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Uncharted territories: Becoming lesbian mums through donor conception Petra Nordqvist Sociology/Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal.

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Presentation on theme: "Uncharted territories: Becoming lesbian mums through donor conception Petra Nordqvist Sociology/Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Uncharted territories: Becoming lesbian mums through donor conception Petra Nordqvist Sociology/Morgan Centre for the Study of Relationships and Personal Life University of Manchester

2 Lesbian parenthood Lesbians become parents in all sorts of ways My research focus on couples who conceive using donor insemination/conception Insemination a longstanding history among lesbians as a way of becoming parents Legal changes in the UK has made it increasingly accessible in clinics (if you have the money) Also better legal protection for two mothers

3 My interest: Parallel stories of pregnancy Sister (heterosexual) Social script for when to disclose Three months pregnant What to say How not to respond! Friends (lesbian) Very different story Insemination seminars Open discussions with friends Copenhagen 2005 No social script

4 Academic dearth Small body of research into lesbian motherhood, almost none on lesbians’ conception practices Lesbians’ donor conception practices absent from social science research into – Feminist research into reproductive technologies – Kinship and reproductive technologies – Sociology of family life, gay and lesbian intimacy – Gay and lesbian politics

5 Uncharted territories Socially, culturally, academically, personally Explorative research How do lesbian couples negotiate the process of trying to conceive? – What is that process like? – How do they access donor sperm? – How do they choose a donor? – What does family and kinship mean to them in that process?

6 What I did... PhD research University of York Spoke to 25 lesbian couples in England and Wales Planning, pursuing, parents Clinical and self arranged conception Donors friends/fathers/known/unknown/unknowable

7 Managing intimacy I think, being a lesbian, it’s the last thing you really want to be involved in, isn’t it? That’s why you’re gay, to be honest with you. You don’t want to be dealing with sperm at all. (Linda, 39)

8 Holly It was funny, one time, because he always used to go in the bathroom. But on the last time he went up and he come back down and he went, I’m finding it really difficult today, because he hadn’t brought his PDA with his pictures of ladies on. And he said, it’s just not happening, can I use the conservatory and use the computer? So, then we were like… felt awkward to be on the same level, but we didn’t want to sit upstairs. So we were like, yeah, okay. And we went a walk along the canal, didn’t we. (Holly, 28, with Carol 32)

9 Harriet Because he was a medical doctor he insisted on doing the insemination himself which shocked me, so much so I couldn’t say anything else and so it was kind of, as soon as he was in the room it was like, I’m really not comfortable with this. We went and stayed in a hotel near where he lived and worked and then he called over with a sample and did the whole thing and he stayed for about an hour afterwards while I kind of just lay there. I mean he was very pleasant to talk to and everything but… It’s got to be one of the worst experiences of my life and I was thinking, this is not the way I want to have a child. (Harriet, 36 with Julie, 30)

10 Choosing donors Linda: Yeah, [the donor] wasn’t very tall. He’s 5’8”. He had brown hair, blue eyes, he’s a research scientist, yay, our child is going to have some brains. He had very similar hobbies to us. (Linda) Annette: He liked to cook, he liked wine. Linda: Very, very similar things and we just went, yeah, him and bingo!

11 Family resemblances Shelly I think it would be nice [if the donor matches Rosie], I mean people like to see themselves in their children. Obviously that wouldn’t necessarily at all going to be genetically true with Rosie but going to be sort of similarities. (Shelly, 30, with Rosie, 25)

12 Lesbian couples are of course important to consider in their own right But couples are also connected to wider families Their children are also grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins Wider family, especially grandparents perhaps, play an important part in our lives, particularly at child birth

13 Lesbian couples and their relatives One day shortly after [our son] was born, we were in a shop, in [city], and we bumped into this woman who was a friend of the family for years and years and I said, ‘Oh, hello, how are you?’ And she said, ‘Oh, hi,’ and I said, ‘Oh, this is my son and this is my partner, Dawn,’ and she went, ‘That explains everything,’ and I said, ‘Oh right,’ and she said she’d run into my Dad, my Dad had said, ‘Erm, Sarah’s having a baby,’ and this woman had said, ‘Oh, who’s the father?’ and Dad said, ‘There is no father,’ so he would rather that I’d had a one-night stand and got pregnant than Dad actually tell her I’m in a relationship with a woman, and, you know, so that was – I was quite sad about that, but, you know, that’s just my Dad. (Sarah)

14 Donor conception and family relationships ‘Relative Strangers: Negotiating Non-genetic kinship in the context of assisted conception’ Project explores how donor conception is negotiated within wider family relationships and between parents and grandparents of donor conceived children The overall aim of the study is to investigate how non-genetic kinship and assisted conception impact on family relationships

15 Thank you! centre/research/relative-strangers/index.html


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