What are the options for gay couples to have kids?

'Biology, is obviously, not on our side'
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'Biology, is obviously, not on our side'

Although it's been exactly 30 years since the Homosexual Law Reform of 1986, one issue that will forever be on the minds of the gay community is the difficulties we face in having children. 

Biology, obviously, is not on our side. But some options do remain for same-sex couples to have kids. 

Naturally, there's a strong desire for many gay couples to have a child as the result of the DNA of one partner. Call it selfish, but for many of us, that intrinsic desire to procreate doesn't go away just because we're gay. 

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Just like heterosexuals, we revel in the idea that a baby could be born with some of our physical traits, carry on our family lines, and connect with us through blood. 

The logistics of reaching this goal present major barriers, although its much easier for lesbian couples to follow this route towards a biological child than it is for gay male couples. That is, of course, because men don't have wombs. 

Many clucky same-sex couples have no preference over which partner would be the biological parent. Because the odds are so against us, the mere presence of one person's DNA will satisfy beyond belief. 

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For a gay male couple, it is possible to win the baby-making golden ticket, by using the eggs from one partner's biological sister and the sperm from the other. 

Likewise, a lesbian couple could use the sperm from one partner's brother, and inseminate it into the other partner. 

Genetically, in both cases the child would be as close to both parents as biologically possible. 

That's a pipe dream that'll never happen for most of us though, and is a drop in the pool of immense and often insurmountable difficulties pertaining to surrogacy.  

Throughout both my husband's life, and my own, we've had many female friends say, "I'll have a baby for you!", but a promise over three glasses of Chardonnay isn't quite the same as giving up your body for nine months. 

For lesbians, fortunately, this challenge isn't there – they're tasked only with getting sperm from a bank, or a consenting friend. 

That's not to say the process for lesbians is easy. Under the public health system, lesbian couples can only get access to IVF through Fertility Associates if they've already been through 12 unsuccessful cycles of donor insemination. 

But for gay men, finding a surrogate (or eggs AND a surrogate) is incredibly trying, particularly in New Zealand. 

One key reason for this is because no money can change hands for surrogacy, unlike in the US and other countries, where commercial surrogacy is a popular option for couples who can afford it.  

Admirable as Kiwi altruism is, there have been cases that warrant fear of a surrogate feeling "taken advantage of" and subsequently backing out of a surrogacy agreement, which makes a case for commercial surrogacy when all affected parties are willing. 

Some gay couples find success in appealing via social media to find a surrogate, but largely we rely on that altruism from friends or relatives. 

There's no clear etiquette on how this can be done. It simply involves a lot of conversation over a long period of time, and intensive counselling so both parties can realistically comprehend what is being agreed to. 

It's no small task, having a baby for another person, and the emotions on both sides need to be fully understood. 

There are also several other steps to go through, such as the ethics applications you must apply for through Fertility Associates, various health scan and test costs, and the whopping cost of IVF itself and medication: $9,890-$11,890 per attempt. 

Given these difficulties, one would think adoption would be a much easier option for gay couples.

Unfortunately, it's not. In the 1960s, around 2500 children were adopted in New Zealand each year. According to Ministry of Justice, in the 2014-2015 financial year that number was only 152. 

It'd be lovely to say, "If only we were still in the 1960s", except of course for the fact homosexuality was illegal then, and same-sex couples couldn't legally adopt until the Marriage Amendment Bill passed in 2013. 

While New Zealand has overseas adoption agreements with five countries (India, Lithuania, the Philippines, Russia, and Thailand), none of these countries accept applications from same-sex couples, married or otherwise. 

There is one upside to the current adoption landscape in New Zealand: The number of applications filed for adoption versus applications granted isn't discouraging. For that last financial year, 207 applications were filed, meaning 73 per cent of adoption cases applied for went ahead. 

There is one other option few same-sex couples are aware of. Child, Youth, and Family runs a programme called Home for Life, which places children who have been in CYF foster care into permanent homes. 

Home for Life couples will become legal guardians, not legal parents (the birth parents retain this right), but it does guarantee the child will be with you until he or she moves out of home as a young adult. Just like any biological or adopted child. 

Like adoption it's a lifelong commitment. Although you will maintain an ongoing relationship with the birth parents, one major bonus in this programme is that CYF covers the majority of all care-related expenses for the first three years. 

For same-sex couples that are either just starting out on the journey towards having a family, or have been unsuccessful in adoption and surrogacy routes, Home for Life is an option well worth considering.  

 - Stuff

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