We have finally reached a time when there are several family building options for LGBTQ individuals that are both increasingly accessible and widely accepted by society. Advancements in the Assisted Reproductive Technology field now allow LGBTQ individuals to become parents through egg donation and surrogacy. Let’s explore what it’s like for people who wish to grow their LGBTQ families via surrogacy.
Surrogacy For LGBTQ Families
LGBTQ families have more options than ever before in 2021, including more accessible pathways to having biologically related children. Gestational surrogacy is a fantastic option for gay men who wish to have a biological child, or for lesbian couples who are unable to conceive on their own.
Learn More: What is Gestational Surrogacy?
Surrogacy is the only means for a gay couple to have a child with a genetic relation to one male partner. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the woman who agrees to carry for the couple will use her own eggs to become pregnant via artificial insemination. This is quite uncommon in the United States, and many agencies and other professionals in the fertility field are hesitant to assist with traditional surrogacy arrangements. The biological connection between the surrogate and the child makes for a complex legal and emotional situation, which is why it has fallen out of practice for the most part.
Gestational surrogacy is far more common and widely accepted. In gestational surrogacy for gay couples, a surrogate agrees to become pregnant via an embryo transfer. The embryo is created using donor eggs and the sperm of one of the male partners. The surrogate mother, also called the gestational carrier or GC, has no genetic connection to the child since donor eggs are used, and all parties move forward according to clear expectations outlined in a contract.
The Pros And Cons Of Surrogacy
Surrogacy can be a wonderful option for LGBTQ individuals and couples who are ready to start their families, but it’s not right for everyone. There are many pros and cons to consider when weighing your family building options.
- Surrogacy allows at least one intended parent to have a genetic link to the baby
- Many surrogates and intended parents develop lasting, close relationships
- There is a clear process and precedent for gestational surrogacy in most states
- There’s a high rate of having a successful pregnancy
- Surrogacy can be a long process, anywhere from 12-18 months
- There are many complex emotions involved
- Surrogacy can be very costly, on average more than $100,000
- Certain states limit or prevent gestational surrogacy contracts
Your Journey Through Surrogacy
The first step to any surrogacy journey is to research and become familiar with the process. You’re already on track just by reading this article! There are many fantastic resources on the internet specifically for LGBTQ individuals who are considering surrogacy.
Surrogacy is not a quick process, but it is well worth the wait! It helps to visualize the process, so let’s break the journey down into three phases:
Phase 1: Preparation
During the preparation stage, intended parents either consult with a surrogacy agency that will walk them through the process, or they begin their independent journey. Each path is great — the independent journey can save you money, but you’ll also be assembling your own team and searching for your surrogate on your own. A tool like Surrogacy Roadmap can help you navigate the process on your own. As you prepare, you’ll want to think about your goals and expectations, and you’ll need to nail down your budget.
Phase 2: Legal and Medical Screening.
During this stage, you’ll be selecting and screening your gestational carrier, ironing out all the legal and medical details, and making all necessary financial arrangements. Your carrier will be screened extensively for medical, psychological, and past pregnancy issues. You’ll also work with an attorney to draft a Gestational Surrogacy Agreement (GSA) that establishes your relationship to the carrier, your rights as a parent, and the details of compensation for your surrogate.
Phase 3: Embryo Transfer and Pregnancy.
After you receive medical and legal clearance to proceed, it’s time to have a baby! The clinic will prepare the carrier’s cycle schedule, and she’ll take medications to prepare her uterus for transfer. If the transfer is successful, then you have nine months to wait for the baby to arrive! During this time, you and your carrier will maintain close communication, per your GSA, and she will receive prenatal care, first with the fertility clinic and then with her OB/GYN.
Finding A Suitable Surrogacy Agency
Many intended parents choose to consult with a surrogacy agency that will walk them through the process. Alternatively, some explore the independent route, which means handling all the details on your own, with the help of a team of professionals that you vet and hire independently.
If you choose to work with an agency, be sure to do your homework, checking credentials and reputation thoroughly. As you’re meeting with different agencies, pay special attention to how transparent and open they are with you, and always trust your gut. That’s true with any professional you decide to work with, but an agency plays such a central role in your journey that you want to be extra sure it’s a good fit.
H4: Researching On Surrogacy And Surrogacy Agencies
LGBTQ families and individuals may want to do some extra research into the agency’s position on and reputation with helping members of the LGBTQ community. The Family Equality Council has a comprehensive directory of LGBTQ+ friendly and affirming family building professionals.
Ask the agency staff about any specific training they have completed on LGBTQ+ family building, and double check that they are fully licensed and in good standing with any applicable professional organizations and government agencies.
