Feature image via enggul
I don’t really like generalizing about queer women — we’re all different, we’re like rainbow snowflakes, some of us have never even seen The L Word. But I will make an exception for this statement: get a bunch of us in a room for long enough and we will start talking about whether two cisgender women will ever be able to produce a biological child together. (Corroboration available from my roommate, who, when informed of my article topic, shouted “my friends at Smith discussed this at least once a week!”)
There are many, many ways to start a family, and queer women take great advantage of nearly all of them. A 2013 survey by the Williams Institute estimates that 24% of female couples are raising adopted, step, or biological children. But smushing your genome with your special someone’s is a dream so universal it’s become a cliché. That you will attempt to try it goes pretty much unquestioned in mainstream society, unless you run into a hitch. And — even as queer couples inch closer to that mainstream — choosing to start a family with someone who has the same sort of gametes as you is still a big hitch.
After another of these will-we-won’t-we conversations, this one with a couple of lovebirds whose kids would have truly incredible hair, I started to wonder why that hitch is so big. After all, we’ve done crazier things. In 2000, researchers used in vitro fertilization and preimplantation genetic diagnosis to engineer the birth of Adam Nash so that his umbilical cord blood could save the life of his sister Molly, who was born with severe Fanconi anemia. About a hundred children worldwide have three biological parents, thanks to a technique that combines an egg and a sperm with cytoplasm from a second egg, and thus allows women with mitochondrial defects to bear children who are genetically (mostly) theirs. If we can do these things, how hard can it be to combine a couple of eggs?
The more I sniff around, the more the answer seems to be “easier than the state of things suggests” — especially because every five years or so, someone gets close. In 2001, it was a group of researchers at Melbourne’s Monash University, led by Dr. Orly Lacham-Kaplan. Lacham-Kaplan’s team developed a chemical technique that, she explains, “trains” a somatic cell to “become like a sperm when inside an egg.” This “training” consists of a series of chemical steps that induce one set of the somatic cell’s chromosomes to leave the egg, effectively turning it into a germ cell that then fertilizes that egg. Voila: instant embryo.
Success in mouse models led to publication, which inspired reporters everywhere from BBC News to the Telegraph to write articles with headlines like “How To Make Babies Without a Man” and second opinions from concerned bioethicists. According to Lacham-Kaplan, this, in turn, led to “a lot of downfall” for her research: her funding was not renewed, and her work was widely criticized. She gave up on follow-up tests she had designed to work out the technique’s kinks, and diverted her resources to less controversial problems. Eventually, she left research altogether.
“When I presented my findings [in 2001] I was very hopeful,” Lacham-Kaplan told me. “I thought that if I had the financial support and the team, I could reach conclusive results by 2005-2006. I honestly believed in my technology… scientific obstacles would have been there, but I think we could have overcome them.” (Other researchers agreed, calling her work “genuinely revolutionary” and including it in a textbook chapter of “Actual Achievements” in gamete cell derivation.) “But obviously I was proven wrong in one way, because nobody was ready for [this research] yet.”
It’s the fifth time during our conversation that Lacham-Kaplan has said something along the lines of “the world wasn’t ready;” when she notices this, she is reminded of her earlier work with intra-cytoplasmatic sperm injection, or ICSI. “A lot of people were against it,” she recalls. “But this procedure is used daily now in every IVF clinic.” I’m reminded, in turn, of countless such flip-flops in the history of fertility studies — when artificial insemination was first performed in 1844, the idea was so taboo the patient wasn’t even informed; when it was finally described for science 25 years later, the doctor was “strongly criticized.” Now you can have a round done on your way to work. The world is slow to prep for certain things.
But, as we’ve established, some people have been prepping for this for decades. Lacham-Kaplan knows this better than anyone — she gets emails from them daily. “People, same-sex couples mostly, approach me, coming forward to say ‘we would like to be your guinea pigs,'” she tells me. The rest of the world just has to say yes.
God I want this to happen SO BADLY. I want my baby to be mine and my wife’s equally.
(I’m 20 and do not have a gf let alone a wife but yknow IN THE FUTURE).
Anyway, I think I’ll just adopt tbh. Even if this does become reality, it will probably be expensive and we don’t realllly need more babies.
As someone who is also thinking of adopting (uh, in the distant future, being 23 and single), I just have to note that adoption can be super expensive too…and ethically complicated.
