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Gay fatherhood: between genetic and affective ties

Martine Gross, Bérengère Rubio, Olivier Vecho, Kate Ellis-Davies

Research Framework: Alongside the « classic » fathers, genetically related to their child and the mother’s spouse, there are adoptive fathers, single fathers, stepfathers, non-genetic fathers. Within this diversity appear gay fathers. But choosing gay parenthood is a relatively recent phenomenon that requires confronting a hostile legal and social environment and challenging gender norms.

Objectives: The objective of this article is to explore representations of kinship and paternity, including whether or not the genetic link is important to gay fathers who have used gestational surrogacy.

Methodology: The paper is based on interviews with 36 gay men in couple’s who have used surrogacy to become the father of a child or twins of about 4 months of age.

Results: Because they are likely aware of the importance of genetic bonds in dominant social representations of parenthood, the interviewed fathers are very careful that their own relatives make no distinction between them. Some fathers go so far as to refuse to tell others about which father is biologically related to the child. Nevertheless, these dominant representations are not absent, especially at the moment of conception. Indeed, a number of them implanted embryos of each to give themselves a chance to have twins genetically linked to each of the fathers. In the case of a second surrogacy, they often want the second child (second twin or future pregnancy) to be of the father who has not given his sperm the first time.

Conclusions: The gathered observations show that the representations of paternity are diversified and combine representations based on genetic ties with representations based more on daily parenthood.

Contribution: The article highlights the complexity of paternity representations. These are not just about biogenetic links, but also about elective links.