I always knew I wanted to be a mum, so when I met my wife, I was so happy she felt the same. Back then, there was little to no support or information for LGBT+ people who wanted to conceive or start a family – it was incredibly disparate or out of date.
We decided that we would both like to carry a child if we could, so we went for fertility treatment through a private clinic, CRGH. As my wife was older and had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), she underwent IUI (intrauterine insemination) first, as it was less costly and invasive. It took us three failed cycles and one miscarriage before she fell pregnant on the fifth attempt.A few years later, we decided to try for a sibling, and I fell pregnant on the second IUI attempt.
When we decided to have a third child, with me carrying again several years later, we mistakenly assumed because I had fallen pregnant so quickly before, it would happen again. However, after three failed IUIs, we discovered that my ovarian reserve had diminished by half. Devastated, we decided to try IVF, due to my age, declining fertility and the fact we only had two vials of sperm left, which we had obtained through American sperm bank XYTEX.
Unfortunately, this procedure was initially cancelled when the Coronavirus pandemic hit, and when the clinics re-opened, our first round of IFV failed. However, after this, we luckily fell pregnant again with a frozen IVF transfer.
We know we’re blessed to have our miracles, however, the path to parenthood for us and many others hasn’t always been so smooth. We were not eligible for NHS funding and have had to pay privately for treatment, which has cost us in excess of £40K. As LGBT+ people, we face a disproportionate amount of discrimination and lack of support when it comes to becoming parents.
Depending on where you live in the UK, many same sex couples don’t have access to NHS funding at all, and those that do may have to pay for 6-12 rounds of private treatment before they’re eligible.
In contrast, heterosexual couples only have to try to conceive for two years before they may be eligible for free treatment.
If you aren’t eligible for NHS funding and you cannot afford private treatment, but you (or your partner if you have one) are desperate to carry a baby of your own, the only option is to find a known donor and conceive at home. Many families do this happily and successfully, because it is their preferred choice of starting a family, and some people happily have the donor involved too. However, for others, who are forced down this route because it’s the only option they have left, the process can invite expensive and emotional complications. For example, if you are not married, only the person carrying the child can be named on the birth certificate, and the donor is named as the other legal parent. In this case, you have to apply for ‘second parent adoption’, which takes time and can be costly. In some extreme cases, this has resulted in the donor claiming rights to the child, including access (when the arrangement had been that he was just ‘donating’), which can be detrimental to the child and all parties involved. Parent alienation can also happen, meaning the other parent loses access and the law does not recognise
them as a parent. In this respect, the law can be discriminative of our journeys too.
The same discrimination towards LGBT+ people can be said for general healthcare; the heteronormative ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ forms, red baby book, imagery and resources – the systems aren’t built to support us. It doesn’t reflect our people – there are no two mum images, or trans parents pictured. When was the last time you saw a co-parenting family, or poly family on a poster? This is
the same for those adopting or fostering – the questions and lack of understanding follows. We’re invisible and there is no ‘tick box’ for us. We are consistently ‘othered’.
When it comes to finally getting pregnant and attending any healthcare appointments, the discrimination or lack of support and understanding continues. Unfortunately, there is no ‘mandated’ education in who we are, our paths to parenthood, or how to support LGBT+ people for healthcare professionals. This is something we are working to change. When you have attended a
midwife appointment as the ‘non-biological’ mother and have been asked for the fifth time if you are your partner’s ‘sister’ or her ‘mum’, or told ‘only dads allowed’ on the ward, it can be waning and even traumatic for some. We know of a trans man, ushered out of waiting rooms because the receptionist scolded that ‘this room is for women!’ without checking first. There are people that
have been misgendered, have not had their pronouns asked, or had their ‘dead names’ used. We know of doctors that have refused to deal with a non-bio parent because, ‘I don’t want you, I want the REAL mum’. Many are not educated in how to support us, and general discrimination can occur.
Constantly having to ‘out’ ourselves at every turn doesn’t just stay within a healthcare setting – this continues into the playground and becomes part of our children’s school life; having to explain our families and not seeing our families represented in books and education.
These are OUR experiences. Our lives. These are the micro-aggressions and discrimination many of us experience throughout our journey.
However, this is not to say it happens all the time to everyone – many of us have had great experiences and there are professionals who support us well or are aware that they need educating and want to do better. Some even go out and pay for their own training – something that shouldn’t have to happen. Healthcare professionals and teachers need support in their roles too, which in turn
will result in better staff retention.
It’s not all doom and gloom – luckily the tide is turning and change is coming. The NHS specifically are listening and looking at how they can ensure all staff are trained to support us better, although we know this may take time. The Government are also trying to improve diversity in education, to ensure our families are represented and supported. Yet as a community, the LGBT+ paths to parenthood are still full of twists, turns and dead ends, fraught with a lack of education and discrimination.
This is why we created our organisation, The LGBT Mummies Tribe, to ‘educate, share, celebrate’ LGBT+ women and people globally on the path to parenthood. We work hard to provide a safe haven and community, to meet others with lived experiences through our support groups and ‘normalise’ our families in society, whilst creating an inclusive future for our children. We are
passionate about ensuring others don’t go through the confusion, discrimination and lack of educated support we went through, and we hope the work we are implementing will do just that.
We feel every person has the human right to have a family by their first, chosen route in a safe and supported way. That is something we will continue to fight for – so that our community’s parenting experiences are positive, equal and supported – just like our heterosexual counterparts.
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