Totally understand this conflict. My partner and I are planning a family, to the extend that we got a civil partnership last year so that if/when we find a donor (if we do go for birth over adoption, which we really want to) the kid will be legally both of ours. It’s so complex and I wish we didn’t need sperm!! We’ve approached two guys so far and been on ‘dates’ with potential donors from the internet… none of it is fun I have to say.
Im sorry, but it’s just not possible, even if the mice were successful, she left out the side affects due to, what she’s attempting, cloning. Trust me, I’ve seen research on this and equations done for this many of times, even if she were to continue, she would be stuck with finding the perfect algorithms of dna each egg is not capable of, thus, leaving the child with affects you would probably find with inbreded southern families, but multiplied by 5. And to make matters worse, it only allows for reproduction of cells with in the womb, it doesn’t garuntee survival without the umbilical cord. The “clone” will be proned to numorous if diseases that effect white blood cells, or already have too low of the average amount due to the genetic variations of cloning, in other words, it wouldn’t survive unless either with modifications after birth. But even that would get rid of the massive down-syndrome the child would be diagnosed with. Sorry, want a healthy child, gotta go with the sperm,the dna sequences are healthy with variety, lol
Don’t hold your breath. Genetic imprinting is what prevents the mixing of same sex cells. The experiments in mice used genetically mutated animals. And only 2 out of over 400 attempts were successful. This technology is unlikely to happen in your lifetime.
SYLVANEAN FAMILIES OMG
Er, and science, yes, fascinating.
I’m so glad I’m not the only one who had the same immediate reaction
I don’t want babies, but if I were to have babies, this is how I would want to make them.
It seems like this is something the LGBTQ community could fund by itself. I mean people are emailing her daily clearly there is a lot of interest.
Monash university is my uni!! Researchers at monash uni also developed IVF :). Yay melbourne
It fucking sucks though that Lacham-Kaplan’s funding wasn’t renewed and that she didn’t feel supported and left research blah :( (I’m assuming her research wouldn’t have been funded by monash, but either way I wish they’d done more to keep her)
That is my thought. She could simply do crowdfunding and likely have what she needs within days. I wonder if anyone has suggested that route to her. I could be an idea that has simply slipped her mind.
I still believe if we just try hard enough and have sex every day your X+myX= girl baby!! My fiancée doesn’t agree yet.
I await the results of your clinical trial.
Don’t assume a baby’s gender based on their chromosomes.
I WANT THIS TO HAPPEN SO BAD. I’m constantly googling it. I mean, 1) I don’t want boys, so that would take care of that right there. 2) a society just like that of the Amazons (meaning, no men) sounds downright lovely to my ears.
Also, it REALLY bothers me that despite never ever wanting to have sex with a man, I have to have their bodily fluid inserted into my vagina by force in order to have a kid. 1) Gross. 2) Somewhat horrifying. 3) frustrating as fuck
Is that what the test tube option is for? Or you could always choose a the sperm from a woman(trans/intersect and so forth)?
IVF is hella expensive, so unless my insurance when it gets time for babymaking covers it, that’s not a thing that’s going to happen.
To be honest, sperm in general is gross to me, no matter where it comes from. Like, thinking about what is required to harvest it is REALLY unpleasant. So…With eggs, you know, they just come from a needle. I should know, I’ve been an egg donor…
As it looks right now, my person and I will be using sperm donated by her brother. Which, like, I’m glad my person can share that genetic relationship with the kid the same way I will, but I’m attracted to HER…not her brother. So. You know. I want to have HER babies, not his. But I digress…
That is all totally understandable, and I can only imagine how that feels. But, at least think of the positive, you get to be a wonderful kickass parent with the love of your life.
I’m sorry but I have to say it. Is it really okay to say “I don’t want boys”? Imagine someone saying “I don’t want girls”, which is a sentiment that does in fact get many baby girls in this world killed.
1) Misandry is not a thing and how fucking dare you compare it to misogyny and the reasons behind the epidemic that is femicide and no, I wouldn’t abort if I found out I was pregnant with a boy.. 2) Everyone has preferences, yo. It is REALLY damn common to hear “When I grow up I want three boys and two girls.” or whatever the hell 3) If I had one, I’d get over it. But again, preferences.
Dear fucking lord.
But yeah, don’t compare misandry to misogyny. That’s so ignorant.