Know What’s Important For You
By the time you begin searching for and interviewing different agencies, you should have a good idea of what factors are important to you. Do you prefer to work with a small agency that boasts a high level of personalized service? Or do you prefer a larger agency that may have access to a larger pool of surrogates, donors, and industry resources?
Is it important that you have your hands on every step, or do you want an agency that allows you to be very hands-off?
These are just a couple of questions to ponder as you think through what is most important in a surrogacy agency.
Ability to protect your rights as LGBTQ+ individuals
Of course, you need to feel confident that the surrogacy agency you work with is able and eager to protect your rights as LGBTQ+ individuals. Find out if they have done any advocacy around issues relating specifically to same-sex parents. Are they knowledgeable about the possible obstacles some LGBTQ+ families face when establishing parentage? If they employ an in-house attorney, find out about their experience working with families like yours to establish parentage in your state.
The experience of working with LGBTQ+ individuals
Ask the agencies you interview about their experience working with LGBTQ+ families and individuals. Is this a demographic that they seek to attract, or have they only had a few LGBTQ clients over the years?
Don’t be afraid to ask for testimonials or personal references from LGBTQ families who have worked with the agency in the past. Any reputable agency should have multiple testimonials at the ready, and most will have a list of past clients who have volunteered to be contacted by prospective parents.
Partnership and support through your journey
The most important thing to realize about choosing a surrogacy agency is that their role is to partner with and support you throughout your journey. Trust your gut as you conduct interviews, and be sure to choose an agency that feels good to you and your partner. You’ll be communicating a lot with agency staff for the next several months, so it’s important that you have a high level of trust, comfort, and openness among all parties.
Choosing The Right Agency
Once you have a list of a few agencies that fit your needs, it’s time to schedule some calls. Most surrogacy agencies will offer an initial video call or in-person meeting if local. Have a list of questions ready. Some questions to ask your potential surrogacy agency include:
- How long has your agency been in operation?
- Has the agency ever been in business under a different name?
- What types of services do you provide?
- What is your experience working with LGBTQ+ intended parents?
- Can I select which surrogate I would like to work with or do you choose for me?
- How many matches has the agency handled to date? How many for LGBTQ+ clients in particular?
- How do you screen potential surrogates before matching?
- Can you provide a detailed financial assessment, before signing an agency retainer agreement?
- What are the upfront costs and when is payment due?
- Is there a refund policy?
- How are surrogate funds handled? How are funds disbursed?
In general, you should ask them how they can help make your journey easier and what they do and don’t recommend. Their response to these questions will allow you to see if it’s in line with your goals and expectations.
Deciding Who Will Be Genetically Related To The Baby
Gay male couples will need to decide which intended father will be the biological parent. The decision of whose sperm to use can be highly emotionally charged depending on how each person feels about being biologically related to their child. For some men, it’s not much of an issue. For others, it is a make-or-break kind of decision.
So how do you go about choosing which partner’s sperm to use? A few questions to consider: Does one of you feel more strongly about this issue? Is there any extenuating circumstance that might make one partner a more obvious choice than the other? Adverse family health history or being a carrier for a genetic disorder are two instances where this may be the case. You can speak with your fertility clinic about early genetic testing to rule out possible issues.
First, we highly recommend starting an open and honest dialogue with one another. Each partner should be allowed to express his feelings, fears, opinions, and concerns without facing judgment or negativity from the other. Many couples benefit from regular counseling sessions with a mental health professional.
You’ll also want to involve your fertility doctor in the decision-making process. While you will have the final say, your doctor may have a clear reason to use one partner’s sperm over another. They can test for things like sperm mobility and motility, for example.
What about the question of traits? Does one of you have a particularly exceptional ability, like musical talent or athletic ability? Do you hope your child will be on the taller side of average? Are you particularly enamored with the idea of a curly-haired little one? Of course, as with all things genetics, there’s no guarantee that Mother Nature won’t throw a curveball, but you can certainly take factors like these into account.
Some men choose to roll the dice, so to speak, and let fate decide. One way to do this is to have half of the donor eggs fertilized with one intended father’s sperm; the others with the second intended father’s sperm. At that point, the fertility clinic can examine the resulting embryos to see if some are more viable than others. If all things seem equal, you could try implanting one of each, keeping in mind that if both take, you’re having twins! Of course, your surrogate needs to be on board with this possibility.
No matter which way you choose to go, please take the time to have an open and honest line of communication between you and your partner, and don’t hesitate to involve the expertise of a counselor or therapist. And remember, this is a very personal decision, so while it’s good to seek advice from your peers and others in your circle, ultimately the decision is up to you and your partner.
