News from the UK: Gay Fathers Reflect

I seem to have allowed myself a de facto sabbatical from my blog last week.   My apologies to you all, but I suppose I needed the time away.   Anyway, I’ll gear myself back up now. 

Here’s a story about gay fathers in the UK.  It isn’t really a story, though. It’s six gay men/couples talking about their experiences adopting in the UK.   Not the sort of thing you see in the mainstream press all that often, really.  

I’ve been thinking a good deal about gay men and parenthood recently, though I haven’t had occasion to write about it for a while.   One so often lumps together “gay and lesbian” parents.  Yet parenthood is deeply gendered (surely I’ve said this thirty times?) and so lumping lesbian and gay parents together misses as much as it captures.   

For example, I think a single gay man trying to become a parent has far more in common with a single straight man trying to become a parent than he does with a single lesbian trying to become a parent.    (Similarly, single men and women seeking to become parents face common challenges that coupled men and women, no matter how matched up, do not.)    

This is not to say that lesbian parents and gay parents have nothing in common.  For legal purposes they are often lumped together–for example, Florida bans gay men and lesbians from adopting kids.   More broadly, there is clearly an anti-same-sex parenting movement that seeks restrictions on parentage rights of gay men and lesbians equally.   But to see only the commonality (as those opposed to lesbian and gay parenting seem to) is to miss important differences.  

All of the men in the Guardian article are adoptive parents (and it seems to me that adoption may work rather differently in the UK than it does here in the US.)   Thus, there is only passing reference to using ART, which for gay men most typically means surrogacy.   ART is one of the places where the difference between gay men and lesbians is most apparent, because gay men need to find an egg and a womb, while lesbians usually need only sperm.  

And here again I think in terms of sameness and difference.  Lesbians and gay men seeking to adopt have much in common that lesbians and gay men using ART do not.   I suspect that many of the experiences the gay men in the story recount are readily identifiable to other UK adoptive parents, though some would be more particular to lesbian or gay adoptive parents.   Once a child is adopted, there are obviously issues all adoptive parents face, and gay men who have adopted face those.  But in addition, gay men who have adopted face a set of questions that all male-parent-only families (this is meant to  include single men and gay male couples) face–things like  what to do about Mother’s Day, for example, or the countless children’s books where only mothers are shown.  

I’m not sure where all this leads me.   There are so many ways to slice and dice the parenting population.   You can try to think about so many different subsets–gay fathers, single gay fathers, single gay fathers by adoption, single gay fathers who have adopted children of a different race, and so no.   I don’t doubt that there are advantages in thinking about commonalities and differences, but when I start to think hard, it tends to make me very confused.

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