• Maria Lilian Hearn Christiansen
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
In the last three decades, in Denmark, same-sex couples have achieved several rights to family life. Today, for example, it is possible for lesbian couples to be mar-ried and have state-funded access to fertility treatment. However, despite the recent legal changes and the growing number of ‘alternative’ families, the concept of ‘fam-ily’ remains a very political arena – governed by law and contested by social norms – in which the heteronormative nuclear model figures as a yardstick for legitimacy. In this thesis, I seek out to examine the idea of family constructed by lesbian cou-ples when navigating possible choices relating to having children as a queer fami-ly. The focus is on their narratives of choosing a sperm donor from a sperm bank to achieve pregnancy at a fertility clinic. Despite being a seemingly individual process, choosing a donor from a sperm bank catalogue involves a plethora of decisions em-bedded in larger social discourses of what it means to be a (good) mother. The cou-ples must navigate the law along with their own expectations and social expecta-tions.
I have conducted, three qualitative, semi-structured narrative interviews with three Danish, white, cisgender, same-sex couples, which have been transcribed and ana-lyzed using Thematic Analysis. These interviews touched upon key considerations in relation to the choice of donor, such as who should be pregnant, how a donor is chosen, whether the same donor should be chosen for siblings, and the extent to which contact with donors and donor siblings would be desirable. Through the Thematic Analysis, three overarching themes were constructed: 1) Choosing a donor or buying the future, 2) a non-traditional family, and 3) blood, love, and strangers.
The first theme is comprised of codes relating to how the couples construct their narratives around choosing a donor based on the criteria and information provided by the sperm banks. The key findings, employing a theoretical framework com-prised of Positioning Theory and Social representations theory, were that all couples wish to use an open donor so that their children potentially can meet their donor one day. The reasoning behind this choice, I argue, is an attempt at constructing a narra-tive where they as parents are positioned with the duty to ensure the (unconceived) child’s rights to choose themselves, and by ensuring this the parents are constructed as ‘good parents’. Furthermore, I argue that the couples create narratives of having to choose the ‘best’ donor for the child. However, the sperm banks provide so much information that it becomes difficult for the intending parents to know what in reali-ty is the best. Here, I draw on some of the findings and arguments brought by An-dreassen (2019) as well as Faircloth and Gürtin (2017) to shed light on how Artifi-cial Reproductive Technologies (ARTs) are contributing to heightened feelings of anxiety in queer reproduction. I argue that there is a considerable amount of pres-sure and growing accountability for parents to be ‘good parents’, placing the child’s interest higher than that of the parents’. Therefore, the narratives constructed by the participants are very centred on the child’s future perspectives, rights, and interests as well as how these are best ensured by the parents when making this choice.
The second theme is constructed based on codes regarding constructing a queer family in a heteronormative context. The key findings were that there are significant restrictions for the couples to construct their family the way they see fit, due to leg-islation and social norms policing the practice of ‘family’. Even the language avail-able to use in their narratives about their family is tied to the heteronormative ideals of ‘family’. However, the couples, despite pointing out several instances of discrim-ination against them as a queer family, continue to maintain that they do not have any problems. I have understood this in relation to Andreassen’s (2019) “just great” rhetoric which is considered a survival strategy for queer parents in a heteronorma-tive context.
In connection with the second theme, the third theme is constructed based primarily on the representation of ‘family’ as based on a heterosexual, nuclear ideal where the family is ‘bonded’ through a biological kinship. This theme is, therefore, analysed in relation to the narratives the couples construct regarding being related to their children or at least looking like them as well as their narratives on the representation of ‘siblinghood’. The key finding has been that there is a negotiation of the ideals pertaining to the heteronormative family in relation to how the couples can con-struct their family while also maintaining the non-biological mother as a legitimate parent.
Finally, I discuss if the representation of the heteronormative family can be under-stood as transformed with the changes in family practices or if the inclusion of al-ternative families merely means that these families reproduce the heteronormative ideals of ‘family’ by assimilating their family to be as close as possible.
Publication date31 May 2022
Number of pages68
ID: 471624087