Choosing The Donor
Assuming you will need to find donor eggs, where do you begin? The good news is, you won’t have to go it alone! There are hundreds of fertility clinics and assisted reproduction professionals across the US who are ready and eager to help LGBTQ individuals and couples build their families.
So where do you find the eggs, and how do you choose a donor?
Many people find an anonymous egg donor through an agency or frozen egg bank; others work with a known donor, like a close friend or perhaps one of your partner’s female family members.
Each method has its own pros and cons, including cost, level of anonymity between you and the donor, and waiting time.
With an anonymous donor, as through an egg bank, you’ll be able to search the egg bank’s online database, checking out donor profiles. You’ll read about each donor’s demographics, physical traits, interests, academic achievements, and more. Most of the time, donor profiles will also include baby photos of the donor so you can start to picture what your baby may look like.
Another option for LGBTQ families is to find a known donor. Sit down with your partner and discuss who, if anyone, you may want to approach about becoming your egg donor. You may have a female friend you are close with who you’d love to ask. Or, if you already know whose sperm you’ll be using, you could approach a sister or cousin in the other partner’s family. In that scenario, you could have a familial link from both partners. Keep in mind, that while you can likely save on the costs of using an agency or frozen egg bank, you’ll still foot the bill for all the screening and medical costs involved with egg retrieval.
Pregnancy And Parenthood
The ultimate goal with any surrogacy journey is to have a baby and become parents of course. It might feel like a long road to get there, but it’s worth it!
Once pregnancy is achieved via a successful embryo transfer, you can expect to be in regular contact with your surrogate, as agreed upon in your surrogacy contract. Some surrogates and intended parents become very close throughout the process, meeting up regularly or exchanging frequent texts and calls. Others prefer a more professional relationship. Either way, you will spend the nine months of pregnancy preparing your hearts, minds, and home for the little one’s arrival.
LGBTQ+ families thankfully enjoy more acceptance and equality than in years past, but there are still many hurdles and biases that exist in society. As you begin to navigate life as an LGBTQ family, be sure to find a supportive community of other LGBTQ+ parents and allies as you navigate family life. A great place to start is with the Family Equality’s National Network of LGBTQ Family Groups.
Surrogacy Laws For LGBTQ Couples
With the landmark Obergfell v. Hodges ruling by the Supreme Court, LGBTQ individuals are able to legally marry and to enjoy all of the rights that are afforded to married couples. To a large degree, this has made surrogacy for LGBTQ couples less complicated than in the past. However, there are still several states with laws on the books that can cause speed bumps along the way, especially when establishing parenthood.
Common Surrogacy Procedure For LGBTQ People
Because the US has no federal regulation for surrogacy, state laws vary wildly. Most states rely on the courts to enforce surrogacy contracts and issue orders of parentage. That means that decisions can vary county-by-county even, with one court interpreting law differently than another.
You will need to work with an attorney who is an ally and has experience with LGBTQ family-law. Unfortunately, there are still some states with laws that make surrogacy and legal parenthood a messy process for LGBTQ individuals, so it’s crucial that your attorney is well versed in all the details.
A bit of legal background: According to the Uniform Parentage Act, the woman who gives birth to a baby is assumed to be the mother of the child. If she is married, her husband is presumed to be the father, and that’s reflected on the birth certificate. This makes sense in most situations – just not in the case of gestational surrogacy.
In 2017, the act was updated to reflect gender-neutral language and to account for children born to same-sex parents and those born via assisted reproduction, such as IVF and surrogacy. While this is a great step forward, adoption of these updates isn’t mandatory, so individual states can decide if they will follow the new guidelines. The more conservative states have failed to adopt the updated Uniform Parentage Act, which means you have a few more legal hurdles to clear if your child will be born in one of these states. Your attorney is going to be a very important resource for you as you navigate the issue of how and when you can be named your child’s legal parent.
It basically comes down to this: will the court issue a pre-birth order, naming you the legal parent while the surrogate is pregnant? Or will you need a post-birth order, after the baby is born?
In states that aren’t very friendly toward same-sex parents, you may encounter the most complicated scenario, which is when the court requires intended parents to go through a legal adoption process. Let’s talk about each of these possible scenarios.
At the end of the day, your attorney is going to play a pivotal role in helping you cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s, so you can focus on the important job of caring for your baby when he or she is born.
Having a baby in a jurisdiction that regularly issues pre-birth orders is ideal. In that case, your lawyer will create an order of parentage sometime between month four and month seven of the pregnancy. Everyone signs it, the attorney presents it in court, and you’re good to go! With pre-birth orders, your (and your partner’s, if applicable) name will go on the birth certificate as the legal parent(s), and the surrogate will have no legal obligation or claim to the child. You’re also sure to have access and decision-making rights at the hospital.
