Updated: Nov 15, 2022
As a woman in a same-sex relationship at the beginning of my family planning journey, it feels like a better use everyone’s time to provide a resource guide instead of a play-by-play on my experience. That will come, in time, but my partner and I are a few years away from having a family of our own (yes, sometimes it takes that long), but I am deep into resources for LGBTQ+ family planning and would love to share more in a short list of all that I’ve learned while thinking about starting a family of my own.
LGBTQ+ families vary drastically, but they all have one thing in common: it’s not an easy feat. Whether you are a parent, soon-to-be parent, planning parent, or just someone who wants to know more to help with the decision, I will lay out the nitty gritty for you to get a good picture of what LGBTQ+ family planning could look like for you.
To start, this list will mostly be talking about options for LGBTQ+ family planning where the want-to-be parents involved cannot biologically procreate. To be clear, there are LGBTQ+ families that can include parents or expecting parents that are capable of having a biological child together. Some, if not all of the resources listed for LGBTQ+ family planning still apply to these planning parents, including LGBTQ+ affirming practitioners, parental education, and resources - so stick around.
There are so many options for creating a family, and some might work better for you than others. Make sure you have a good understanding of the details and responsibilities and talk to an affirming healthcare provider to make the best choice for you and your family.
Starting your family:
Biological Conception – We all learned about this in sex-ed class (even if it was from an awful and heteronormative perspective). Biological conception for LGBTQ+ identifying folks works the same way that it would for a straight, monogamous, cisgender couple when it comes to fertilization, cells, and all that science-y stuff. It can be different for LGBTQ+ folks, though, because of the lack of comprehensive queer healthcare in our society. Again, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, do your absolute best to find an LGBTQ+ affirming healthcare practitioner. I promise you, they do exist. And they will make family planning a much more joyful experience.
IUI – This stands for Intrauterine Insemination, otherwise known as artificial insemination. This process can be used for any LGBTQ+ folks that have a uterus and wish to be pregnant. Washed and concentrated sperm are placed directly into one’s uterus during an ideal time in their cycle. It is relatively non-invasive and inexpensive; however, it does include sperm donation and storage for those that do not have a parent willing or capable of providing sperm. This means families will have to consider the costs and regulations regarding sperm banks and donors, as sperm prices in Canada typically range from $400-$650 per vial, plus shipping and safe storage costs. With any donor involvement, there should be strong consideration for the legalities and regulations regarding legal parental rights. Two members of an LGBTQ+ couple in Ontario can legally be on the child’s birth certificate if one of the parents is birthing. However, this law excludes polyamorous couples.
IVF - This stands for In Vitro Fertilization and is a complex series of procedures to assist with conception for those who may struggle with fertility or those with a uterus who wish to use their eggs but not become pregnant. During IVF, mature eggs are retrieved from ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. This process can be very physically taxing on the person undergoing the procedure. Some LGBTQ+ families where both parents involved have a uterus will retrieve an egg from one parent and implant it in the other, resulting in both parents being directly biologically involved with the child (one biological parent, one birthing parent). IVF costs can be high, ranging between $7,000 - $12,000 (ouch) per cycle, with the understanding that cycles have the possibility of being unsuccessful. In Ontario, certain circumstances allow for one (1) round of IVF treatment to be covered by OHIP.
Surrogacy – Surrogacy is an arrangement supported by a legal agreement, where a person agrees to bear a child for another person(s), who will become that child’s parent(s) after birth. Surrogacy is used when want-to-be-parents cannot or do not want to carry a child, however, it is not a cheap solution, with varying costs in Ontario being above $20,000 depending on expenses, in some cases totalling up to $100,000. These costs include expense considerations for the carrying surrogate, as well as other expenses such as egg retrieval, possible sperm donation and storage costs, clinical procedures, and attorney fees.
Adoption – Adoption is defined as the action of legally becoming the parent or guardian of a child that was not birthed or conceived by the adoptive parent(s). Adoption laws intertwine often with LGBTQ+ family planning, as parental laws favour heterosexual, monogamous couples and many provinces and countries outside of Canada do not allow LGBTQ+ families to have legal, government recognized parental agreements within their families. The adoption process is complex and can take many years of planning and waiting and can range in cost from $15,000 or more depending on whether you adopt from within the country or internationally. Adoption can be an option for families of any kind for any circumstances, but research and care is necessary to ensure that ethical and legal adoption processes are followed.
These are just some of the endless ways of building a family that LGBTQ+ people use to bring children into their life. There are many other aspects that make a family, and other routes to consider, including fostering, co-parenting, fertility preservation, and more. The most important part of building a family is ensuring that the parent(s) and children are happy and cared for, and that each family does what is right for them and their circumstances. Take strong consideration and care when starting your family planning journey, including (you guessed it) finding the right healthcare providers. They can make or break our experiences within the healthcare system as LGBTQ+ identifying people, and due to the many nuances and complications that come with pregnancy, prejudice, and societal influences, you want kind and knowledgeable people by your side.
Looking to start your rainbow family soon? Learn more.
Rainbow Health – A service provider directory (Ontario only) to find LGBTQ+ equality committed providers.
Family Equality – A U.S.-based resource hub and advocacy group for LGBTQ+ families. Find community, support, stories, and more.
Fertility Providers with LGBTQ+ affirming mandates, practices, and services (Ontario Only)
Edited by: Lisa Hou