Workshop: "Family Planning for the LGBT Community"


Carl Djerassi begins the workshop on LGBT family planning by asking who the most logical sperm donor would be for a lesbian couple that wants to procreate? Genetically speaking – the so-called father of the contraceptive pill says – this would be the brother of the non-bearer.

The lesbian couple on the panel, Shamim Sarif and Hanan Kattan, who have been together for 17 years and are before us today in all black and all white outfits respectively, disagree. From a genetical standpoint the brother may be the most logical choice. But when choosing a father for a child, other factors are much more important. The couple themselves have two sons. "I had a career. So I had to map out my family planning like I do spreadsheets," 51-year-old Kattan jokes. At 36, her biological the alarm rang. Literally. She had put a reminder in her calendar. "I think I remember getting the ping when I was on a train," the seven year younger Sarif teases her partner.

Both women got pregnant using sperm from the same donor. "Having the donor involved does add a third layer of complication," Kattan says. In their case, the father was gay, very involved initially, but passed away a few years ago when he 49.

The third speaker being questioned by Djerassi is Ina Fried. She her first profession is being a technology journalist (Fried is a senior editor at All Things Digital). Her second career is being a mother. "Sixth months ago, my partner and I had a child", Fried tells with a smile. While she is a transgender woman (born as a boy but identifies as a girl), Fried's partner is a transgender man (born as a girl but identifies as a boy). "We initially considered having a child the traditional way," she says with a twinkle in her eye. But because her partner did not feel comfortable carrying a child, the couple opted for another women to carry their son, Harvey, to term.

"Our son is going to know all the people involved in creating him," Fried says. Adding that really, a child can never have too many positive role models. There are legal actions she and her partner took to protect their child. But the most important step they have taken is deciding to make the commitment.

Kattan underscores this point by saying that generally speaking, gay people have put themselves under their own microscope before they deciding to become parents. Arguably, this may lead to more conscientious family planning.

In the present day, the majority of families are more complicated than one mother and one father, Djerassi says. There are half-sisters, half-brothers, step-mothers and so on. In his view, this diversity facilitates children of gay couples and their peers accepting different family constellations.

The discussion next turns to gay people's right to adopt in Germany. Audience members lament that legally speaking these rights need to be increased. However, one participant does mention that the country seems to be on the right course, considering the decision by the federal court to allow a gay person to adopt the biological child of their partner (successive adoption).

Ina Fried ends the discussion by thanking DLD. "Normally, when I go to a technology conference I'm just another nerd. It's refreshing to be in a place where I don;t need to check any of my identities at the door."

Mentioned in this live blog

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Carl Djerassi
Stanford University
Professor of chemistry emeritus, Stanford University
Stanford University
Ina fried headshot 2
Ina Fried
Chief Technology Correspondent
San Francisco

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