Currently, states that are known to grant pre-birth orders without legal complications include: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington state, and Washington D.C.
In some states, you won’t have the option to create a parentage order until after the baby is born. This is called a post-birth order. The process for a post-birth order typically looks like this:
When the child is born, the surrogate and potentially her spouse will likely be named on the birth certificate. Shortly after delivery, your lawyer will petition the court to name you as the legal parents. They will also require that the surrogate’s name be removed from the birth certificate and replaced with yours. These orders typically go through without complication, especially when there has been a solid contract in place and all parties agree about the outcome.
Voluntary Acknowledgment Of Paternity
In some jurisdictions, it’s possible for the birth mother to name and designate a father on the birth certificate. Sometimes this can be done without appearing in court.
Another way to establish parentage is to ask the court to grant custody to the non-biological parent.
The non-biological parent may need to seek a second-parent adoption. This means he or she will go through legal adoption proceedings in court. It’s not always necessary, but it is advised since not all states will recognize a pre or post-birth order.
Wills And Estate Planning
Be sure to work with your attorney to establish your wills. You’ll need to designate guardianship in case one or both of the parents passes away. This is especially important for individuals who live in a jurisdiction or country that is not LGBTQ friendly.
Considerations When Proceeding With Surrogacy
Looking For LGBTQ-Friendly Professionals
Take care to research and choose professionals who are LGBTQ-friendly. You need people on your team who will help you achieve your goal and who fully support the LGBTQ community. The good news is, there is no shortage of world class professionals who are proud allies or members of the LGBTQ community, and there are more possibilities opening up every day.
The Challenge In Parenting
Parenting is a tough job for anyone, but LGBTQ parents can experience extra difficulties. Unfortunately, there are still people who aren’t open to LGBTQ families. There are many advocacy groups and organizations that work hard to educate and promote equality and understanding of LGBTQ families. Some resources to check out include:
HIV And Surrogacy
We have thankfully reached a time when it is possible to live a healthy, full life while being HIV+. If you are HIV+, you can become a parent via surrogacy, though there are several challenges and extra considerations to take into account.
The Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) is an international program designed to protect spouses, surrogates, and babies from becoming infected during fertility procedures. This makes it possible for men who wish to have children of their own, but are living with a sexually transmitted disease, such as HIV, to use their own sperm. SPAR technology is a major leap toward equality and empowerment for HIV+ people.
The Cost Of Surrogacy
All told, becoming a parent via surrogacy in the United States can cost between $110,000-200,000. We know that’s a wide range — costs vary greatly depending on several factors, including your clinic, the type of surrogate you choose, and whether you use an agency or not.
There are three main types of expenses to plan for:
- Pre-Conception Expenses: the cost of creating your embryos
- Professional Fees and Expenses: mental health professionals, attorneys, your surrogacy agency, escrow company, etc.
- Surrogate Expenses: the compensation you provide to your surrogate, including the reimbursement of all related expenses and an agreed upon base compensation + monthly stipend.
Commitment With The Entire Process
Surrogacy is not a commitment to take lightly. The road to parenthood via gestational surrogacy is long and winding at times, but in the end, it’s a wonderful option for LGBTQ individuals to become parents.
You will need to enter into your surrogacy journey with a commitment to be proactive and dedicated to the entire process. From finding the right clinic and agency to matching with the best surrogate for you, you’ll have loads of important decisions to make. Surround yourself with the support of your community and professionals who are happy to be your advocate.
Relationship With The Gestational Carrier
Your relationship with your gestational carrier, aka surrogate, is unique and extremely important. This woman has chosen to help you build your family, and you should honor and greatly respect her commitment. Maintain regular communication, trust her to make decisions that are in the best interest of both your baby and her own health and family.
Many parents choose to stay in contact with their surrogate for many years. Some will even meet up and introduce children later in life. It’s important to establish a friendly and open relationship with your surrogate so, as the child grows you, you can help them understand their origin and birth story. Even if you don’t maintain communication past the birth of the child, it’s a good idea to document the pregnancy and the relationship with the surrogate mother so you can look back on it with your child as he or she grows up.
Building Your LGBTQ Family With The Help Of Surrogacy
Surrogacy is a wonderful way to build your LGBTQ family. It allows one parent to have a biological connection with the child, which is impossible with other alternative family building options such as adoption. If you are interested in finding out more about surrogacy for your own family building goals, please reach out to our team today. We are proud to be allies to the LGBTQ community and have helped many diverse parents-to-be.
If you are interested to learn more about surrogacy laws and how they affect LGBTQ individuals where you live, you can check this interactive surrogacy law map!