And HONESTLY, yes, I have reservations about having the tools necessary AS A WOMAN to raise a boy. I mean, preventing him from being a misogynistic dick, what to do when boy things happen (hey wet dreams heyyy) etc…
Dude…maybe calm down? I don’t think she meant it like that.
“don’t compare misandry to misogyny.”
Just because misandry is systemic like misogyny, doesn’t make it okay to want to eliminate an entire gender. Honestly, I’ve been feeling more and more alienated these days by Autostraddle and other so-called progressive LGBT circles because of this very attitude. I know some of you on here don’t care much for cis men, so lemme frame it this way: how do you think that makes our trans brothers feel? Or XY queers who haven’t yet come out as trans?
edit: Just because misdanry *ISN’T* systemic like misogyny, sorry for the typo
Jeez calm down. Despite the misandry vs. misogyny thing I still think it’s unfair towards boys to generally dismiss them like this. Also, apparently in this case “boy” is again used for babies with certain genitalia? But don’t girls sometimes have penises as well, or something like this? So how would you even know if your baby is a girl or a boy? Maybe your boy will grow up to become a girl?
THANK YOU, PIP!
Oh no, don’t pretend like your ‘what about the menz’ bullshit is in ANY way about protecting trans women.
Lots of us are separatists too; I’m all for the dream of a (nearly)all-female society (there’d probably be trans men, and other non-women).
IMO we need more research into the etiology of transsexuality&cissexuality – focused on *causing* fetuses to develop into trans girls rather than cis boys when relevant. And that’s not out of the realm of plausible – there are already plenty of known meds with the ‘side effect’ of vastly boosting the ratio of (fetuses that eventually develop into) trans girls over cis boys. My own mother was on one during pregnancy, and if it was responsible for making that fetus develop into me rather than a cis boy, that’s fantastic.
So if that’s the state of things when it’s seen as an unintended and unwanted, even tragic, side-effect… imagine what could be done if it were the goal?
It’s not hard for me to imagine someone saying, “I don’t want girls,” because I’ve heard it from almost every married female I know. One nurse-in-training even had a strategy planned out (male sperm swim faster but die sooner or something? So if you have sex super close to your ovulation, you are more likely to have a boy?). Every single one of them insisted that boys are “easier” than girls and they don’t want to deal with girls and how awful girls are as teenagers and on and on, talking very disparagingly of their hypothetical unborn daughters. :-(
It makes me sad every single time, regardless of whether it concerns boys or girls, because it’s a horrible case of having fixed assumptions about how your kid will become based on their sex.
It’s very frustrating, I agree… One thing though, not all people with xx chromosomes identify as female, nor xy as male… and also not everyone with sperm identifies as male. I think being careful to be inclusive in the language we use helps make this website better for everyone
Oops also I missed the earlier replies. I just meant the lack of options is frustrating.
I didn’t say anything about chromosomes, yo.
You implied that two X chromosomes make a girl baby. It would be really shitty for a trans kid to know that their parents went out of their way not to have them.
For the record (although I sure as hell don’t need to explain myself to you), I wouldn’t do this method because I don’t particularly want boys. I’d more want to do this because, shocker, I want to have biological kids with my significant other. I know, crazy, right?
Yes K’idazq’eni I’m obviously totally all about MRA simply because I criticized your comment. Thought I could be sneaky and infiltrate the Autostraddle comment section but there’s no fooling you :) Kudos!
Temper temper, K’idazq’eni.
I don’t like or stand for complete ignorance, especially when it stupidly positions me in the same vein as people who actively commit femicide based on my CASUALLY MENTIONED preferences. You jumped down my throat, and I responded to your bullshit accordingly. I have the right to defend myself.
You’re obviously ridiculously ignorant, and that’s your issue, but you don’t have a right to tone police my response to your MRA bullshit.
Yes K’idazq’eni I’m obviously totally all about MRA simply because I criticized your comment. Thought I could be sneaky and infiltrate the Autostraddle comment section but there’s no fooling you :) Kudos!
Fuck off. This comment is nothing but tone policing.
well I sure hope you don’t have a lovely xx child who turns out to be a trans boy then . . .
If you bothered to read my defense of everyone freaking out on me earlier, I said that it was a PREFERENCE (wow. crazy, I know, to have a preference), and I’d deal no matter what happens.
Lay off, people.
