Alex Blaze

DIY artificial insemination à la française

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 09, 2007 2:26 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: artificial insemination, epistemology, France, movement

It's interesting to compare the state of LGBT movements in other countries to that in the US, considering the different cultural, social, and legal landscapes that such movements are being mapped out on. The latest issue of Têtu, France's most popular gay-and-lesbian-but-mostly-gay magazine, asks the question "Que voulons-nous?" (What do we want?) Same-sex civil unions are nationally recognized here, discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity has been banned, as well as at-will employment, hate crimes legislation is sexual orientation inclusive (I don't know about gender identity), their national health care covers AIDS and other STD treatments (it doesn't mention gender transitions), and French citizens can sponsor same-sex lovers for French residence. In terms of legal/textual equality, that leaves adoption, marriage, and everything else related to having children.

What do we want?What's interesting is that in a country (and subcontinent) that gets valorized as more liberal and less homophobic than the United States, gays tend to look at the US as being the more queer friendly country. The grass is always greener, I suppose. While they're generally better here about taking care of themselves and others and are far more comfortable with sexuality in general (the boy porn is sold right next to the girl porn at the corner newsstands), one can see how the libertarian ethic helps us American queers out a little bit.

For instance, a doctor who provide fertility treatment outside of heterosexual couples who've been together for at least two years can be fined 30,000 euros and be sent to jail for two years. Now, of course, a law like that is nearly impossible to enforce, especially since lots of fertility procedures can be written off as preparing for a future pregnancy.

Well, most of them. Artificial insemination can't be.

So that's why this month's issues of Têtu gives step-by-step instructions on how to do artificial insemination yourself. It actually doesn't look all too hard (if it were complicated, I suppose there wouldn't be so many accidental inseminations); just remember to avoid getting air bubbles in the syringe and not to use lube!

It comes to mind as a much less dangerous form of back-alley abortions, but much the same principle - women who don't have a legal right to a medical procedure must find a way to do it themselves. And who knows what can go wrong when asking your local gay boy to help out with your insemination. Seeing the spread, with the instructions, really makes this country seem years behind the US in terms of fighting homophobia.

The right to do what one wants with his or her own body isn't the same sort of positive right as the right to anti-retrovirals through the national health care plan or the right to a civil union. It's hard sometimes to look at movements and culture outside of the Western epistemology of constant development, enlightenment, and progress towards an Platonically abstract goal of an ideal society, being as ensconced in it as we are, but slippages like this reiterate for us again that progress isn't simple and linear, nor is it something, as Edward Said once said, found or not found like Easter eggs are.

So getting back to the original question of just what we want, Thomas Doustaly wrote in the Têtu editorial:

When, how, where will we again have, among homosexuals and in and organized fashion, this fundamental debate about our future, the one that re-opened completely after the arrival of anti-retrovirals; is the protection of one another a superior value for gays to the freedom to do as one wants, each according to his or her circumstances, his or her level of information and his or her financial and intellectual means?

It's a lot of what I call the "French blah-blahs", but either direction for the LGBT movement is going to have us arrive at different places. Andrew Sullivan's idea of queer liberation is very different from Urvahi Vaid's; Gabriel Rotello's is nothing like Judith Butler's; and even here at the Project I think that most contributors would differ on either the details or the main ideas of what a non-homophobic society looks like.

Someone like me can be mystified by the fact that a doctor here has to ask in what situation the child of an a fertility treatment will be raised and then deny treatment to certain people, just as a French person can wonder how backwards we Americans are because we don't have the ability to choose our own legal families, returning to the care of our parents instead or our chosen families, like children instead of adults.

But then again, what is it exactly that we want? Considering that what we want is a question that's mapped out on a particular culture or legal landscape, one that's easily internalized, it might not always be what's best for us as individuals or a group.

But it's still a good question to constantly ask.


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Insightful post. One thing, it seems, that will never change, regardless of culture, is that the most "popular" LGBT magazines will always be mostly gay (a la the Advocate, etc.) ;)

More seriously, the right to fertility treatment and access regardless of the purpose is not on solid legal (much less social) ground here, either. In 2006 Virginia tried to pass a law that banned doctors from assisting any "unmarried" woman with fertility. The law was aimed, as the radical right does it, at lesbians trying to conceive, but was written to include all single women, so as not to "discriminate." Not that they cared too much about banning fertility treatments for single straight women. The bill, thank God, did not become law.

What's interesting is that in a country (and subcontinent) that gets valorized as more liberal and less homophobic than the United States, gays tend to look at the US as being the more queer friendly country.

Why?!? Surely it's not just artificial insemination...

Virginia's not the only one, btw Dustin. Indiana tried it a few years ago too - Senator Patricia Miller - the head of the Methodist "Confessors" movement - sponsored it.

More than artificial insemination, you're right. I think it's because Stonewall is seen as a watershed moment here, for France as well as the US, what with advocacy groups and bars named after it. The mobilization of a gay rights movement, you know, more than just a few writers talking about the ancient Greeks, began in the US and spread to other countries. Consider, they use the words "gay" and "lesbian", which are clearly not French words, and the phrase "LGBT". In many ways, they're taking their cues from us, even though we've fallen behind in the last decade.

I know, it was hard to comprehend when I read a few editorials that talked about how modern and accepting America was. I even had a friend from England tell me a few years ago that NYC is considered the place to go if you're tired of the homophobia of her home country, England. Like even though France got rid of its sodomy law in the late 1700's with the first revolution, gays were still rounded up and persecuted during the Vichy regime. It's not just what's on paper.

At times I do feel it as well, that Americans have this "Even if I don't agree with you, I'll still leave you alone" attitude that the French don't share at all. I think that's how Indiana and Virginia can try fertility leg in the US but never got it passed - live and let live is such an anglo/american concept.