With an ever-growing list of accomplishments—from state nondiscrimination laws to inevitable nationwide marriage to prominent positions in society and government—gay Americans and the Gay Agenda continue building momentum toward full equality. And women have played a major role in creating a society that’s better for gay men. Straight female allies helped create a world where dozens of my friends are living with, not dying from, HIV/AIDS. Out lesbians Robbie Kaplan and Edie Windsor forced the federal government to recognize my marriage, allowing me to stay together with my partner, who happened to be born abroad.
In light of all that women have done for gay men’s rights (while their own rights get whittled down by five heterosexual Catholic men), one recent story in The New Republic made me pause to consider how social and legal evolution favoring gay men may actually be hurting women. The article, “This Scientific Breakthrough Could Ruin Conservatives’ Final Argument Against Same-Sex Marriage,” discussed the work of British and Israeli scientists who are making progress toward engineering female gametes from male cells. The implication is that two men, with some help from a lab, could provide the genetic material needed to make a baby. This has the potential for killing, once and for all, the Conservative argument that an absent parent negatively impacts child development.
Where they can, gay couples adopt and care for foster children in significant numbers, fulfilling a badly needed role that, in my view, wouldn’t be so badly needed if women enjoyed full reproductive rights. But that’s a different blog post. For gay men of means, it’s possible to have children who are genetically related to one of the parents. It’s called surrogacy. But whether the genetic material used to produce an embryo comes from one dad—as is done today—or both dads—as might be done in the future—no fetus will come to term without a living womb of a real-life human woman to serve as an incubator.
The rise of surrogacy has led to the outsourcing of American pregnancies, to both developing nations and to the lower socioeconomic classes within the United States. In the U.S., surrogate mothers can earn more than $25,000 for rent-a-womb services. In developing countries, women receive far less. An Indian surrogate could earn from 200,000 to 500,000 rupees for carrying a fetus to term (approximately $3,200 to $8,000 at today’s exchange rates). For better or for worse, India’s surrogacy industry is booming, despite legislative changes that now ban gay parent buyers from the market. Whereas blatant anti-gay discrimination usually makes me sick to my stomach, I can’t help but see this policy shift as a good thing.
Gestational surrogacy as a financial transaction coopts female bodies, especially brown, poor and foreign female bodies. Setting aside the problem of the normative privileging of genetic relationships over emotional ones (oh, the gay irony!), parents who choose surrogacy over adoption force the creation of new life while a parentless kid waits even longer to get adopted. And while those mostly brown kids continue to wait, affluent gay Americans increasingly pay for brown bodies to produce mostly white offspring. What will the engineering of viable, male-derived XX accomplish besides further exacerbating the problem of reproductive imperialism and male domination of the female body?
Technological and marketplace advances allowing gay male couples to father children that are genetically related to both parents represents the latest fad in abusing freedom of contract to undercut civil rights. Gay men, in searching for familial self-determination and assimilationist acceptance, are achieving “equality” at the expenses of women. Short of banning gestational surrogacy, this problem is sure to get worse.