This questioning has been particularly pronounced when it comes to family planning. The delaying of fertility treatments due to the pandemic, along with the time lost during the lockdown has brought big questions about children into sharp relief for many: do I really want kids? If so, when do I need to start trying? What route should I take? And how much am I willing to sacrifice in order to make it happen?
These are questions that apply to everyone, but are particularly pronounced if you fall under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. For lesbians, bi women, queer women and those in queer relationships, these are not questions you arrive at after trying and failing at the so-called 'traditional' route to conception. They are the starting point. And while there are queer women who are able to conceive biologically in their relationships there are many others who are not and who must pursue other routes: IVF, IUI (or artificial insemination), shared motherhood (also known as intra-partner egg sharing), adoption or co-parenting.
Even in the ‘normal’ pre-pandemic times, the stresses that can come with pursuing these routes was exacerbated by the relative lack of representation for parents who aren’t straight (although there are campaigns and communities like LGBT Mummies Tribe, Two Dads UK and IVF Babble who are making moves to change that).
Like most other things, these stresses are further compounded if you’re not white. As Pragya Agarwal wrote in The Independent last year, “The popular image of infertility is that of an upper-middle-class, white, straight-partnered woman in her mid-to-late 30s or early 40s”. This lack of representation not only lends credence into stereotypes of hyperfertility in Black and South Asian communities but encourages reduced participation. According to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), in 2018 only 19% of the 55,000 fertility patients identified as with Black, Asian, mixed or other.
All these factors affect queer women in different ways depending on class, race, and even geography. While the pandemic has added delays to those for whom processes like IVF were already underway, it has given others the time and opportunity to work out what it is that they want. Dr James Nicopoullos, Consultant Gynaecologist and Clinical Director of The Lister Fertility Clinic told R29 that “Covid hasn't really increased [the proportion of LGBTQ+ clients] significantly but like all couples we have seen that Covid and the change to working habits has given people a window of opportunity where treatment without the hassle of balancing with office-based work has become appealing. I saw one such same sex couple last week.”
For some, the pandemic has incentivised them to pursue their chosen path to parenthood with purpose and drive. For others it has led them to question whether they even want to have a child at these tumultuous times. Ahead, we spoke to four queer couples about the impact that the past few months has had on their plans for a family.