I don’t think it will happen any time soon. I would think we would have to do multi-year trials/observations to make sure everything is done correctly and the child is growing up healthy. At least I think that would be the biggest concern, but I could be wrong.
There have actually already been animals (rodents) created from two egg cells (you change the methylation pattern of a couple of genes to match the sperm cell pattern and then there is a domino effect). I don’t think the main hindrance is the science is harder than creating a zygote from two sperm and one egg. I think the more likely issue is that cisgendered men are uncomfortable with creating a system that allows two cisgendered women (or trans men depending on their hormones etc.) to produce children without any men and that would only allow the birth of female children. I could be wrong, but I have never heard an explanation of why the two sperm and one egg method is easier than using two eggs.
There maybe a legit scientific reason? But, it’s interesting to read about how three people could be involved in the baby making process. I personally, may adopt despite being amab trans*.
I hope there is a scientific reason because then it wouldn’t be about people being awful but would be about science. Its just that the two-egg thing came about before the two sperm and an egg thing and gets basically no press attention while the two sperm type does which I find suspect. Also if anyone reading this thread knows the scientific reason, I’d love to know what it is (l mean this sincerely).
Its not that its important to me that I personally would have that option- its the notion of science being suppressed because people don’t like the idea of it that bothers me. Also its really cool. Like just how they do it and the whole domino effect of methylation. that in its self is something that would be really good to explore further.
I think it was actually two eggs and one sperm. The DNA from one egg, the mitochondria (which have their own DNA) from another egg, and the the DNA from the sperm. But otherwise, yeah.
One of my favorite poems is about this topic!
by Theodosia Henney
I’ve never thought
of having a child
with any man.
But someday, if science grows up,
goes to college, and moves
out of its parents’ house
you and I
could have a daughter.
They’ve done it
with two female mice
in Japan—knocked one up
with the other’s X chromosome
using a microscopic turkey-baster.
She’d have veins
close to the skin like you
and I’d teach her to mimic
animal calls and drive stick shift.
You’d balance her in the air, teach her to stand
on her hands and fly on a trapeze bar.
She’d have our small hands and pale skin
and probably my freckles and eyebrows.
She’d have your shoulders and my hips,
would be well-versed
in Pippi Longstockings and Lacan.
Her uniform would include
at least one bandana
and endless stripes,
she would try on
all of my dresses but
like your sweatpants best.
She will have your laugh and my flat feet,
will always be late
to class and forget her lunch;
she will grow up fearless
of large dogs and cautious
of strangers, with sharp
heels and sharper wits.
In the heat
of her teenage rebellion
she will take up coffee
drinking and insist that we buy
a grinder, to be heard whining
through the bedroom walls
at all hours of the night.
She will age
and move away and every time
we see her for holidays
we will be frightened and proud
of who she is
becoming, how unlike us except
for those moments when something slips
in the air around her and she
is not her own
woman, but our child.
Our child, who once found this poem
in a musty folder during a move,
and cried in corners
where we could not see it
for days because
she was none of these things.
Thank you so much for sharing this!
MADE THE MISTAKE OF STARTING TO READ THIS IN PUBLIC, too many feelings
This is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for this poem… If I ever had a child, I would want her to be conceived in love with another woman who would become her other mother.
As it happens, I have two beautiful daughters, teenagers now, adopted when they were very young…both of them make my heart sing.
This breaks my heart.
This would be so cool. I’ve heard about it and read a little about the subject and it would just be amazing. With the world consistently evolving I believe it will be possible sooner than we know.
I feel like this concept will absolutely TERRIFY some men, which I find absolutely delightful
I’m pretty sure men’s terror is why it hasn’t been developed more already. There was at least one rodent produced from two eggs many years ago.
I was about to say exactly that! That must be the reason why they pulled the funding, that is the ultimate threat to patriarchy, women not needing them for anything at all.
My wife and I were just having this conversation. We are the proud mothers of one son conceived through AI with anonymous donor and are, presently,in the process of fostering to adopt. With experience in both I can say, honestly, neither option is fast, inexpensive or without tremendous emotional costs. Cheery, I know but the end result it worth it, without a doubt.
I believe, with my whole heart, that this technology will never be allowed to see the light of day. Certainly, no man is going to develop it and how easy would it be to drum out the women scientist who are working on it?
Talk about a threat to the patriarchy!
