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Twelve: A rainbow coloured seat at the table - challenging inequity for LGBTQIA families

Updated: Oct 4, 2023


To recap, my parenting journey began in 2010. It was exciting, complicated and at times scary. We stumbled along and have done a good job raising two wonderful children. Well except for the trauma, depression, and impending divorce! Throughout this blog, I've shared my parenting jounrey, the barriers and support found but what happens now? How can meaningful change happen?


From the 2021 census across England and Wales there are around 1.8 million identifying as LGBTQIA. The LGBTQIA community are raising the next generations of gaybies and there is a lack of financial, societal and emotional support to help this diverse community to navigate their unique and often complex journey.


Why your postcode and personal wealth can matter


We assumed from the start we weren’t eligible for NHS fertility treatment. To be eligible I had to prove my infertility by undergoing costly procedures over a two-year period and funding would still be reliant on local council policies. My body clock was ticking, and our issue wasn’t one of infertility but lack of sperm, so at a private clinic we escalated through costly fertility treatment options and finally via IVF we were successful.


Since 2013 NICE guidelines were issued that state a same sex couple or single women could become eligible for three rounds of fertility treatment if they are not able to get pregnant after twelve cycles of artificial insemination, with at least six of the cycles of intrauterine insemination.


These guidelines are a step in the right direction, but the process is time consuming and very costly. Access is also dependent on the postcode you live within. Many areas don’t follow the guidelines and may not fund for reasons of age, weight, use of donor and other funding priorities. Read more at Stonewall.


I do not take our financial privilege lightly. We could just about self-fund fertility treatment but creating a rainbow family should not be reliant on wealth. The fertility postcode lottery should and can also change if there is a consistent adoption of the guidelines nationally. We know more needs to happen so let’s start talking about it, write to local MPs, raise the debate and don’t take no for an answer. 


Societal progress but far from perfection


However progressive we are, or think we are, in the UK there are still societal barriers to LGBTQIA parenting. There are polarising opinions on whether the community has the right to have children and unfortunately the heteronormative healthcare systems, parental support structure, workplace policies perpetuate these beliefs.


The question is how on earth do we break down the societal barriers? Sledgehammer anyone? Within my relatively small sphere of influence, there is one small thing I do; I chat! I share my experience and the experience of others to highlight the gaps, the barriers and the outdated policies. 


When the intimate and inappropriate questions are asked regarding how I fell pregnant, who the donor is, and concerns over lack of male role models, I divulge what feels comfortable and know when to kindly stop the conversation. But whether it is in the coffee shop queue or on a stage, if someone is respectfully curious and wants to learn then it’s worth every minute of my time. 


Surely parenting is the same for everyone?


Regardless of gender or sexuality, parenting can be the most joyful, privileged, exhausting and challenging life change. When adding a layer of complexities navigating donor conception, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, egg sharing, blending and any potential combination, parenting can though get a little messy and confusing over time.


Without any LGBTQ role models I wasn’t aware of the potential pitfalls. I struggled in those early years. Overcompensating for my partners lack of biological connection, sharing too much of my perceived maternal role and justifying my place in the family. Insidiously, thoughts crept in that I was failing at motherhood in some way, later contributing to depression.


If I could have articulated my feelings at the time, then maybe I would have embraced being the modern imperfect parent. I wouldn’t change it though. It was part of my parenting journey and today I am happy. I have a support system, a different perspective on my role and two wonderful, noisy, argumentative, challenging, happy daughters who I love dearly. 


Progress through challenging inequity


Progress has been made but the inequity still exists across all aspects of LGBTQIA parenting.


My ask is to the decision makers across government, healthcare, the workplace, education; give the LGBTQIA community a seat at the table to hear our needs and experiences. History shows this works. Let us help build the solutions so LGBTQIA parents and gaybies are supported, valued, embraced and celebrated for their diversity. 



Whether you are raising gaybies or an ally I would love to hear from you because the more we talk about our experiences and share information, the more positive change will happen.


 

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