After 4 years of a relationship, my girlfriend and I broke up. Meanwhile in France, lesbian couples and single women are now legally able to conceive a child after 5 years of public debate. In this blog post, I show how the 5 inevitable phases of a break-up related to the phases LGBTI+ folks went through for the improvement of rainbow families’ rights in France.
After four years of a loving, challenging at times, but above all exciting relationship, my girlfriend and I broke up. Meanwhile in my home country, France, after 5 years of public debates and 80 hours of official discussion, the National Assembly (equivalent of Parliament) eventually voted in favour of a revised bioethics law allowing lesbian couples and single women to have access to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), – to sperm donation and IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) -. Hurray, I can now legally conceive a child, just like my straight friends do! Oh, but…who with? I just lost her! According to the internet top search results, there are 5 different phases to get over a break-up. Here is how these 5 phases are strangely similar to the phases of the public debate that led to this new bioethics law.
Phase 1 – Denial
When talking about breaking up, my first reaction was «No way, we’ll work on this and find a solution together. Breaking up is out of the question». IVF and sperm donation were regulated by French law first in 1994, stating these two techniques were legally meant for straight couples only, in case of infertility of one or both parties of the couple. But of course it’s not because it wasn’t officially legal that it wasn’t happening. Lesbians and single women living in France and who wanted a child were going to either Belgium or Spain, two border countries allowing them to get pregnant since 2007 and 2006, respectively. Women were being exposed to greater risks by having to undergo medical procedures far away from home, with irregular checks and therefore increasing risks, such as miscarriages. The State was in clear denial of an already existing practice. In the Belgium city of Liege, 80% of the women coming to the hospital to conceive a baby are coming from France.
Phase 2 – Anger
I am mad angry at my ex. But if I’m being honest some of the reasons I’m angry don’t actually have much to do with her. The debate about this bioethics law, as well as for marriage equality (which is legal since 2013), exacerbated already existing tensions and revealed a clear division between a progressive side versus a traditional (stuck in the past) side. The protests and the media revealed a violent opposition to LGBTI+ equality in the French society. Unfortunately, access to IVF and sperm donation debates became the convergent point of dissensions that sometimes have nothing to do with LGBTI+ families. I know vintage is in fashion, but not all old things are worth keeping: your ex and an outdated vision of what a family should look like are some of it.
Phase 3 – Bargaining
It’s never easy to let go of a relationship, to put a final stop to it and say “we are never, ever, ever, getting back together”. The bargaining phase, also known as the negotiation phase, will see either you or your ex regret breaking up and wanting to get back together. There have been many fallbacks in voting the new bioethics law, of which the first article guarantees single women and lesbians will now have the possibility to legally conceive a child in France. To this day, this law is still discriminatory for the LGBTI+ community: – transgender people are not on the list. This means that transgender men are not allowed to get pregnant with medical help, although being able to carry a pregnancy. – Moreover, the government has insisted that official papers of children of lesbian parents mention how they were conceived, whereas it is not the case for children of straight parents although conceived with medical help too. Sometimes, you just gotta stop bargaining and bang your fist on the table!
Phase 4 – Depression
Thinking of all the shared memories that are now stained with betrayal, remembering the plans we had together and all these “first times” that will never happen…it hurts. And there is absolutely nothing that can be done other than waiting for time to wipe it all off. Through these last 5 years of debates moderated by the National Council of Ethics, the violence increased so much at times that activists and civil society organisations sometimes lost hope. Hate speech in the media especially became a source of worry for the LGBTI+ families. For the first time, their children’s identities were discussed and questioned on front page covers but most of the time without even including affected communities’ point of view on the matter. Activism fatigue is real, and the media and social media play a big role in this.
Phase 5 – Acceptance
One day, it will be OK. Until then, I recommend eating your weight in chocolate and get the hangover of your life: tested and approved.The bioethics law, after having been approved by the National Assembly, now needs to be voted by the Senate to be implemented. A new page is being written on the way French society envisions what a family is about and what it looks like. Lesbians and single women living in France will be able to have a child in their own country, without having to go abroad to do so and not having to spend huge amounts of money on it either (the cost can go up to 11.000 euros for one try).
Rainbow families and their children will be normalised, not considered either “disgusting” or “brave” for just existing, and will eventually be fully accepted. 2019 brought its joy, its pain, but most importantly hope for LGBTI+ folks. Happy New Year to us all!