There are more same-sex couple families than ever before in Australia. More than 10,000 children live with same-sex parents in this country, and 1 in 20 male same-sex couples has children. If you are in a same-sex couple, this article will help you consider the important questions about becoming a dad.
The options for becoming a parent
Same-sex families can be created in many different ways. For example, a bisexual man may have a baby with a heterosexual woman. One or both of you may have children from a previous heterosexual relationship, or you may decide to adopt. A gay couple may have a co-parenting arrangement with a lesbian couple. Or a gay man can donate sperm to a single woman or same-sex female couple to have a baby.
These days, more same-sex male couples are creating their own families through surrogacy. There are two types. Full or gestational surrogacy is when a fertilised donor egg is implanted into a surrogate through in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The surrogate has no genetic connection to the baby. For legal reasons, this is the only type of surrogacy that many clinics in Australia will be involved in. Partial or traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate’s own egg is fertilised by the man’s sperm. This can be done at home or in an overseas clinic.
The surrogate can be someone you know, who may then be involved in the child’s life, or someone else. In Australia, commercial surrogacy is against the law, although you can pay a surrogate’s medical expenses. You cannot advertise for a surrogate or pay someone to find a surrogate for you.
Some men find a surrogate overseas, but this can be quite expensive. It’s also very important to understand the laws and regulations of the overseas country before you enter into any arrangement with a surrogate.
For more information on surrogacy, visit the Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website.
Deciding on roles
Same-sex male couples tend to share parenting more equally than many heterosexual couples. Because a lot of planning usually goes into having a baby with a same-sex couple, there’s time to think about what it means to be a parent, what roles you will both have and who else will be involved in bringing up the child.
Research has shown that gay couples are more likely to share domestic duties and childcare fairly than heterosexual couples. Gay dads may be more involved in their children’s lives than heterosexual dads. Being a father can also raise your self-esteem and give you a sense of fulfilment.
There are different ways to involve the biological mother or other women in family life. For example, you may introduce the children to mothers, sisters or friends as female role models.
Social and psychological issues
Research has shown that children who grow up in same-sex families do as well emotionally, socially and educationally as any other children.
But even though there is more support than ever for same-sex families in Australia, some same-sex couples and their children are worried about being teased or bullied. It’s the stigma of others rather than growing up with two dads that can affect children’s wellbeing.
Surrounding your family with plenty of supportive friends, families and same-sex organisations and communities can help your family navigate discrimination.
Children usually find their own way of explaining their family set-up to other people. If you think your child is being bullied, it’s important to step in quickly. Schools and teachers are trained to deal with issues like this.
Work and legal issues
It’s important to obtain legal advice before you enter into any surrogacy arrangement.
Altruistic surrogacy (when the surrogate mother does not receive any financial compensation) is legal in Australia. However, the law does not obligate a birth mother to surrender the child. Sometimes a court may transfer legal parental rights to the commissioning parents.
The way in which Australian law applies to children born to surrogates overseas is sometimes confusing and there have even been cases where children have been left without legally-defined parents. Sometimes, commissioning parents will need to apply to the Family Court for parenting orders.
If you donated sperm to a woman, you have no legal rights or responsibilities concerning the child. The woman who gives birth to the child and her partner have full parental rights. When they turn 18, children conceived from a sperm donor have the right to information that identifies you.
Same-sex parents and their families have the same entitlements as everyone else when it comes to parental leave, tax, superannuation, social security and family assistance, child support and family law. They also have identical entitlements to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Safety Net and the Medicare Safety Net, immigration and citizenship.
If you are a same-sex parent, it’s important to let Centrelink know. You will be assessed for entitlements in the same way as everyone else. Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for child support or Dad and partner pay. Visit the Department of Social Services for more information.
More information and support
- National LGBTI Health Alliance
- OUTspoken families: A resource kit for rainbow families
- PFLAG – Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
- QLife (National counselling and referral service - call 1800 184 527
- Student Wellbeing Hub
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Last reviewed: July 2019