The Future of Same-Sex Couple Pregnancy
By Isa Schulting
A nuclear heteronormative relationship ideal has dictated our conception of family structure for much too long. The narrative of such a ‘standard’ family is problematic to say the least. Seen as a ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’, the idealistic white married male/female couple with three children is far from being the representation of inclusiveness and surely not assured to be functional. Such family structures can be realisitic, yet little to no space exists for considering Queer couples in such a framework. Although family often connotes a parent-child dynamic, it is not essential to the definition of family. We must broaden our views to include family structures both with and without children, blood ties or otherwise, and care networks. This article specifically dives into the possibilities of having children as a same-sex couple.
Queerness is invalidated through the perception of a normative family being superior. This reinforces misogynistic expectations of a hetero monogamous couples represented as ‘natural’ due to biological reproduction capacity. Transwomen are among those being invalidated for the lack of childbearing capacities in comparison to such a cis-woman. Further sexist gender role expectations within family structures that dictate parenting roles is one of many obstacles Queer people deal with in deconstructing the idealised normative family. With many aspects of Queer couples and families being discussable ranging adoption difficulties to the legalisaiton of marriage, this article offers insight to the exciting possibility of bioengineering of gametes (sperm and egg cells).
This process starts with the use of lab produced induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC); human body cells of which their specialized roles are reengineered to de-differentiated hence becoming pluripotent. A PSC is basic in the sense that it can still become anything. Inducing PSC’s has been done effectively for various purposes such as cancer research, treatments for diabetes, or even eyesight loss.
In the next stage the IPSC’s are pushed towards the cellular process gametogenesis to
differentiate into gametes. Gamete cells are made through meiosis, a two phase cell division where one parent cell becomes 4 daughter sperm/egg cells. The complexity of meiosis makes it hard to recreate in vitro hence research developments have not been able to successfully do so for humans. Several steps are needed to get from IPCS to gametes but considering the rate of discoveries within this field of science it may not be too far in the future when this is achieved. Image
In practice this could apply to a couple with vaginas wanting children. One partner can donate a body cell with genetic information that is turned into a PSC which then undergoes meiosis to become a sperm cell. This sperm cell is then moved to fertilize with the other partner’s egg cell in the lab. Now an embryo grows with half the genetic information from each partner and is later transplanted into the womb. The sex cell production could also work for two cis-men although a surrogate would still be necesary. Such a pregnancy would defy our normative-reproductive possibilities and further challenge kin-making practices.
Empowering queer couples through futuristic technoscience is highly viable even if not fully realised at the moment. Likely to take several more years, we can already begin reconsidering our conception of family as a whole. Quoting, “If one is to acknowledge the existence of many types of families besides the heteronuclear, then it is necessary to use a definition of the basic family which is more inclusive. To be more inclusive this concept of family cannot depend on marriage and blood ties via procreation as such a basis would exclude all but heteronuclear families. Instead, I propose understanding the family as a network of care with formal loving ties between members” (Snider).
Snider, Ashton R., "Heteronormativity and the Ideal Family" (2016). Theses. 220. https://irl.umsl.edu/thesis/220