Gay Men and Surrogacy: Navigating Boundaries in the Procreative Realm




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


Desire and motivation to parent has often been conceptualised as a women’s reproductive concern whilst relatively little is known about men’s reproductive desires, reproductive decision making and reproductive experiences. Gay men have specifically been represented as uninterested in children and parenting, yet an increasingly number of same-sex male couples are exploring the possibility of surrogacy as a means of creating a family. To date, no studies have explicitly explored men’s use of surrogacy within the UK context where gamete donation is highly regulated and commercial surrogacy is illegal. This study employed a qualitative, intrepretivist epistemology to explore the factors that influence UK resident men’s desire and motivation for parenthood, why men choose surrogacy over other family building options and their experiences as they navigate the surrogacy journey. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews with 21 gay men and 15 key stakeholders and analysed using thematic analysis informed by theoretical concepts of procreative consciousness and procreative responsibility (Marsiglio, 1991), micro-aggressions (Sue, 2010), and Critical Kinship Studies (Krolokke et al, 2016; Riggs & Peel, 2016). The findings reveal that a variety of interrelated factors, including learning of different parenting options, spending time with children, and the visibility of “role-models” enabled men’s procreative consciousness to emerge, and served as triggers to motivate them to act on this desire. Participants’ accounts depicted surrogacy as a complex and challenging route to parenthood, but one which offered men the possibility of a genetically-related child who could live with them permanently in their own family unit. Surrogacy required careful planning, decision-making, and a great deal of forethought as men considered and negotiated third-party input to help them create their families. Many of the challenges men faced in their pursuit of surrogacy were associated with healthcare professionals’ lack of familiarity and experience with surrogacy and its legal position within the UK. Central to the findings in this study is the importance of the socio-cultural context. This thesis argues that gay men’s motivation to parent and their experiences of surrogacy are shaped by the changing landscape of social, legal and technological possibilities within a society that privileges heterosexual parenting. This study presents the original concept of procreative boundaries to examine the broader multi-layered structural parameters within which gay men are able to realise their procreative consciousness and enact procreative responsibility in order to achieve parenthood and be recognised as legitimate parents.





Research Institute

Centre for Reproduction Research (CRR)