Length: 45 minutes (ARD, 20 June 2001)
When Barbara realises in her mid-20s that women are her cup of tea, at first she says goodbye to one of her life’s dreams, the wish to have a child. It takes a while for the idea to gradually ripen: This can happen without a husband, too. Together with Irmgard, her partner, she travels to a clinic in the Netherlands and buys donor sperm. The adventure of lesbian motherhood can begin.
Ursula Ott and Valentin Thurn accompanied the two future mothers for 9 months. They travelled with them to the sperm bank to buy sperm – In Germany, strictly prohibited for unmarried women, in Holland an everday occurrence. They were along in the women’s living room when the two women transferred the individual sperm samples into nitrogen-cooled special containers for storage and had it explained to them how artificial insemination is performed at home. They accompanied the lesbian couple to the gynecologist and to ultrasonic scanning, to an “in” disco and a lesbian volleyball tournament, to their lawyer and to a reverend, and finally to the bed where the child is born. Little Lili cannot become acquainted with her father until she turns 16, and to do that she has to make contact with the sperm bank. On the other hand, all the mothers know about the Dutch sperm donor is that his skin is white, his hair is dark and he has neither AIDS nor hepatitis.
Despite new laws, the two women and their baby continue to be faced with considerable reservations in Germany: Although Irmgard can contractually obligate herself to pay support for the child’s entire lifetime, she receives barely any rights in return. She is neither able to adopt the child as its “stepmother”, nor can she be certain that she will continue to be allowed to visit the child in the event that the couple separates.
We’re long past the point where the situation deals with a fringe problem posed by a social fringe group. Today around 1.5 million children are being raised by homosexual parents, estimates Lela Lähnemann, the Berlin Senate’s delegate for same-sex lifestyles. Most of them originate from the heterosexual “prior lives” of mothers who are meanwhile lesbian, though more and more are coming about through insemination. Professor Wassilios Fthenakis, a family researcher in Munich, even holds this number to be understated because in the USA 10 million children are already living with homosexual parents. And according to Fthenakis, who also advises the German federal government, they are not living any worse off than in “traditional” families: “We have not been able to establish any differences in the course of child development.” These children were neither going to be behaviourally disturbed later on, nor was the probability going to increase that they themselves were going to be gay or lesbian.
In many places, neighbours and teachers have already become accustomed to the colourful new families. For example in Monschau in the Eifel region of Germany, where two gay men are raising their foster-son Christian lovingly on a former farm in the midst of geese, hares and ducks. They receive support from their neighbours in the village – and from the local youth welfare office. As the family caseworker from the welfare office praises: “The two of them have a sustainable relationship and offer the child a stable home that it hadn’t had for a long time.” She can even imagine arranging a second foster-child for the gay couple.
Or take the extended family comprised of 2 gay fathers and 2 lesbian mothers who are jointly raising 2 daughters. The children live mostly with their moms, weekends and holidays are often spent with their dads – and they think it’s wonderful. Mia (9): “I have 2 moms and 2 dads at home. The other kids always only have one.”
In good times these new “rainbow families” are an exciting sociological experiment. But in bad times human dramas are on the agenda, because homosexual love can shatter too, leaving the non-blood parent without any rights at all. As was the case with Sigrid, a social worker who took care of the baby she had planned together with her girlfriend for 4 years, only to find that she no longer had any chance of ever seeing little Janek again after they separated. “I love you all the way to the moon and back” is how she sends her regards to him via children’s TV on his birthday. Yet the courts have ruled: no relationship as a blood relative, no rights.
Legislation lags hopelessly behind social reality. Just a few years ago homosexuals were unable to imagine having children at all – “These days they sit in the bar and perk up their ears when the conversation turns to having kids,” says Ingo Wolf, a gay father in Berlin. They even have an agency there that hooks up lesbian women to gay men who wish to have children. Susan Darrant, the proprietor of “Queer&Kids”, has already counselled 750 interested parties. She uses questionnaires to determine who fits with whom: “Homo, bisexual or hetero? Joint or sole custody? Living together or not?” The first babies to come about like this will be born this spring.
Politicians and church representatives are still relatively helpless when faced with these families. Is homosexual parenthood “unnatural”, as Norbert Geis (CSU Party) thinks? Do children with 2 gay fathers lack the “motherly breast”, as Hanna-Renate Laurien from the Central Committee of Catholics in Germany fears? Or must children stemming from homosexual relationships have to at least have the same rights as children from single parents raising a child alone, as Volker Beck (Green Party) demands? At any rate, the law regarding “Homo Marriage” that Beck initiated barely regulates the issue of children at all. That 2 homosexuals could go to the registry office for a civil wedding squeaked through negotiations with the SPD Party, but the situation went too far when the couple wanted to have kids now, too.
A film by Ursula Ott and Valentin Thurn
Screeplay and directors: Ursula Ott and Valentin Thurn
Camera: Christel Fomm
Editor: Marc Schubert
Sound: Synke Schlüter and Anke Hense
Narrator: Eva Garg
Production: Gruppe 5
Executive Producer: Dr Thomas Leif
Project Management: Wilhelm Reschl
Video (ca. 5 mn(German))