Who's Fit to Parent?
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! March 3, 1999
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Whos fit to be a parent? Thats a question a lot of people would love to answer but it never applies where parenting is straight-forward (pun intended). If you can conceive and birth a child then you can have as many as you like and raise them in whatever way you want. Lord knows, we even have organized religions that damn you to hell if you dont have as many as you possibly can.
          The Catholic church aside, we tend to like it this way. It
s a free choice whether to bring another being into the world and what values to teach them once theyre here. But for many people, its not a matter of choice at all. Or at least not a simple one. Im thinking of those in the LBGT community who can barely get sperm and an egg in the same room, let alone swimming up the same canal.
          Questions of alternative reproduction haven
t really been important in the gay community. Its a womens issue mostly. Sure, there are those whove started families with the help of cold insemination clinics, warm donations from friends, through adoption, or agreements with someone of the opposite sex to procreate and parent together. For many of these its also been important to have gay families recognized as normal.
          But loads of others in the community don
t think parenting, or how to get pregnant, is a gay issue at all. I received a mixed compliment lately when an Xtra reader told me she normally skips parenting stories because they dont apply to her, but she usually reads my column because she likes it. And at a queer conference last June, I had the pleasure (honestly) of listening to Sky Gilbert rant about wanting gay pride day to celebrate sex and the joy of fucking, rather than how many dykes are pushing strollers and how many fags are holding little hands.
          I support Sky Gilbert
s desire. I mean, I support the celebration of sexuality and pursuing sex for pleasure. But as a mom, a queer and a sexual being, I dont want my identities divided. Ill push my stroller or dance with my daughter in celebration of everything thats given me joy, including being queer, having sex, loving my kid or (really rare) getting a good nights sleep.
          In our culture we have been legally denied the right to express ourselves sexually, and in many countries it‘s still a capital offence. It
s appropriate that some of us fight for that freedom. But due to the nature of procreation we are physically denied the choice to be parents. Its not that healthy nurturing of a child requires equal involvements of male and female, its just that the ingredients are set up that way.
          Our generation has witnessed endless scientific investigation into alternative methods to have a child, but mostly for the benefit of sperm-and-eggers who can
t make it happen. Any advantage to queers who’ve managed to access services such as a sperm bank, alternative insemination or adoption, is a kind of spin-off of the original objective.
          I think queers should take up these issues, and not only those who have an interest in parenting. Just as Sky Gilbert and others want to have company in pushing society to acknowledge the joys and diversities of sex, myself and others wouldn
t mind a few more voices talking about alternative methods of parenting as gay issues. Because if we dont get pregnant or father a child in our pre-coming out straight relationships, then how do we do it?
          Sure, the certainty of not having a child is also pretty terrific. It
s been years since Ive spent money on birth control, counted days on the calendar or waited, anxiously, for a telltale sign. All that sex with no pregnancy fear, you have to wonder sometimes why everybody doesnt just come out.
          But rather than assume this as the
norm for queers and never bother about pregnancy or parenting because it doesnt apply, why not consider it as something important if only because it is so removed? If we dont advocate for alternative pregnancies or parenthood as part of our right, then we might as well go along with the idea that parenting is exclusively heterosexual.
          For example, there
s the very controversial issue of surrogate motherhood. I didnt think of it as a gay issue until I knew of a woman who was considering carrying a child for a gay male couple. The idea sparked lots of argument and debate, and brought out lots of opinion. Personally, Im not much in favour of surrogacy because it seems too likely that women will be exploited. But looked at as a gay issue, I saw something else.    
          I saw a gay man wanting to parent his biological child and being denied that opportunity solely because of his sexuality. If we take the position that surrogacy is wrong, then we don
t leave too many options for such a person to fulfill their wish, a wish that thousands of straight couples take for granted everyday as they plan out their families and pick out new names.
          People who are fit to be parents are not those who are sexually attracted to the opposite sex. They are not those who love only one person at a time. They are not those who can buy a house first and afford to fix up the nursery. They are not those who go to church and they are not those who have a good job.
          They are people who can love, and who can let love lead them. And that
s all the qualifications we should demand.

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It's not that healthy nurturing of a child requires equal involvements of male and female, it's just that the ingredients are set up that way.