The Facts of Life: Kinship and Commercial Surrogacy

Dean Anthony Murphy
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As Sarah Franklin notes, kinship is conceived of in Euro-American society ‘as a hybrid of individual and society, of natural and cultural facts’. This paper explores these natural and cultural facts by examining kinship practices and meanings in the context of gay men who have become parents through commercial surrogacy. Commercial surrogacy is the term used to describe an agreement where payment is made by an individual or couple (often called the ‘intended parent/s’) to the woman who gives birth to the child. The surrogate can be the biological mother of the child (‘traditional’ surrogacy), or more commonly, an egg donor is also used (‘gestational’ surrogacy). The paper investigates the importance accorded to biological connections—especially paternity—and explores how other relationships are managed, with a particular focus on which relations and roles are emphasised and which, (such as that of the surrogate), are de-emphasised. This analysis is based on in-depth interviews with gay men in Australia and the United States who have become parents through surrogacy, as well as those who are in the process of negotiating such arrangements. The interviews explore these men’s decisions about having children, their understandings of parenting and family, and their negotiation of the legal and bio-medical aspects of assisted reproductive technologies. This material shows two distinct ways of conceiving relations—the made and the given. That is, the social and the biological. As Marilyn Strathern suggests, these different ways of thinking about relatedness parallel the ways in which knowledge itself is validated—as either invention or discovery. This, in turn, obscures other understandings of relations and relationships. It is possible, however, as this analysis demonstrates, to think of kinship as an amalgam of different ways of understanding these different facts, rather than a privileging of one over the other.

Keywords: Commercial Surrogacy, Gay Men, Kinship
Stream: Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Humanities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dean Anthony Murphy

University of New South Wales
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Ref: I07P0541