In the gay and lesbian community, sperm brings both pleasure and pain. It inspires debate and creates mess, and increasingly it is used in the way the Christian fundamentalists believe it is meant to be used: procreation.
Heather Grace Jones is a lesbian with a son conceived by anonymous donor insemination. When she arrived home with a baby, born from months of consideration, insemination and gestation, everyone was talking about sperm -“ who it belonged to and what became of it after it left a man’s body.
I realised I’d spent a lot of time talking to many of my friends who were also part of the -˜gay baby boom’, for want of a better phrase, she said.
And all of them have spent a lot of time negotiating and trying to work out relationships between mothers and fathers and donors and partners -“ the whole shebang.
These debates and discussions inspired a book, Sperm Wars. Edited with Dr Maggie Kirkman, the book is a collection of essays and personal stories by people affected by reproductive technologies. Its voices include grown-up children conceived by donor insemination, lesbian parents, doctors and researchers with opinions -“ put simply -“ ranging from yes to no.
Firmly on the no side is Bill Muehlenberg from the Australian Family Association. His argument is based on his experiences as a father and his opinion that only a biological parent can properly bond with a child.
It’s a hard one to swallow, especially for a parent in a same-sex relationship. But Jones said it was imperative to include both sides of the argument, even ones she found personally distasteful.
I think that if you’re making a book which is claiming to try and look at things with an overall view, then you have to listen to the views of people that you’re not necessarily in agreement with, she said.
Obviously, I think Bill is wrong. But what I think is interesting about Bill’s voice in the midst of all those other voices is that his arguments -“ for example, if you’re not someone’s biological father you’re never really going to love a child -“ stand in the middle of a whole book of people that absolutely adore the children they’re not biologically connected to. So what you get is stark contrast.
Sperm Wars answers some questions, and challenges some misconceptions about people who access reproductive technologies -“ including the belief that women don’t really consider the impact their decisions could have on their children.
We wanted to say for many, many heterosexual people, having families is something they simply take for granted, Jones said. I’m not saying all heterosexual people do this, but many don’t think about what it means for the child, they don’t think in long-term or complex ways about it. But for people who are outside that particular paradigm for whatever reason, infertility or because they’re homosexual, thinking about reproductive choices is something they have to do very consciously.
But the main reason was closer to home, she said.
These are personal issues, and that’s one of the really important things about doing this book. I haven’t ever tried to pretend that this isn’t personal for me. I have made a bunch of reproductive choices which are quite complex, and I do not want my child to grow up in a world where he’s in some way discriminated against because he has lesbian parents or he is a donor child. And that’s the true answer why we did this book.
Sperm Wars is published by ABC Books.