Assisted Reproduction as a Queer Thing
Assisted reproduction is a queer thing, or at least it can be. That
is both the fear behind many critiques of reproductive technology (i.e.,
that it will subvert the "natural" family, women's bodily power,
commodify life, and so on), and also the promise that many utopian
visions have pinned on technologically-reshaped conception and
gestation. Assisted reproduction is also, as the many pieces in this
issue attest, embedded in real-world power relations, and can't simply
be lifted out of them with utopian dreams and progressive intentions.
But surely a critical eye and political integrity helps? As a feminist
who hopes to have children and will probably need some technological
intervention to make that happen, I wondered what I might learn from
others with the same wary hope that I might build a really "queer"
family this way, rather than a normative one. So I went looking for
first-person accounts from people who have used various reproductive
technologies with a critical awareness of the way those technologies are
enabled by, and further entrench, the structural and very personal
conditions of stratified reproduction.
In other words, I looked for a
record of "critical adopters" of reproductive technologies.
In the spirit of recognizing the "personal and political," a theme
that recurs throughout this review, I want to offer a brief personal
reflection on how my scholarly interest in "Critical Adoptions" came
about. As a queer woman, and someone who desires children, "assisted"
reproduction in some form—likely via sperm donation or adoption—is
something that I seriously contemplate. The larger political questions
that I examine in this review are therefore very personal questions and,
as such, it is impossible to suggest that affect played no role in my
analysis. Indeed, the fact that queer parents have to think about the
hows (in addition to the whys and whens) of baby making out of
necessity is a reoccurring theme in essays and academic research on
the topic (though, as I will explore below, we should not equate
queerness with awareness of privilege). As a bisexual woman, however, I
can also relate to the narratives often found in heterosexual women's
accounts of infertility—I am not sure that using technology if I want
to biologically reproduce will be in the cards, and sometimes it feels
as if technology will be thrust upon me due to forces quite outside of
my control (a theme that comes up frequently in heterosexual accounts of
using reproductive technologies to address infertility). While in more
radically queer/feminist moments I take pleasure in "subverting" the
intended use of reproductive technologies to create my family, I am also
reminded that the ability to create a family in this way is a privilege.
The questions surrounding my reproductive present/future have drawn me
into feminist activism and scholarship to look for answers and explore
possibilities surrounding the political economy of reproduction.
This piece is an excerpt of a larger search for narratives by and
about "critical adopters." Here, I focus on the theme of assisted
reproduction as "queer"—both in the ways that the turn to technology
incites a newly critical, outsider status in many infertile
heterosexuals, especially single women, and in the ways that technology
allows many queer people to pursue family-building in ways that have
been unavailable to us until recent years.
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