Hello Bravo Dykes, Bravo Bisexuals, Bravo Brethren, et al. Today, we’re going to touch down on two different Bravo shows whose current seasons both happen to have queer couples looking to have kids by different means. On Family Karma, now-husbands Amrit and Nicholas are exploring surrogacy, bumping up against the cost and their low sperm counts along the way. On Real Housewives of Miami, Julia Lemigova, who has been the single mom of two daughters who are now teenagers, wants to adopt a baby with her wife and faces her own obstacles along the way as well.
I do want to start by acknowledging that Julia’s wife, the tennis player Martina Navratilova, has repeatedly engaged with, disseminated, and participated in transphobic language and fear-mongering on social media. I will briefly be discussing Julia’s storyline on Real Housewives of Miami but do not endorse her wife’s actions or Julia’s silence on the matter. It’s especially frustrating (though unsurprising) that Martina’s behavior goes unchecked on Bravo (she is not a main cast member, but she appears frequently), because there has been a lot of focus on Julia speaking out against Don’t Say Gay initiatives in Florida on the show, which would indeed seem meaningful if it weren’t coupled with this silence. But Bravo has a track record of leaving transphobia unaddressed, so again, I’m not surprised by this hypocrisy.
Julia indeed worries about what the process of adoption might look like in Florida given she’s married to a woman (Julia identifies as bisexual, btw). She ends up searching for an agency that specializes in LGBTQ+ adoption after having some issues with other agencies regarding her age; she wants to adopt an infant, but some agencies don’t let women over 50 do so, and Julia is 50. She faces another obstacle when she realizes she won’t be able to adopt a Russian baby even though she herself is a Russian immigrant. The country has had a gay adoption ban in place for a while now.
Over on Family Karma — which is the most underrated show on Bravo right now — gay men Nicholas and Amrit have been spending all season preparing for their wedding, which finally kicks off in the most recent episode. Amrit and Nicholas have been mix and matching traditions and also modern rituals of their own making, though the wedding skews way more toward Amrit’s cultural traditions (which becomes a source of festering tension in really interesting ways for me to watch as someone who is half white and half Indian). Because no one on the show or in their communities has been to or seen a gay Indian wedding, Amrit and Nicholas have chosen to make their wedding hyper visible. This yields messy tension but also really inspiring queer imagination, and I definitely view it from a place of complicated ambivalence. In any case, I think it’s a big deal the wedding and its lead-up are being aired on television, a very intentional stance on their part, especially because it comes at a very direct cost: Nicholas’ evangelical parents agree to attend the wedding but refuse to be on camera. Their cultural differences might be the surface-level tension for Nicholas and Amrit, but this is where the real conflict resides deep down; Amrit’s parents are enthusiastic — if imperfect — in their support for their wedding, and Nicholas’s parents are very much not.
Throughout the season, Amrit and Nicholas have displayed a ton of vulnerability, showing not only the joys of their queer partnership and wedding plans but also the obstacles and more complicated parts. A recent argument between Nicholas and Amrit’s mother (Lavina Auntie, who might be my favorite of the aunties along with Dharma Auntie) is brutal to watch, mainly because both people are coming from an earnest, meaningful, imperfect place and reach a point of deep empathy after a truly messy scene. This is the good kind of reality television fighting.
Amrit and Nicholas also getting really vulnerable and honest about the process of starting a queer family. In an episode earlier this season, they’re rattled by the cost of surrogacy ($150,000 to $170,000). They also allow cameras to film the tough moment when they get a call from their doctor to tell them about their sperm samples, which they’re planning on freezing until they’re ready to begin the process. The doctor informs them that they both have significantly low sperm counts that would make it difficult to begin the fertility process. The doctor asks if they’re taking any supplements, and they say yes. They both agree to go off the supplements and make some changes to see if they can get their counts back up.
As an aside: They also end up in a strange argument about whose last name the baby will have, which at the surface is presented like a culture clash issue but to me reads as internalized heteronormativity from them…it sounds so straight and rooted in patriarchal masculinity to fight over such things! Just give the kids two last names?! Anyway…
The current seasons of Real Housewives of Miami and Family Karma are still airing, and these storylines are somewhat on pause at the moment as other ones take centerstage, so it’s unclear as of now exactly where each will end up. If there are any significant developments in future episodes, I’ll be sure to update this article, but regardless of what happens, I’m interested in what we’ve already seen in these stories, in what is already clear even as they’re incomplete: Paths to queer parenthood are varied, and they’re also difficult — even for the most privileged members of the LGBTQ+ community. Julia is wealthy and has a lot of access, and Nicholas and Amrit don’t seem nearly as rich, but they do seem financially secure, have jobs, and have platforms reality television stars. And yet even for people with a lot of access and power, it’s still hard.
The sheer cost of surrogacy rules it out automatically for a lot of queer couples, much like IVF is cost-prohibitive for queer couples, too. Parenting is, of course, costly for couples regardless of sexuality, but even more so for LGBTQ+ couples. Financial burdens limit options when it comes to both adoption and fertility treatments. We’re also living in a time when queerness is under attack throughout the country, especially when it comes to families and anything having to do with children. As reproductive rights are rolled back, LGBTQ people are significantly harmed. Wealth absolutely makes it easier for folks to start these paths and also easier to ignore or overcome some of the obstacles. Andy Cohen wasn’t aware surrogacy was illegal in some states until he began his own path toward parenthood as a single queer father.
It used to feel like a lot of queer pregnancy storylines on television were just lazy jokes about turkey basters or “stealing sperm.” I’m glad we’re seeing two distinct storylines play out, especially on reality television, which is, you know, supposed to be real. Both shows also happen to take place in Florida, which means a lot to me personally as a queer person living in this state where state-sanctioned homophobia has been ramping up. And the tensions between Amrit and Nicholas and their own parents are a part of this meaningful storytelling, too, because often our relationships with our parents impact the ways we approach starting our own queer families.
I get a thrill every time I see queer celebrities getting pregnant or becoming parents, like earlier this week when Da Brat announced a pregnancy at 48-years-old, an announcement that also included information about Da Brat’s wife Jesseca Dupart experiencing a miscarriage. Because yes, I love to see these queer paths to parenthood, but I also find it really meaningful when people are upfront and real about the obstacles they face along the way. It doesn’t do anyone any good to make it seem easy or to obscure fertility processes, as scripted television sometimes does like when Micah says in the recent season finale of The L Word: Generation Q: “Can you believe that? It goes from a canister to a baby in nine months?” Prompting our intrepid recapper Riese — who has been through this herself! — to write in her recap as a response: “‘I cannot,’ I yell at the skies. ‘Because with at at-home insemination there is only a 10%-15% chance of this sperm becoming an actual fetus, let alone an actual baby!'”
Reality television is far from real, but when it does manage to capture realities like this? It does things even scripted television doesn’t do.