Generic picture of child looking out of windown
Generic picture of child looking out of windown

'Does a child need a dad?'

By Virginia Ironside Time of article published Jan 22, 2016

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QUESTION: I’m a happily married gay woman and both of us are longing to start a family.

We have begun to investigate donor sperm and are really excited. But my best friend recently told me that she thinks it’s cruel to bring up a child without a father. She was adopted (and subsequently formed a bond with her birth father as an adult).

I feel that we can offer so much love to a child that they would never feel there was something missing from their lives, and we have plenty of male relatives and friends around. But I confess she has made me doubt. What do you think?

Yours sincerely,



ANSWER: I believe that it's really important, if you are going to have a child, to give it the best possible chance in life, even before it's born. That means you give the child a birth mother and a birth father who'll stick around, you don't drink or smoke too much while you're pregnant, you eat properly and you don't travel into the jungle on the day you're about to give birth.

In fact, good parenting starts even before conception. And I think that just by writing to me, you're aware that with your donor plans, there might be something missing from the child you want to bring into the world.

I'm not saying there aren't masses of children with same-sex parents, or born using donor sperm, who don't have fantastic childhoods. But this isn't about sex. The disadvantage isn't really about not having a father. It's about the child having absolutely no clue about the background of one parent.

Your friend has opened up a real dilemma. She obviously found the lack of one real parent, genetically connected, a problem,or she wouldn't have mentioned it to you - even though she may have had a perfectly delightful adoptive father. Because let's say your baby, conceived with the aid of an unknown father, mainly inherits his genetic characteristics and not yours? Like your friend, it will grow up feeling out of place, however loved it is.

Your wife can't, sadly, provide the genes. So would it be possible, perhaps, to get inseminated by some close male member of her family rather than a stranger? At least the child would then have something genetic in common with both your partner's family and yours. Or why not be inseminated by a male friend who'd agree to play a parental role, who'd love the child and visit frequently? Then your child would have one dad and two moms - what a bonus.

Or, why not adopt? That would, it seems to me, to be far more sensible. You would be loving a child who had already been brought into the world and who has absolutely nothing. This way you wouldn't be creating a little person burdened by the absence of a genetic connection to one parent. You would be helping a child who was already disadvantaged.

You say you would bring it up with masses of male role models, but there will be neither the genetic connections nor the unconditional, all-consuming parental love of a single male in its life.

As with most parents (me included), your desire to have a child is basically selfish - to have someone to love. But listen to your friend - who was presumably loved when she was young - and wonder whether real love can ever include deliberately burdening your child with an empty space when it comes to knowing anything about half of where it came from, if there's any chance of doing something different.

The Independent

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