So, as some of you may have noticed, I was recently visiting New York City for the first time this past weekend. I was speaking as a part of a "Personal Stories" panel at the eighth annual Men Having Babies seminar. My part was to discuss the point of view as a traditional surrogate and egg donor. The whole trip was amazing, and I had a great time, especially in Chelsea and The Village, not to mention the Highline.
One of the things that took me by surprise was the prevalence of gender disparities in alternative reproductive methods.
I'll be the first to acknowledge that- biologically- there are very good reasons to focus on gay men and their options in family building, as that whole not-having-a-uterus aspect of being a cis-male does make procreation more difficult than it is for a cis-female. At the same time, there are similar non-biological hurdles to family building for both gay and lesbian couples. Legally, both have to go through some form of second parent adoption, pre-birth order, or other mechanism in order for both parents to be recognized as parents and given the protections afforded to legal parents. Medically, both have to obtain donor gametes from a third party. Psychologically, both have to deal with the emotional reality of having to involve a third party in their family, how and when to disclose information to the resultant child and friends and family, and the potential risks of involving a third party, including the potential for threats to their family autonomy.
Yet, I have never seen or heard of a conference on these issues geared at women, only men.
And selling services to the men that need these services is big business for surrogacy and egg donor agencies, lawyers, IVF providers, and more.
Yet, there's very little spent on addressing women's needs in these areas.
It all feels very lopsided to me; as if the fact that in this particular instance (that of family building) men being at a biological disadvantage to women is a grave injustice that must be corrected. What about the women who have to face very similar issues in family creation- don't they also deserve help, advocacy, and advice?
I also lost track of the times people referred to surrogates as "carrier", "vessel", "host", or "uterus", and I can assure you that my eye twitched every time it happened.
But I assure you, for all my kvetching on here, the seminar and trip was actually a very positive experience. Seeing New York City; seeing such loving, compassionate people wanting to raise children; seeing the difference that love and hard work has made in just a few years- it was all far more than worth the negative thought experiments.