A couple of male penguins in the Berlin Zoo, Ping and Skip, have come together to have a child. In the process of adopting an egg, Ping and Skip have evolved. Where they were more outgoing and easier to approach, they have taken the job of trying to hatch an egg, as any parent would, quite seriously. This is a wonderful story, not just because it makes us feel good but because it reinforces the universal desire to have children regardless of sex, gender identity, or even species.
Similar to most gay men I struggled with the coming out process. I strongly desired to be a parent. As a fertility doctor I knew this was possible. What was enlightening was after we had our child I went, in the eyes of my community, from being a gay man or gay professional to being a parent just like most of my straight friends. Remarkably, with this transition nobody seemed to really care who I slept with. I share this personal aspect of my life to offer perspective to LGBTQ+ people who want to be parents. Once you have a family you will have this common bond with the vast majority of our population and something they can relate to – having children. You are no longer someone living this “special” lifestyle, you are a parent on a shared journey. There is so much more to talk about; diapers, bottles, runny noses, and strollers.
In truth, somebody’s sexuality is a very small piece of who they are. For whatever reason in our Judeo-Christian Western society, somebody’s sexuality has become in many ways more significant than the good work they do or the job they have. However, parenting is the one and only job that has no prerequisites, is held by the majority of the population, requires no training or oversight, and is very relatable to everyone who holds it. It is also the only job you can’t be fired from. All that is necessary to be a parent is to provide unconditional love. Whether you are straight, trans, gay, or whatever, you have the ability to have children and do not need to stress over whether or not your family will be different. All you have to do is love your children unconditionally.
My parenting journey brought me very much out of the closet – I had to be proud of my family because I want them to be proud of our family. It wasn’t about me anymore. The reality is that 5-7% of patients identify as LGBTQ+, and there may be a greater likelihood that your child might be LGBTQ+ because you are. Therefore, you need to be proud of who you are and who your family is, establish and maintain this foundation unconditionally.
As a parent who lives in suburbia, I’ve learned that there are plenty of straight couples that have their own parenting struggles–be that simply getting along with a spouse, or the everyday tribulations of raising children and the havoc that wreaks on any relationship. From 20 years of being an infertility doctor, I know that 1 out of 6 couples struggle to become parents. So while the struggle for parenthood among the gay population is different, it is not unique. The desire to be a parent is common for most humans, and while everyone struggles, I support everyone who wants to be a parent and will work tirelessly to get them there.
The message I impart to my LGBTQ+ friends and all patients is simply this: anyone can be a parent if they wish to, and while the journey may be a nuanced for someone in the LGBTQ+ community, the end result is the same. Love is love, and if it is what you want, take the plunge to parenthood.
Written by Dr. Mark Leondires