I absolutely agree that there are *many* ways to have children – adoption, family of choice, foster parenting, artificial insem, blended families, etc….but I have had a number of shitty experiences with adoption which makes me really not want to go down that road, although I (in theory) think it’s wonderful. I also have a fear that has been shoved down my throat courtesy of str8 people and movies like “The Kids Are Alright” (f-ing haaate that movie) that makes me think my sperm-bank donated babies will someday grow up to resent me and my partner and seek to find their biological father which will then inevitably RUIN ALL OUR LIVES.
Also I’ve always just loved the idea of two people bringing their love together (in the biological sense. I obv know that two people can merge said love by raising a kid together and that’s nice and dandy too) to create a child. Honestly now that I’m queer it pains me that I won’t be able to do that with my partner. It’s an unexpected sense of loss and really complicates my own acceptance of my sexuality.
So many feels.
“It’s an unexpected sense of loss and really complicates my own acceptance of my sexuality.”
So much this. Before coming out, I was married to a man and hadn’t even given much thought as to how we would start a family (whether or not we would was a whole ‘nother issue – now I know why I was so reluctant). It was just a given that our kids would share our DNA. Coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to have biological children with my future wife has been incredibly hard.
Maybe it’s selfish, but it’s so difficult to let go of the image of a little human that has traits from both of us. I’m having a really hard time with the concept of donor sperm – for many different reasons. Ultimately I think it’s our best option, but now that we’ve starting seriously thinking about it, I’m sort of freaking out.
As a progressively political minded queer medical student, I have a lot to say about this article.
I have two main observations to make, one concerning medicine, the other an ethical consideration.
From a scientific standpoint, the examples the author gives as proof that medicine is on the cusp of transforming egg cells into sperm cells are misleading.
Adam Nash was implanted after an embryo selection, which consists in testing the DNA of each embryo conceived through IVF. It’s like testing the compatibility of an organ donor but before the organ donor is implanted into a uterus and turned into a human being. Technically, it has nothing to do with actually tinkering with the code that determines how our DNA is read, or changing the DNA itself. Both of these processes would be necessary to turn an egg cell into a sperm cell, they are as so far impossible, and DNA modification as is actually practiced in vitro has a huge rate of failure (no single woman could produce enough eggs in a lifetime to obtain one viable sperm cell).
Mitochondrial genes represent about 30 genes (several thousand genes in a human genome in all) that are not located in the nucleus like the other genes but in a separate part of the cell. Also, mitochondrial DNA is much more like bacterial DNA than human DNA (that is, much more… basic ? I suppose). To prevent incapacitating or lethal mitochondrial diseases one can simply take the nucleus out of a donor egg cell and implant the nucleus from the carrier/ill woman into the donor egg. That’s a trillion times easier than modifying what’s inside the nucleus (which is king of like a fortress, to protect our genome).
The researcher you cited was either manipulated by the media or lied about the direction of her research. Reprogramming a cell is a complicated process. Currently, therapeutical research is concentrated on cell transplants. One you modify a cell that you then transplant, it can only give a limited number of clones. But a single embryo cell can form a whole human being. That multiplies the chance of an inevitable error turning into a human tragedy (cancer, in the mother of the foetus, foetal abnormalities, genetic diseases, I could go on for ever…).
Human tragedies! That brings me to my second part: ethics.
So, it might be a cultural thing (I live in western Europe), but I profoundly believe that medicine is the art of finding the best solution possible to a problem for a particular person in a particular situation. This is also the way I practice medicine. For me, medicine and medical research (I am not talking about fundamental research, but the research that leads to actual therapies) have no business satisfying individual, hedonistic desires, or filling a void in the lesbo part of the “baby market” (which thank god does not yet exist in my country).
Also, as a member of “the” queer community, I don’t know why we aren’t criticizing our (perfectly natural – as in our nature determined by a web of social conditioning) tendency to want to fit in with the hetero model and be willing to pay for it !!!
The queer families we are making are beautiful. Raising a child with someone will always give a child that is more or less a mix of both parents. But recognizing more than two parents/loving&caring adults in their life cannot be bad for a child. The hetero model is bullshit anyways: how many of you aren’t actually your dad’s bio kid ? (about 5-10% says research).
The general tendency is the gay community is a commodification of our culture. Please don’t let it become a commodification of our reproduction.
