“Necessity is the mother of invention” goes the old saying. When there is a problem or an issue in play, a creative solution is often about to be realized. This point is nowhere more valid than in the area of LGBT couples having children and starting families.
According to a recent study by Cambridge University, the ease by which a couple can procreate seems to dictate the primary avenue by which they pursue the creation of family. Heterosexuals who often have to guard against unwanted pregnancy choose a wanted pregnancy as their primary route to familyhood. Lesbian couples do not have to fear unwanted pregnancies, but if they can solicit a sperm donor, an apparently readily achievable task in many cases, they too initiate pregnancy. Gay men have a tougher challenge, as a participating womb and body for nine months—to say nothing of labor and health risks—are far more difficult and costly resources than male reproductive material. Therefore, according to the study, they pick foster care or adoption as their likely method.
I am frequently called upon to recount the choices I made in creating my family. The last such conversation took place at a kids’ party attended by many of my son’s schoolmates. One of the fathers was chatting me up, knowing I was a gay dad, and his curiosity was apparently killing him. I graciously volunteered that the boys had been adopted through the local foster care program.
“Oh, cool,” he said. “I assume there was a screening process.”
“Oh, absolutely,” I responded. “They did a complete background check on me. It was very thorough.” A strange look crossed his face.
“No . . . I didn’t mean on you. I meant on the children. To make sure there were no mental issues or drug exposure.”
My eyebrow raised slightly, and even though I caught his drift, I proudly proclaimed, “No, they don’t screen out children . . . and my boys both had drug exposure. That was not a problem.” At that point, it became obvious that the man was interested only in the parenting of “perfect” children, and he did a quick mumble and moved on to the hors d’oeuvres table.
It left me wondering, who out there will step up for the “nonperfect” kids, kids already created and in need now? Who will be the parents of the kids who got dealt a raw deal at birth and are facing major challenges before their lives have even begun?
It has been suggested to me that LGBT parents would be the perfect class to do this. We, who get to really think out the process by which we are going to become parents, have the opportunity to step up. We can help not only ourselves, but these kids who are in need. We can influence the world, which is currently too eager to discard these kids and ultimately turn them in to serious drags on society as adults. Should this be a mandate for us?
Certainly, parents such as Clint and Bryan, who saved ten kids, are among the most moral on the planet. I dearly wish and pray that it was easy for us all to do what they have done. Unfortunately, it is not.
Like the deep longings that drive us to fall in love and partner, the longings to be a parent are equally complex. Those longings are not often driven by selfless altruistic motivations and energies. If they were, the people who would be loved, pursued, and married most would be the saintly, good, honest, and upstanding—regardless of their physical appearance. Gyms would not turn out the most likely to be sought after. Sadly, that is not the case, and the great love stories do not end with the hero taking up into his arms the person he most admires but to whom he does not feel physically attracted.
Parenting is similar. Some people need to see traces of their biological family in their children’s faces. Some need the comfort that a biologically made child cannot be taken away. Some do not have the stomach to navigate the foster care and adoption systems, neither of which was designed to be parent friendly.
Like romantic relationships, no matter what the motivation or catalyst that creates the bond, the real morality occurs in the development, and sustainability, of the relationship itself. Parenting is a tough gig. It is not easy to be ready and present for another human being’s needs day in and day out, for decades. It is about selflessness and the pursuit of unconditional love. The desire to be a good parent is in itself moral. Take the example of Markus K, who acted as a sperm donor for many lesbian families. He may not have done a thing to ease the pain and loneliness of the world’s orphans, and he added to the earth’s seven billion population with kids he will not be involved in raising. What he has done, however, is to forgo any intimate long-term relationship for himself in order to visit and be there for any of his progeny who may be interested in seeing him. Even through his brand of parenting, he has achieved selflessness.
So, if you want to have children and want to do it in the most moral way, find out which method is the one to which you can fully commit yourself. Find the one that inspires you to be the most diligent and dedicated parent possible. Find the one that makes you a better person. You will then have done the “moral” thing.
And if you want to be a real hero, go the extra mile. Help answer the question my friend at the party left me with: Who will adopt the millions of orphans worldwide who are already here, not perfect, and need us? Who will take that into account in their family planning? Who will make the process easier and readily available for LGBT families and inspire the foster care/adoption path? Who will make a real difference?
I hope it is me. I hope it is you, too.
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Thanks to Rachel Hockett for editing help on this article.