Parenting is universal. Children need to be provided with consistency and security. The gender of each of their parents is not what’s important. If they can provide a loving and safe environment, that is what truly matters. And all LGBT+ people should have the right to become a parent, as much as anyone else, should they choose to do so. Studies and research have again and again pointed to the fact that children of same sex couples fare just as well or even better than the children of opposite-sex couples.
While parenting is universal, it’s also different in every country and culture. And just as parenting differs accross the globe, so does same sex parenting. There is a wide spectrum with regards to how equally (or unequally) same sex parents are treated. From the USA and Australia, where it’s fairly common- to other countries, where it would not only be looked down upon, it would also be a crime. While it’s becoming more and more normal to see same sex parents, there are still many countries where same sex families are fighting for equality.
Ireland sits somewhere in the middle. While we are certainly a progressive country, having voted for marriage equality in 2015, we are still lagging far behind when it comes to rights for same sex parents.
In Ireland, as it stands, there is no way for two people of the same sex to both be registered as parents. There is new legislation coming in soon, which will allow for some female couples to both be registered as parents, but only if they have used an Irish fertility clinic to conceive and with an identifiable donor. Everyone else will continue to be excluded. This includes female couples who have gone abroad for treatment, those who have done Reciprocal IVF, done an at home insemination and those who have used an anonymous or known to them donor. It also totally excludes male couples. There is also zero financial assistance for LGBT+ couples wishing to access fertility treatment. It is however possible to claim tax back as it is a medical procedure.
What Are The Main Issues We Face?
The main issues facing LBGT+ parents across the globe are:
-access to affordable fertility treatment
-access to legal and affordable adoption and/or surrogacy
-equal parental rights for both parents in a same sex couple
-equal parental leave
Canada seems to be a wonderful place to have a same sex family. Both parents can go straight onto the birth certificate. This goes for both female couples and also male couples who have used a surrogate. Parents are also able to split parental leave, in most cases, up to 18 months.
In the USA, the law can slightly differ from state to state. Usually the non birth parent can be registered on the birth cert, but they sometimes also advise second parent adoption to back that up. There are huge variations in what health insurance will cover with regards to some fertility treatment. In some states any type of fertility treatment is covered for LGBT+ couples and in others you may be left totally out of pocket for accessing these services. It all depends on where you live and who you have your health insurance with. I know of many couples who have spent upwards of 50k on fertility treatment.
Australia is similar to the USA, in that both parents can be registered on the birth certificate. However same sex couples are considered 'socially infertile', not 'medically infertile' so that can have implications when it comes to medicare entitlements and rebates.
The UK is miles ahead of us when it comes to the rights of same sex families. Both parents are registered on the birth cert and most couples can access fertility treatment for free on the NHS. I know many families in Ireland have relocated there simply because their family will be fully supported, recognised and protected there. Isn’t that shocking that in 2019, families would have to leave Ireland, simply to ensure the legal protection of their family?
I’ve talked mainly about female and male same sex couples here. It can be even more complicated for trans or non binary people to gain recognition. I was shocked to hear of cases in the states where parental rights to biological children were revoked due to MTF transitioning. Traditional ‘mother’ and ‘father’ roles are so heavily gendered, that trans and non binary people often get totally left out of the conversation. There is so much more that needs to be done before we all have equality in parenting.
Long Way To Go:
While we have a very long way to go in Ireland, I am so grateful that we don’t have to live in the shadows. I’ve had heartbreaking emails from people living in countries where access to fertility treatment is illegal for LGBT+ people. And if they do manage to have a child, they cannot be open about their family for fear of the repercussions. I can’t even imagine living in a country where my family would be illegal. So while we have a long way to go, there are other countries with an even longer struggle ahead of them.
Being a parent is not about genetics or biology. It’s not about your race, religion or sex. A parent is the person who gets up with you in the middle of the night. The one who soothes and settles you when no one else can. The one who worries about you. Who raises you. Whose whole world is about you.
And that is universal.
*this piece originally appeared in GCN magazine*