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The Issues

Queer Families: Adoption and Fertility

Billie Simmons
Last week we talked about queer families, mostly from a philosophical and personal level. This week, I thought I’d expand more deeply into the practicalities of starting or expanding a family when ‘traditional’ conception methods aren’t available to you.


The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law estimated in a report that 114,000 same-sex couples in 2016 were raising children in the United States. Same-sex couples with children were far more likely than different-sex couples with children to have an adopted child, 21.4 percent versus 3 percent, the report found.

Despite this, adoption discrimination is still a thing in the US, where it is legal to refuse to place a child with a couple on ‘religious grounds’. Beyond this, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process and those of us with more of a ‘non-traditional’ lifestyle can be subject to scrutiny.

The average cost of adoption, according to a report from Adoptive Families Magazine, is $43,000. And that’s just the start: let’s not forget all the expenses in raising a child itself!

I’m not going to go too into funding options for all of these methods, as they’re largely the same as laid out in our surrogacy article. But, there’s a great episode from the Debt Free Guys podcast with Help Us Adopt, who are providing grants to couples who want to adopt.

Fertility for Transgender and Non-Binary People

Something that I think doesn’t get discussed a lot is fertility for trans and non-binary people. For those of us that decide to medically transition, taking hormones can have an effect on our fertility down the line. It’s very rare to find insurance plans that cover things like freezing sperm or eggs and it’s very costly out of pocket and usually requires a yearly fee.

This is part of a wider issue around trans health and insurance companies just not cutting it! More to come on that soon.

In Vitro

If you’ve chosen to use the aforementioned fertility freezing methods, or if you’re planning to use a sperm donor, you’ll likely be looking at in vitro fertilization. This is the process of taking mature eggs from ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab, and transferring the embryo into the uterus.

This is actually the cheapest of the methods, coming in at around $20k for a one ‘cycle’. But this does not include the cost of medications, and you might not be successful the first time, meaning you’ll need to shell out another $20k for an additional cycle.

Insurance does often cover a certain number of cycles, but I’ve heard from some couples that they’ve been required to have heteronormative ‘trying to conceive’ periods that they have to somehow prove that they’ve been doing for 6 months. How do you even begin to explain the mechanics of lesbian sex to an insurance rep over the phone?

Families look different for everyone

Not to repeat myself too much from last week, but I want to reiterate that everyone’s journeys are different. Some people don’t want kids, some trans people are able to conceive in the ‘traditional’ way because going on hormones isn’t part of their transition. Ultimately, it’s about what makes you feel fulfilled, and like you’ve made the best use of your time on this earth.