Global Surrogacy and Gay Fathers in Israel

I’ve written before about global surrogacy, sometimes from a critical perspective.  It’s only fair to note this development, which perhaps weights on the other side of the balance. 

The number of Israeli gay male couples becoming parents is on the rise.   These couples are denied access to surroacy in Israel.  But if they can travel outside the country, they can access these services.  Hence the increase in gay couples using surrogacy to create their families.  (Note that the featured couple did not travel to India, which is often the location people thing about if you consider global surrogacy.  They came to the US.)  

A couple of other interesting things are raised in the article.   One, something which is likely obvious but always worthy of mention, is the extent to which ideals around parenthood are culturally constructed.  So, for example, the allusion early in the article to the commandment to be fruitful and multiple.  Perhaps this aspect of the Israeli psyche predisposes more people–which of course would include more gay men–to have children?  

I’ve very appreciative of the observations offered by Yehonatan Alshekh at the end of the article.   (I encourage you to read the story through to the end.)  It’s possible to interpret gay men choosing to raise children as a defiant act, but it is also possible to understand it as an act of compliance with a social norm.  

As with marriage, there seems to be something essentially conservative about the desire to replicate a nuclear family:  Two parents who are a commited couple and children who are as genetically related as you can marry.   I grant that two men or two women raising a child will necessarily challenge assumptions of gendered parenting.   But there’s a host of other assumptions there that will not be challenged.   As Alshekh says, the creative potential of other family forms gets stifled.    

Here’s what I think is the trickiest part.   It is surely easier for gay men and lesbians to raise kids within family strucures that are recognizable and therefore more readily accepted–a version of the nuclear family.   For some people this is also the option that makes most sense, that most truly matches the participants preferences.     In those circumstances, it’s wonderful to have access to that option.  

But there are unquestionably lesbian and gay people who would prefer to raise children outside of a nuclear family.   (There are also heterosexual people who share this preference, but I won’t focus on that here.)   The emerging dominance of the lesbian/gay nuclear family form makes their lives more difficult.   We all  know the classic question:  why can’t you find a nice man/woman and settle down and have kids like everyone else? 

Is there any way to give people the nuclear family option without making it coercive?   Is there any way to know that the choices we make reflect our “true” desires rather than (unwitting/unexamined) conformance to social expectations?  

 There’s nothing either new about these questions, of course.  But that doesn’t mean we get to stop asking them.

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