CROSSING BORDERS:Remaking Gay Fatherhood in the Global Market

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Adi Moreno


Over the past decade, a 'gayby boom' (Richman, 2002) has occurred in the Israeli male-gay community: hundreds of gay couples became fathers through cross-border commercial surrogacy. This rise was accompanied by political struggles over access to surrogacy for same-sex couples within Israel. This study explores first, the causes of this sudden rise in 'gay surrogacy'; and second, the social implications, especially pertaining to the alteration of family norms in the 21st century. Drawing on Science and Technology Studies (STS), surrogacy is analysed as an 'assemblage', consisting of the interaction between socially shaped practices and desires, the medical and legal technologies involved, and the overarching state apparatuses. To draw out the complexity of the different components of this assemblage (individual, medical and legal, and state), 31 gay surrogacy fathers were interviewed, along with Israeli surrogacy industry representatives (n=6) and policy makers (n=13). Media coverage of 'gay surrogacy' and documentation from relevant court appeals and state committees on reproductive technologies were incorporated into the analysis to provide a contextual framework.Three themes were identified. First, surrogacy provides Israeli gay men a unique combination of novelty and sameness: surrogacy offers 'biological' fatherhood, similar to that enjoyed by heterosexual couples, but also facilitates the creation of a new family model, the 'two-father-family'. The contradiction between the application of technology and the idea of 'procreation' disappeared through a discursive normalising and neutralising mechanism, in which surrogacy serves as a stand-in for 'natural procreation'. Through this process, assisted reproduction facilitated the normalisation of the gay family. Second, despite the fact that surrogacy markets operate globally, the State emerged as a significant force in shaping the specific mechanisms of the surrogacy process, as well as the procreative desires of the Israeli surrogacy fathers - who were geared towards both genetic procreation and reproducing the nation. Gay fatherhood through surrogacy was found to be part of the new 'gaystream' (Duggan, 2002), expressing desires towards a new (homo)normativity and participating in homonationalist (Puar, 2007) struggles. Finally, cross-border surrogacy operates in a global market, based upon the commerce of gametes and reproductive services involving third-party women, often from impoverished parts of the world (Vora, 2015). This creates a moral dilemma for commissioning fathers, regarding the commodification of women and children in the market for reproductive services, and the related harm and exploitation within surrogacy markets. Surrogacy fathers negotiated these moral conflicts by forming ideas and ideals of reciprocity, intimacy and shared commitment towards and with the surrogate. However, the realisation of these values is heavily dependent upon the regulatory regimes in the surrogacy state and the outcomes of the medical and physical procedures - that is, the birth of a live healthy child. In conclusion, surrogacy offers a site for making families and remaking 'the family'. It is based on already existing familial norms, but at the same time partially unsettles these; it is shaped by state regulations and national desires; and it is deeply implicated in unequal global markets, while explicitly harbouring ideals of intimacy and reciprocity. As surrogacy becomes the normative familial form for gay men in Israel, the need arises for collective critical reflexion on the impacts of surrogacy practices on global 'others', and on minorities within the Israeli queer community.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2016