as far as I can tell. In the Good Old Days there would be grandparents and spinster aunts and confirmed bachelor uncles to help take care of the kids. But now we obsess over the nuclear family as being the platonic ideal of a “correct” family, and I feel it is doing children a lot of harm. The nuclear family may be economically convenient for capitalism but it’s no way to raise a family.

22 thoughts on “Biokids

  1. Oh, Bless their souls.
    I’m with you here. I’ve never wanted children and will never have any. There was a time when a friend insisted that if she’d ever want to have a child I’d be the first in line to provide the boy batter to achieve that goal. I thought it could be fun. But she would raise it. I would probably not have much to do with the whole thing.
    I have never felt the tug of fatherhood. I don’t want a mini-me running around.There’s enough straight people around popping babies to keep earth populated.

    XOXO

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  2. The turkey baster method among lesbians ended when HIV arrived. No more DIY at home — too dangerous. Lesbians then had to resort to commercial pregnancy clinics and sperm banks (which had HIV screening) where they were discriminated against at first. Haters said those services were only for women with fertility problems and lesbians weren’t infertile, they just refused to have sex with men.

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    1. That sounds expensive. Maybe lesbians don’t have everything figured out after all? There goes my best pun.

      After a quick scour of the Internet (and a longer bleaching of my eyes) it appears that not all lesbians got the memo, and some continue to use yogurt containers and syringes, but you raise an excellent point.

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  3. I’m amazed how you write these great posts while still being your usual obnoxious self, and I mean obnoxious in your cute bratty Lurky way, not in a mean way.
    Everyone gets their panties in a bunch if gay men have kids non traditionally with a woman. They point to the husband and wife with children. However how many young people are married with their “own” children. Nobody points out the man who has two/three kids with his wife and one with his “drunk at the office party” or the husband and wife with kids, plus her kids and his kids. Even the preachers foaming at the mouth over these things have plenty of “oops” running around. It’s only important for kids to have a loving home, not a straight or gay home.

    Now stop being so cantankerous and someone will touch your penis. 😀

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    1. Oh, I am pretty sure the preachers are not happy with the number of babies running around who are not born to married straight people. I am doubly sure that they harshly judge their own accidents as well, although I bet few of them lay the blame on themselves. (“That b*tch! She told me she was on The Pill!”)

      I get my panties in a bunch to the extent that mixed-orientation marriages can be very difficult for the straight spouse. I do not think they are inherently bad if everybody knows the deal going in, and I do not think they are failures if they do not last a lifetime, but I don’t like it when straight spouses marry gay people under false pretenses. Having said that I do not feel comfortable harshly judging those who did get married hoping it would turn them straight either.

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  4. You know, this urge to continue your genes must be pretty strong in men. I know several people (yes, I know people in the flesh) who’ve, to their credit, married women who already had kids from a previous relationship(s). Yet, they’ve felt the need to knock the poor thing up with their own progeny. At least they’re not lions, otherwise they’d have to kill the offending other kids first. I’m not touching the other issues here. Some people shouldn’t breed, I don’t care what their orientation. My late mother would be high on that list, then again where would I be if she’d had any sense at all?

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    1. At least half the blogosphere your mother decided to have kids. But it is a difficult question overall. I often think the world would be a better and happier place had I never been born. Some other sperm could have won and given my parents a more deserving child.

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    2. Whoops. Me no English good. I meant to write that at least half the blogosphere is grateful that your mother decided to have kids.

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      1. Aw, aren’t you sweet! I’m glad the Lurkster producing sperm won out! You make my “dark” side laugh. Think positive. Another sperm/egg combination could have produced a serial killer or something. You are way, way better than a serial killer 🙂

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  5. Gay bloke couples who want to have kids have it tough. I’ve often thought that. I don’t personally know any bloke couples with kids. I know a few women couples. I know one family unit with two mums and two dads (the dads are very involved but the kids live with their mums).

    I love the concept of banning two parent households. But then I think how detrimental it would be for me and my boys to live with my Dad. I am so fortunate to have a very loving and supportive partner who loves his boys. Being a single parent would be exhausting. But it would sure beat being in an abusive, loveless relationship – including for the kids.
    Children need unconditional love preferably from more than one adult. It’s important for some individuals to know the gene pool they come from. But they don’t need the unconditional love to come from these people.

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    1. I agree that abusive people should not be included in the set of caregivers, even if they are grandparents. I am not sure I care who is in the set, so long as it is big enough to actually care for children without burning the caregivers out, and as long as those caregivers are competent and caring.

