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Beyond Expectation

Beyond Expectation: Lesbian/Bi/Queer Women and Assisted Conception

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Beyond Expectation
    Book Description:

    An in-depth study of lesbian, bi, and queer women's experiences of thinking about and trying to become a parent,Beyond Expectationdraws on eighty-two narrative interviews conducted during the late 1990s in British Columbia.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8586-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    While doing research in a low-risk maternity care unit in Ontario in 1996, I met Kate Oslo and Gwen Michaels, who were expecting their second child. Gwen had conceived their first child, a girl, using donor semen three years earlier. When I interviewed Kate, who was pregnant with their second child, she commented on the importance that she and Gwen had placed on their decision to use sperm from the same donor to conceive both children. Kate described the establishment of a genetic relationship between the two children as a gift of continuity and stability, a gift that could potentially...

  6. PART I: Re-imagining Relations

    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 23-24)

      During the late 1990s British Columbia made headline news throughout North America and the world as one of the most progressive jurisdictions in which to be or become a queer parent (findlay 1998; Matas 1998;Xtra!1997). As more than one lesbian mom or prospective parent told me, ʹWeʹre lucky to live in BC.ʹ However, changes at the level of legislation do not always result in changes at the level of practice. Formal recognition of parental rights and status held different meanings for the women I interviewed who were living in various regions of British Columbia and who had differential...

    • 2 Imagining Queer Parenthood
      (pp. 25-40)

      Nearly twenty-five years ago when her son was born, Rae felt like ʹa pioneer, searching around for somebody to talk with about a similar experience.ʹ Talking about the questions raised in becoming a parent, Rae reflected, ʹI wasnʹt the dad; I wasnʹt the body mom. Who was I? That kind of thing, the identity thing.ʹ Rae never found a role that fit. She stated: ʹThereʹs a sense of place more now, but not then. It was very confusing. At that particular time there were a lot of kids around in my life, which was good. I gravitated to women and...

    • 3 Strategic Outings
      (pp. 41-57)

      During my fieldwork two women told me a story that in my retelling always seems a slightly romanticized tale of transformation, but it is also perhaps indicative of the processes of recognition. The women live with their two children in the Okanagan Valley, a politically conservative region of British Columbia. Their neighbour had a bumper sticker on his car which identified him as a supporter of the right-wing Canadian Alliance political party. During the lead up to the Canadian federal election in 2000, members of the Canadian Alliance made several anti-gay remarks.¹ One afternoon the neighbour peeked over the fence...

    • 4 Out for the Children, or Childhood Outings?
      (pp. 58-69)

      Women who were parenting children and thinking about getting pregnant or adopting had already witnessed some of the homophobia that children of queer parents are exposed to. When I met Adele, she seemed enthusiastic to share her thoughts about getting pregnant. However, when I arrived at her home for a scheduled interview, she told me that her partner, Vivian, was concerned that participation in the project might hurt her sons. Vivianʹs reservations were based on an incident at her sonʹs school a few weeks earlier, during which a classmate had confronted him, declaring that Vivian was gay. He replied that...

    • 5 Misreadings
      (pp. 70-76)

      Queer studies and, more generally, gender and sexuality studies celebrate ambiguity and countercultural performances of gender and sexuality, predominantly relying on demarcated ʹqueerʹ subjects and spaces to produce comments, theories, and performances of ʹqueernessʹ (Butler 1990; Morris 1995; Bell and Valentine 1995). Although an emphasis on discursively constituted bodies within contemporary social theory has questioned definitive relations between sex, gender, and sexuality, bodies appear to only be transgressive when they visibly contest these relations and manifest dissonance on and through bodily performances. Lesbian bodies in fertility clinics, pregnant lesbians, and queer moms do not immediately conjure images of transgression, unlike...

  7. PART II: Negotiating Relatedness

    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 77-80)

      In May 1998 theVancouver Sunran a two-page story about lesbian and gay families in Vancouver. Under the headline ʹGay and Lesbian Parents: We Are Familyʹ the subtitle explained: ʹSame-sex couples are raising children successfully and happily as societyʹs new openness encourages gays and lesbians to explore such avenues as foster-parenting, adoption and artificial insemination to build familiesʹ (Aird 1998, C10).

      The article draws on the experiences of a gay dad raising his teenage daughter and a lesbian couple parenting their infant son. The slogan ʹWe are familyʹ was (and still is) used to represent imagined and real communities...

    • 6 Legal (Re)Framings
      (pp. 81-93)

      The 1980s and 1990s, the period during which the women in this study attempted to get pregnant or become a parent, brought about significant shifts in court interpretations of the ʹbest interests of the childʹ and witnessed the precedent-setting inclusion of sexual orientation as a protected status under the Human Rights Code in various Canadian provinces. In 1996 the Canadian Human Rights Act was amended to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, based on a 1995 Supreme Court ruling. In 1998, in the Supreme Court judgment ofVriend v. Alberta, sexual orientation was ʹread intoʹ the Canadian...

