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One historically important objection to gay and lesbians relationships is that they are inherently sterile and incapable of producing children. Many gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people have managed to have children anyway, through prior relationships, adoption and by relying on donated gametes and gestational surrogacy. The prospect of synthetic gametes may lead to further options as well, if researchers can derive female gametes from men and male gametes from women. With synthetic gametes, a same-sex couple would not need any third-party gamete donor in order to conceive a child. Inventive options are available for transgender people too. Some jurisdictions used to require evidence of sterility before re-categorizing people they treated as male to female, from female to male. Most jurisdictions no longer require sterilization that way, with the interesting result that some transgender men have gestated children. Transgender women might in the future turn to uterus transplants in order to gestate children, if clinicians can replicate for them the 2014 success they had in securing a live birth for a woman who had a uterus transplant. Artificial gametes might also give transgender men and women the option of being genetic fathers and mothers to their children, respectively. Nothing about being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender by itself ‘turns off’ the interest in having children. In light of the options now available and of those on the horizon, the future for LGBT people is looking less and less ‘sterile’ all the time.
Timothy F. Murphy is a Professor of Philosophy in the Biomedical Sciences at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. He is also an author with the Hastings Center Report, a prominent journal in biomedical ethics.
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