Gay Parenting From A Community-Level Perspective

After he publicly spoke against surrogacy abroad in a Maariv interview* Avi Buskila, former Shalom Achshav leader who currently runs for Meretz, writes about the current options for gay parenting in Israel. On that Ma’ariv article he says: “it was phrased in an insensitive way, and I apologize to those who were hurt.”

Avi Buskila (Photo: Tal Shachar) 

In every personal interview I’m being asked “What about having kids?” It’s a very Israeli question. It’s usually directed at women, but it turns out that even gay male politicians who are in relationships are not immune to the Israeli need to establish a future generation.

My partner and I want to have kids, I want to be a father. I don’t think it’s anybody’s business, but when asked, I answer. And since I have only answered from my personal place so far, I felt I should also talk about my overall perception of the LGBT community right to a family, and from where I’m at — for gay men’s right to a family. Gay couples in Israel have almost no options to have children. It’s impossible to adopt, surrogacy is not allowed, and the only option on the table in Israel right now is joint parenthood.

Then comes in the option of having kids via surrogacy abroad. Option that is extremely expensive, and is made in some places with the admirable help of women who choose from a free and genuine place to help gay couples building families. In other places, this option takes advantage of the economic distress of women who come from a difficult social background, and become surrogates in order to improve their economic situation.

I wish that LGBT couples could bring children out of our relationships, like straight couples. I wish we were not required to bring into our families additional baggage that is not a natural part of the relationship we chose, but this is the situation, and with this situation we have to deal from a broader point of view, and not from a personal point of view.

Any demand for the realization of our parental rights should include an honest look at the women who will help us realize this right, and a look at us as a community with different economic capabilities. We don’t want to reach a situation in which we struggle for the right to parenthood and then it turns out to be the right to parenthood for rich people only. Having said that, it’s clear that a completely voluntary surrogacy process will also have to include adequate and significant compensation for the women.

I have no single complaint against those who chose to have kids via surrogacy. I also think that my statement in that Ma’ariv article was formulated in an insensitive way, and I apologize to those who were hurt. I want to be a father too, and there’s a matter of age here, and no one wants to wait until the state gets the issue fixed only to find out he’s too old to have kids. In the framework of all personal considerations, anyone who wants to realize the most personal and natural desire for a family makes his own choices, and in the end we only live once.

At the level of our struggle as a community, the observation cannot only be from the personal place. We must lead a struggle that will enable the realization of the right to family for all members of the community equally – regardless of their economic status, and we need to ensure that women who choose to take part in such a process do it from a place that is genuine and out of free choice.

Yes, that means that not all of us will be able to bring children through surrogacy in Israel. We will depend on the number of women who agree to take part in the process. And therefore we must create a legal system that will regulate all the issues related to LGBT parenthood – adoption by same-sex couples, regulation of the legal recognition of non-biological parents and models of families with more than two parents and surrogacy.

Only a comprehensive legislation will really allow all LGBT couples to realize this desired right for children in the struggle that we will lead together as a united community.

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“… me and Shimri will not bring a child to the world with a surrogate. First, we don’t have the money for surrogacy abroad, and also – I won’t want to pay for using a woman’s uterus… the rights of surrogates should be protected by laws. I’m not Amir Ohana. I won’t travel abroad and come back with kids…” – Avi Buskila, Ma’ariv (March 15, 2018)