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Erica Berman Headshot

Gay Or Straight, Good Parenting Is All That Matters

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Most of the people who I see for infertility counseling are the most inspirational, lovely people. These are folks who have endured a great deal of suffering because of infertility and loss and somehow still seem to manage to put one foot in front of the other.

I cannot deny, however, that there are times when an individual or couple hoping to get pregnant or have a baby (through surrogacy, etc.), may not be, in my opinion, in the best situation to become parents. But I do not believe my role is to be a gatekeeper. Who am I to say who is, and is not, going to be a great parent or capable of providing a great life for a child? Just because I might not make the same decision if I were in their shoes, doesn't mean that I believe someone else should be able to make the decision for them.

Not everyone agrees with me. Some people believe that people who are too old, single, or cannot provide financial stability for a child, should not be able to use ART to have a family. While I concede that there are times when I question whether family building may be in the best interests of both the intended parent(s) and/or the resulting offspring, the problem is, how do you regulate this? Who decides the factors that determine access to ART? What age is too old? What does "financial stability" mean? Who gets to set the restrictions, and on what basis are these decisions made? There are a zillion ethical issues with this, and it is a slippery slope.

But there is one thing that I feel very strongly about: A person's sexual orientation/gender identity/gender expression does not, and should not, determine suitability as a parent.

At my daughters' school and daycare there are many kids who have same sex parents. These families are wonderful, the children are thriving, and I love that a wide variety of family forms is "normal" to my kids.

One of the fastest growing groups of ART users is same-sex couples looking to start a family, most often through sperm donation, surrogacy or adoption.

While, thankfully, acceptance for non-heterosexual individuals to become parents is growing, this group still sometimes face prejudice, ignorance and discrimination. Did you know that gay men cannot be sperm donors in Canada? Absurd! And although improvements have been made, fertility clinics, schools, the government and other organizations still have a ways to go to making policies, forms, communication materials and media inclusive. Worse yet, there are still some people who do not believe same sex couples should be parents.

A 2007 survey by Parents Canada magazine found that 6 per cent of respondents do not think same sex couples should parent and another 13 per cent are unsure. I suppose support among almost eight in 10 of the Canadian parents surveyed isn't bad, but this is hardly a random sample of Canadians. According to Angus Reid Polls, only 59 per cent of Canadians overall believe that same sex marriage should continue to be legal. While this is higher than support for same sex marriage in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., I hope one day it will be even higher.

In Toronto, a fairly liberal (except for our current mayor) cosmopolitan, and diverse city, there is far more acceptance of same sex families, and more resources available to this population, however, in smaller communities even within Ontario, this is not always the case. We are very lucky here to have things like the 519 Community Centre, that has a wide variety of parenting programs and resources for families in the LGBTQ community.

In my counseling practice I have seen both same sex and heterosexual couples for fertility and couples counseling and I can tell you this: the type of union has no bearing on the quality of the relationship nor on people's parenting skills. Several times I have seen same sex couples looking to start a family, that have such a loving relationship that I have simply not been able to fathom why anyone could not support marriage and parenting for same sex couples. By the same token, I have seen heterosexual couples that are so dysfunctional that I cannot understand who someone would believe that these people have a greater right to be legally married and become parents than others just because of their sexual orientation.

If you have any concerns about how same sex parenting affects children, fear not. There is a growing body of research demonstrating that children with same sex parents do at least as well in all areas (psychologically, emotionally, academically, etc.) as children with heterosexual parents, AND EVEN BETTER IN SOME AREAS!

Personally, I think we need more good parents, and less ignorance and prejudice. As a society, we should be concerned with child neglect, poverty and abuse, not with who or how parents choose to love each other.