Completely independent of a little baby story I posted this morning, today New York Times Magazine posted an article on gay people, surrogates, and selfishness. What an interesting little read that kicks up a lot of intellectual dust.
“My husband and I are gay and are exploring the possibility of having children using an egg donor and a surrogate mother,” the question from New Yorker David Lat begins. He gets into friends taking a tone, asking them why they don’t adopt. Lat then gets into something especially crucial in this conversation: exploitation. “There are ethical issues related to paying women for their eggs or paying women to carry our children as surrogates,” he says, concluding with a question of if this is unethical, self-indulgent, and ultimately wrong, that they should adopt.
The Ethicist—Kwame Anthony Appiah—weighs in with a slight indifference mixed with support.
Anybody who is contemplating having a baby, by whatever means, could be adopting a child instead. If those who chide you include people who have biological children themselves, you might want to point this out. Come to think of it, your friends who don’t have children are also free, if they meet the legal requirements, to adopt. Every child awaiting adoption is someone who could benefit from parental volunteers.
True! Also true, as he points out, is that there is nothing wrong with the odd mixing of paid baby making (Surrogacy.) if it is non-exploitative. While Appiah does not yay or nay the decision, he skirts around the selfishness of it all by saying that anyone having a baby is kind of selfish. “So while it would be terrific if you adopted,” he says, “it’s no more incumbent on you than it is on any other potential parents.”
So, a non-answer: is gay baby making selfish? If it isn’t, what is it? A flexing of economic means? A symbol? A want to extend one’s life by breeding a future caretaker? A way to play lifelong dress up? An attempt to add yourself to the conversation of “Who are better parents: gay parents or straight parents”? A selfless yearning to bring life into the world? An extension of lineage? The question clearly weighs on the minds and bodies of the gay man (and all same sex attracted persons) and will always have some baggage attached, until same sex people can procreate themselves in the Junior alternate universe.
It’s always a funny conversation, baby making, because there are so many babies and having—or not having—one has just as much baggage for straight people. Now, with something like a baby offending illness and the inability for women to terminate babies when they want (or need) to, it’s becoming more and more clear that the baby is a political beast. They represent the future and all types of fluffy jazz you want to sing about them but, really, they are a point of view staring back at entire countries pushing people not to have babies.
There may not ever be an answer—for people who can make babies or for people who cannot make babies—if creating another human by surrogacy or good old fashion fucking is selfish. The act of the make could be consider pleasurably selfish but, in the end, it’s selfless, it’s a giving up of everything for a little something else. Like the circling of life, the question is cyclical: as close as you get to an answer, the further it pulls away, into a tangle of complicated adjacent issues.
So, have your babies however you want. Or don’t! They will never not be debatable and there will never not be babies around. And now I’m done talking about babies for at least a month.