As a fellow medical school student, I would like to point out that there are already branches of medicine who spend a heck of a lot of time helping *heterosexual* couples getting pregnant. If you have a couple that’s trying to conceive, are you going to recommend that they go out and join an adoption wait list before you work up them up? Did you just sleep through your endocrinology classes? Even without considering the pregnancy thing, there are a lot of aspects of medicine that are about improving quality of life- not just quantity. Do people who lost one arm really need a replacement? Are they going to die without it? Usually they won’t; but if you could do that to help these people and allow their quality of life to improve, wouldn’t you do it? I’m not going to die from having migraines five times a week but I sure as hell want my doctors to take my interest in not being in pain seriously.
The notion its heteronormative for two people to want to have a child together is ridiculous. Why would I rather get sperm from a stranger than have one with someone I want to spend the rest of my life with? How is wanting to have a child heteronormative? The fact that my sexual orientation is different from most does not at all influence what I want in life. Its not like if I were true to my inner queerness or whatever I would stop wanting to be a doctor or have children and instead go live in a lesbian commune raising chickens. Yes, there are queer people want to do, but such people are not more queer than I am. They are not embodying what it is to be queer more than I am. Wanting to have children with your spouse is not selling out to mainstream heterosexual society.
Having been around a lot of medical students, I also know that the average medical student is not as sympathetic to their patient’s concerns and medical problems as they could be. Because most medical students are twenty-something year old relatively healthy people who don’t have to deal with the problems that their patients have. And despite their total lack of life experience, still dare to make ridiculous assumptions about what is the right way to have an illness or another major life issue. Who are you to tell all these people that their desire to have children is not important? Do you run around telling OB/GYNs and endocrinologists that their careers are wasteful? Honestly, I hope that you do. I think that would be a lovely comment to add to your dean’s letter.
P.S. that whole “that’s not how I practice medicine” comment? Super pretentious. You’re not a doctor and whatever medical plan you make, ultimately an actual doctor has to oversee your decisions.
Thank you for this comment.
Agreed. Thank you for that reply, Abby.
Thank you so much. I was about to Like Anna’s comment for the scientific accuracy, but like, whoa. I can still dream and hope for the day when I can mash my genes with my wife to make a beautiful baby without it being reduced to “selling out to heteronormativity”.
Another medical student logging in to give Abby the thumbs up.
I have complicated feelings about repro endo in that I can’t personally relate to the feeling of wanting or needing to physically birth a baby, thus I choose not to dedicate my life to helping others do that because I would be totally unable to relate to my patients situation. That doesn’t mean I’m judging their choices though or accusing them of acquiescing to heteronormativity!
Cara may have repeatedly referred to “two eggs” in general, but the actual research method by Dr Lacham-Kaplan did NOT involve two eggs, but an egg cell and a somatic cell; the somatic cell was the one converted to be spermlike. So, uh.
Also, yr condescension and insults towards people who want to be parents without the lingering dread that some rando sperm donor will show up out of the blue and tear the family apart is… really cruel, to say the least.
Although I understand the emotion two women can feel in wanting a child together that came from both, I think anna’s post is most informed…. but who knows about the future.
Thanks to both anna and Abby. We need more *informed* debate on a variety of topics and such debate should be facilitated and encouraged!!
When I was in middle school, I had all these fantasies about science making it possible for two cis women to have babies together and then raising kids with my best friends.
Took me quite a while after that to start wondering if I might not be entirely straight. Heterosexism is fun.
I read the “Daughters of a Coral Dawn” trilogy by Katherine V. Forrest a summer or two ago. In this society, some drug has been developed allowing two cisgender women to have a biological child together. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by this idea. The idea of melding DNA with your loved one is pretty cool. On the other hand, I appreciate the many concerns the topic raises (medical ethics).
Someday (when time and money allow and I am not wholly terrified by the idea of potentially messing up my kid) I will likely go the AI route. But that honestly makes me a little squeamish–not so much because of the anonymous donors, but I just can’t help thinking semen is icky. (Looking at the sentence, I probably sound like I’m in junior high, but seriously, I just don’t like it … sorry folks. (Sometimes I almost have an existential crisis thinking that I am, in a sense, half sperm.))
First, loved Daughters of a Coral Dawn…give me lesbian utopia any day.
And – I always thought seman was icky too. My ex had tried to get pregnant AI and I could not bear the smell of even the tiny vial of sperm. She ended up not being able to conceive (various fertility issues). We decided to adopt. We have two beautiful daughters who are both teenagers now. Long strange trip…
I think this is wonderful. It eliminates the drama of birth parents that comes along with adoption and sperm donors.