    • 7 Figuring Anonymity
      (pp. 94-115)

      InThe Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy for LesbiansRachel Pepper states, ʹOne of the biggest decisions you will make in trying to get pregnant is whether to use a known or an unknown donorʹ (1999, 32). In her discussion of the pros and cons of using known or unknown donors, Pepper quotes Kate Kendall, director of the U.S. National Centre for Lesbian Rights, who states, ʹUsing a known donor is a minefield of riskʹ (1999, 36). In a similar vein, at a discussion of same-sex rights and family status which I attended in 1998 in Vancouver, shortly following the amendments...

    • 8 Mediating Knowing
      (pp. 116-130)

      Cheri Pies, author ofConsidering Parenthood: A Workbook for Lesbians(1988) – a book that was sometimes visible on a bookshelf or under the coffee table in the homes of the women I interviewed – notes that in the short period of time between 1979 and 1985 lesbians seemed to shift from choosing completely anonymous donors to choosing donors that could potentially be known to the child at some time in the future. Maureen Sullivan (2004), for example, notes that in her study involving thirty-four couples, only five couples chose known donors and twenty-nine chose anonymous donors from sperm banks,...

    • 9 Contracting Kinship
      (pp. 131-154)

      Many pivotal court cases took place throughout the 1980s and 1990s, in which lesbians and gay men challenged their denial of access to rights and benefits, due to the exclusionary definition ofspouse.¹ However, without governmental action, amendments to policies or Acts only applied to the specific issues covered by such policies and Acts and only within a limited jurisdiction. Successful challenges set precedents, upon which future decisions could be made, but the cost of launching challenges to separate pieces of legislation was often prohibitive to individuals. In the light of legislative reform in a number of provinces and anticipation...

  8. PART III: Reproductive ʹAssistanceʹ

    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 155-156)

      Many people, including lesbian, bisexual, and queer women, straight friends and family, and health care providers, assume that lesbians do not sleep with men to get pregnantbecause they are lesbians. Therefore, using some form of donor insemination ʹmakes sense.ʹ Some people, including lesbian and straight friends, family, and health care providers, assume that sleeping with a man would be an easy way to get pregnant. This assumption is often coupled with speculations that doing so will be inexpensive and, possibly, more efficient.

      The women I interviewed sometimes spent years laying the social foundations for their family, navigating and evaluating...

    • 10 Matters of Health
      (pp. 157-174)

      Technologies of assisted conception have been naturalized, and what were dominantly perceived to be natural conceptions via heterosexual intercourse have been denaturalized (Sullivan 2004; Franklin 1997; Strathern 1992). As scholars writing at the intersection of science, technology, health, and body studies demonstrate, new narratives of conception have defined technological reproductive assistance as merely ʹgiving nature a helping hand.ʹ Emerging cultural understandings ofnatureandnaturalcontinuously incorporate technology (Davis-Floyd and Dumit 1998). Sarah Franklin states:

      As reproductive success is rendered tentative by increasing knowledge of how much can go wrong with the early stages of embryo-genesis, so too is reproductive...

    • 11 Screening Pasts
      (pp. 175-190)

      Only one couple I interviewed had attempted to conceive by an arrangement with an anonymous ʹliveʹ donor in the late 1980s, and one woman during the 1990s. Another couple in the process of thinking through their options at the time of our interview in 2000 mentioned the possibility of using an anonymous donor outside of a clinical context. However, most women I interviewed who inseminated with semen from a known donor emphasizedknowingthat individual. Knowing an individual meant knowing their sexual history, knowing their family and friends, and knowing their behavioural habits. This knowledge played an important role in...

    • 12 Screening Futures
      (pp. 191-202)

      Observing the proliferation and appeal of guidebooks on pregnancy, Lisa Mitchell writes: ʹThe guides are aimed at heterosexual, married, middle-class, ideal-weight, able-bodied women, and the authors presume that their readers have both the time and money to eat right, reduce stress and learn how to be pregnant ʺproperly.ʺ The ʺEvery Womanʺ of these books is actively and effectively engaged in lessening the demands of work, supervised prenatal care, and otherwise arranging her life to ensure the right conditions for her pregnancyʹ (2001, 88-9). Mitchell notes that women who fall outside of the normative parameters represented in these books ʹrequire special...

    • 13 Reflections
      (pp. 203-212)

      Since 2002 I have lived in two European countries – first England and now Germany – conducting research on projects which have addressed the use and development of more ʹhigh-techʹ technologies than those used by the majority of the women I had interviewed during the fieldwork for this project in Canada. When I returned to the stories that formBeyond Expectation, I did so with new knowledge and a growing interest in the constellations of governance that are very much part of the sense-making processes invoked within narratives of assisted-reproduction technologies and assisted conception. Over the course of my work...

  9. Appendix A: Timeline of Significant Events
    (pp. 213-214)
  10. Appendix B: Biographies of Women Interviewed
    (pp. 215-220)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 221-254)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-270)
  13. Index
    (pp. 271-278)