      It occurs to me that a traditional way to solve this is to have lots of kids, and then coerce the older kids into caring for the younger ones. It also occurs to me that we use schoolteachers as a substitute for the additional adults that (I feel) are necessary to parent children effectively. I do not know whether that is enough. My point is that kids raised in a network of support (“it takes a village”) probably do better than those who are socially isolated, as the nuclear family tends to incentivize.

      I also agree that a family with two abusive parents is probably worse than single parenthood. I often wish my parents had separated, if only for the sake of my mother. But there is no question it would have been harder.

      I am glad you have a good co-parent. It still seems like a real trial to raise a kid with only two people, especially if those people also have jobs. As for single parents, I feel that most of them are heroic, and many of the kids turn out okay, but the single parents are killing themselves and there are still consequences for the kids.

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  6. Previously you asked about my angst ridden 12 year old. Here’s a peak into his thought processes.

    “I go to school today. I go to school tomorrow. I go to school the next day. I go to school the day after that. And school the day after that. Then the weekend is only two days long and it starts all over again.” Said with a flat, deadpan voice – as though he was describing an eternity. “Getting an education isn’t worth it. We’re all going to die.” “There is no point.” He’s hungry to learn – but not when he perceives the content as pointless or boring.

    The future of the world scares him and fills him with gloom. He worries about the use of plastic and the use of electricity. Climate change is a huge existential fear for him. “Why aren’t the leaders doing anything about it?” “Why do so many people not care?” He no longer chooses to watch wildlife documentaries because when he watches them he thinks more about climate change. 

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    1. Wow. All of that does sound familiar to me. I wish I had comforting advice to offer, but I find myself agreeing with your kid.

      One thing that has helped me a little is to put problems in context. I have not been able to do this for climate change very well, but I became more sanguine about nuclear waste when I understood (a) the actual damage it does and (b) the scale of the problem, which is not that big.

      We tend to play up the fears and catastrophe when it comes to environmental concerns like climate change. It may be the case that understanding what is actually likely to happen, and what the likely consequences are, might be more comforting than thinking of the problem as a big cloud of apocalypse. Alternatively, learning more about what actually is likely to happen might increase anxiety and terror.

      Here is another non-cure that has helped: gratitudes. I suppose counting gratitudes has become a cliche, but it has been helpful to spend time a few times a week counting out 10 distinct gratitudes. I do not necessarily have to be happy or optimistic about things to be grateful for them. Lots of things are going well for me right now, even if I am convinced they will all fall apart later.

      Listening to Buddhist podcasts (in particular the ones from Audio Dharma) have also proven to be helpful in ways that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy have not, but your son may be too young to get much out of dharma talks.

      I’m really sorry that your son is going through this, and similarly sorry that you have to witness this as his mom. I wish I had better advice for you (especially if I could then apply that advice for myself and then be less broken). Given how my angst has led to self-harm, I do not blame you for being concerned.

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        1. Another unwelcome thought flitted into my mind this morning. In addition to existential angst, your son seems depressed (based upon the short paragraph you have shared with me, which is clearly not enough for a diagnosis and I am not a doctor anyways).

          Did you say whether you son is on antidepressants? I do not remember.

          Depression and angst are not easily teased apart. When somebody is depressed then rational arguments for being less depressed don’t work so well. (If I remember correctly you also have dealt with mood disorders? If so then you probably know what I am talking about.)

          I have a fairly hostile relationships to Big Pharma in general and antidepressants in particular. Sometimes I have a hostile relationship to having a better mood, because I worry that when I am in a better mood I just avoid thinking about the difficult things. But there are limits. Even I can see that when my mood drags me down to the point where I can do nothing other than think about the difficult things (and use that to fuel my self-loathing and self-destruction) then it is not helping anything.

          I do not remember whether I mentioned this on my blog but there is a quotation from Mark Vonnegut (relayed via Kurt, I think) that has resonated with me: “We’re here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is.” I like it because it allows for the possibility that our existences are absurd and possibly meaningless, but still gives us something to do.

          (I do recognise that I am talking your ear off. Sorry.)

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          1. Sadly, I do think my boy is depressed. Being Bipolar this concerns me greatly. When he was younger he saw different health professionals and was diagnosed as being a bit on the Autistic Spectrum. I would love for him to see a psychiatrist or a psychologist again. Or even our GP. But he is adamant he will not go. Punishments and rewards don’t work on him. In a few weeks time I have an appointment to see a psychologist about him to hopefully get some strategies. I suspect a small amount of AD would help reduce his anxiety enough to be able to participate in therapy. But it’s not an option whilst he won’t see a physician.

            I suspect when you started blogging you didn’t anticipate you’d be giving a woman on the other side of the world useful advice on caring for her son.
            😉

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