It is shocking now but I believe in another 10 years it won’t be.
I agree if we came together as a queer community to fund it will be done. If some one independently made this happen; they’d be very successful. The ability for gay couples to have babies produced with their own DNA would be epic.
It can and it will be done. I never thought society would progress enough to witness a black man as the president in my life time. Yet here it is.
I think it would easier to create an empty sperm cell and inject the other women’s DNA in to than modifying what already exists. Or vice versa for male couples. Or even help heterosexual couples where one or both parents are barren.
As for Anna’s comments regarding science is not meant to hedonistic. It is everyday for less nobel causes. Braces, breast implants, IVF, IS use science to modify what is natural occurring. So what. Deal with it!
Obviously there will be nay-sayers. There always are.
I was wondering about injecting DNA into an empty sperm cell too. Seems like it would be simpler, but I’m not very knowledgeable about this topic. (And as you mentioned, it would be cool to do something similar for male couples too).
I guess I’m in the minority, but this idea makes me very nervous. There would be no way to know whether the first children conceived from two eggs would be healthy (of course you never know with any child, but conceiving a child in a completly new way would carry an elevated risk). I’m sure it’s possible for scientists to figure out how to create healthy kids from two eggs, but I’m also pretty sure that getting there will involve a number of failed attempts. Some of these attempts will likely involve a lot of pain and suffering. The potential risk to children who never asked to be a part of these experiments just doesn’t seem ethical to me.
As far as ethics goes, this is the big issue. But then, the same could be said for IVF and other medical methods of producing children: someone had to be the first one to be born those ways, and by definition they can’t have given informed consent. The standard way of trying to ameliorate this ethical concern is to practice the procedure on non-human animals until the success rate is high enough. (Of course, that raises a whole slew of other ethical concerns; but people in medicine regularly ignore or trivialize those concerns.) If enough animals born by the procedure live full and healthy lives, then the risk of failure is considered low enough that it’s no longer an ethical concern, but rather a “calculated risk”.
Unfortunately, at present, that’s about the best we can do. Ethics is always a game of trying to choose the lesser evil— but what counts as “lesser” and is very much in the eye of the beholder, and hence something that changes over time as society changes. Whence Lacham-Kaplan’s comments about the world not being ready yet. When the idea of two cis women having children genetically related to both parents becomes more acceptable among the mainstream, then the idea of pursuing technology to make it happen will also become more acceptable.
This sounds so cool.
My attitude toward this is the same as my attitude towards other kinds of fertility treatments, like IVF. Sure, an argument can be made that have an overpopulation problem and that we have plenty children already that need adopting. But at the same time, I think that couples that want to have kids with their genes should be able to have that option. Why should we say it’s okay for fertile, heterosexual couples to have their own biological children without question, but then turn around and criticize infertile couples or same-sex couples for wanting that same opportunity?
The last science I took was AP biology in high school (and technically chemistry in college, but I slept through that– not intentionally), so I can’t say anything meaningful about that aspect. Except thank you for all of those of you who ARE in the know and have contributed.
I’ve definitely thought about this, with about 75% wishful thinking and 25% ethical mental debate. I know how I’d look on paper as an adoption candidate: really awful. Would something like this also involve “proving” myself? I wonder. I kind of like to think of this as a new form of blended family (through science, as it were)– that’s most comfortable for me.
Well they’ve figured out how to have a kid with three parents’ DNA and she seemed to have turned out fine.
Can we have more articles written by queer women about their families? I know AS has a couple up here but it’d be really nice to hear more about some personal experiences The only people with children I know are cis, straight couples- and it’d be nice to see some different possibilities for how a family could look.
I second this! Sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine having a (happy/successful/loving) queer family because representations (ahem, note my movie reference in my above comment, ugh) are mostly shitty.
Personally, I think this community needs to push for greater adoption rights. This can be a benefit in the future, thus research should continue but as of right now, lesbian, gay, straight, transgender, bisexual, we need to stop having more children, and adopt the ones who need homes. The human population is too high as is.
There are huge ethical concerns with adoption as well. And I don’t think most demographers would agree that there are too many people in the world, we just don’t use natural resources efficiently enough.
