Most gay parents think about how they’re going to create their family for years, before setting out to actually have children.
Many factors will influence your decisions. The main ones fall into two groups: the relevant laws, and your personal values and circumstances.
Only you can decide how to create your family. Personal values and circumstances play a big role. Who do you think should be involved in raising children? Do you think children should ideally grow up having a relationship with the woman who contributed to their genetic origins? And if your child was conceived through ‘gestational surrogacy’, what about the woman who carried and gave birth to them?
Some men might want to welcome other people into helping raise their children, and decide to explore co-parenting with a lesbian couple or single woman. The issues are complex, but there are many successful examples of rainbow families with two, three or more co-parents.
Some men decide that rather than being parents themselves, they prefer to have children in their lives by becoming the known and involved donors for a lesbian couple or single woman. We explore the possible role of known donors briefly below, and in more detail under Information for prospective sperm donors.
If you are considering being a known donor or donor/s, is it absolutely critical to be sure that this is what you really want. Too many men compromise their deepest desires to be parents/fathers, and become known donors instead. You can be very involved in a child’s life as a donor, but it is a very different role from parenting. If what you truly want is to be a parent/father, explore ways that you can make this happen. The options available for gay men to become parents are not easy, but the number of gay dads is increasing, and there are support and discussion groups available. If you compromise on this issue, but do not ‘make peace’ with your decision, the evidence is that it can too often result in heartache for everyone concerned: you, the mother/s, and most importantly the child or children.
Some men decide that they don’t want to bring other adults into their family – that one or two loving fathers (and any extended family) are all the family their children will need. Some decide this by default, because they do not know anyone suitable, with whom they have a close enough relationship to co-parent. Some men decide to pursue overseas surrogacy. Some investigate fostering. Some explore altruistic surrogacy in Victoria.
To conceive through altruistic surrogacy, you need to know (or find through your personal networks) a woman willing to be your surrogate. You also need an egg donor. Some men may ask sisters or other relatives they are close to. Some men will have little contact with their donor and/or surrogate after their child is born and legal parentage established. Some men might welcome one or both women into their lives long-term, with the levels of contact varying from very occasional to significant time together. Some may start with an agreement to minimal contact, but an openness to seeing (and a process for deciding) where the journey might lead them.
Any of these decisions is absolutely legitimate. The most important thing is that you base your choices on your own values. Try not to let fear – for example of what other people might think – dictate this critical life decision. In particular, try to challenge the idea (even within yourself) that ‘all children need a mother and a father’. Three decades of rigorous Australian and international research show that children of same-sex parents are not disadvantaged, and are in some ways – such as in their capacity for empathy – better off!
Gay men have been creating and raising families in many ways for many years, and will continue to do so. Laws and social attitudes have improved a great deal, and will continue to do so as our numbers grow.
Get the latest information about options for parentage, and what other gay men have done, by visiting the the Gay Dads Australia website or by joining support groups or online email groups such as the Gay Dads Vic yahoo group.