Dean Murphy

Postgraduate Research Student

Graduation Year: 2014
Research Topic: A child of one’s own: enacting kinship among gay men pursuing parenthood through surrogacy
Supervisors: Dr Asha PerssonA/Prof Christy Newman

Description: This thesis explores how kinship is enacted in the context of gay men pursuing parenthood through surrogacy. These men represent an important first generation to access assisted reproductive technologies for this purpose and also make up an increasing proportion of gay men becoming parents outside a heterosexual relationship. Data were collected from three sources: surrogacy stories in the print media; websites of surrogacy agencies; and in-depth interviews with 30 gay men living in Australia and the United States, who had achieved or were pursuing parenthood through surrogacy. The analytic approach is influenced by insights from the field of science and technology studies (STS). The main findings relate to parenthood desire, biogenetic connection, and value. These gay men ‘enacted’ parenthood and family life in ways that both challenged and reinforced dominant notions of kinship and masculinity. Like most people, they had grown up with parenthood expectations, although these had been challenged when they assumed a gay identity. Parenthood desires were re-animated by social discourses that emphasised the prospect of parenthood and procreation for gay men as a conceptual and material reality through the influence of partners, media, peers, and in particular, the promotional activities of surrogacy agencies. The men also reworked the symbols of Western kinship—such as bilateral genetic inheritance—to create a family structure that felt meaningful. A range of inventive strategies was employed in this process both to instantiate and obscure conventional ideas about biology and kinship. The findings demonstrate that parenthood desire is socially produced: men come to experience parenthood desire largely because of the new narratives and opportunities being made available to them today. The creative and strategic negotiation strategies of gay men in family formation also demonstrate that biogenetic connection is an important and potentially flexible fact to be negotiated. The study contributes to the growing field of international research on the many complex and unexpected ways in which parenthood desires are informed by contemporary understandings of gender and sexual identity, but also the multiple ways in which the social construction of kinship influences the experience of desiring and conceiving a ‘child of one’s own.’

View thesis here