The vast majority of ways people adopt are really unethical. For profit adoption agencies, international adoptions that take kids far away from their original families and cultures, years long waiting lists. Adoption has a horrible history and the industry still does so much harm.
Another example of [state] science being held at the mercy of politics. Does anyone else smell the sci-fi brewing?
This is obviously what Orphan Black is actually about
I used to talk a lot about this scenario about 15 years ago, but now, as a (queer) mother of two, I feel very conflicted about the ethics and the possible risks of such a process.
We have a daughter and a son, one carried by my wife (with her genes), the other carried by me (with my genes), both conceived using sperm from the same known donor. I feel that both children are equally mine, and both are combinations of my wife and I, with only the occasional facial expression that reminds me of our donor.
Everything that I have learned along the way to being a parent, particularly around pregnancy and childbirth, has served to strengthen a desire to keep medical interventions to a minimum, used only when actually needed to preserve life. We did the most low-tech insemination possible (clean glass jar, syringe), had unmedicated births, breastfed, cloth diapers, etc., so we’re clearly urban hippies and–no doubt–have a set of opinions that lie far from the mainstream about these issues. Despite all the fertility technology that exists right now, they still can’t grow a baby without a woman’s body to host it, and despite everything that science has done to try and make birth safer and less painful, healthy, low-risk pregnancies have significantly better outcomes in the absence of medical intervention. I guess I’m just saying that I am worried about the long term consequences for the child(ren) of this kind of medical technology.
I do agree, however, that the uproar that such kinds of research engender is deeply rooted in misogynistic ideology. And I can understand why some people might want a genetic connection to their children–even if, in my own case, I feel very strongly that the genetics is irrelevant when compared to the active process of day-to-day engagement in the practice of child rearing.
Mentioned this in a reply to another comment, but i just want to stress that the technique described does NOT involve two eggs. It’s one egg and one somatic (bodily) cell.
The distinction matters because:
-everyone has somatic cells, so anyone who doesn’t have viable eggs would still be able to use this process, as long as their partner does!
-we have trillions of somatic cells, and they’re much easier & less painful to obtain than eggs (important, cause IVF is tricky and can take many, many tries even when using ready-made sperm)
-a lot of the biological concerns people have expressed are based on the assumption that this would be a two eggs -> zygote procedure. It’s not.
So yeah. Apologies to Cara for being nitpicky about this, the piece was just kinda misleading on that part.
I remeber when they announced that. I was living in seattle and my friends and I got overenthusiastic and I missed work the next day.
its sad though, if research doesnt help rich guys defile something more effectively, the powers that be wont allow it.
but thats me and I tend to cynicism.
I’ve experienced the same conflicted feelings some other commenters have mentioned regarding my general opinions about the overuse of western medicine and my contradictory desire to use all of the medical intervention possible to create a genetically related future child with my future wife.
Having children is still many, many years away for me, but I do think about it a lot; I wouldn’t want to interfere very much in my pregnancy, I would want to be very careful about the food and medicine my child grew up consuming, yet I would want to do strange genetic manipulation and consume the hormones necessary to successfully implant an embryo inside my uterus?
For me, it’s more about having a child biologically related to my partner than a child related to me (though I still have some desire for that, as well). When my girlfriend and I talk about it, we always end up reaching the conclusion that I’m the one who would be willing to carry a child. I often think of “reciprocal” IVF as a solution to that, but it comes down to the same thing: my selfish desire for a child with her features versus what I morally/ethically feel, which is that I couldn’t bear to put her through the pain and hormonal alteration that’s required of an egg donor when pain and needles are part of why she is uncomfortable with the idea of pregnancy in the first place.
It never gets easier in my head to reconcile these things, and if the tech was available I’m not sure I would make use of it… but boy, would I want to, that’s for sure.
I feel like I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the fact that this won’t ever be available (or at least affordable) during my childbearing years. The fact that I won’t be related to the kid she gives birth to and she won’t be related to the one I give birth to doesn’t bother me, really.
What does bother me is the idea of the donor. This external person who gets to be related to both of our kids. I feel like I would only ever use a sperm bank, because if we were to use a known donor, it would be really painful to see that person in our children. No matter how good a friend they were.
Even though the concept of having babies without the involvement of sperms is quite unnatural and sounds impossible, but the miracles of science have led us to believe that anything is possible. There was a time before IVF when some couldn’t even think that it was possible to carry out fertilization in a vitro. So anything is possible when you challenge science.
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