“Before I moved into the rental house, my landlord told me a handsome guy is living here, but he’s straight. I said it’s all good, I have to concentrate on writing my thesis anyway,”
“Later I developed a crush on him. Soon we got closer and then we were together.”
With a joyful smile, My Gay Marriage podcast host Tsou Tzung-Han recalled the story of meeting his husband.
The couple were married in Taipei in November 2016, long before same-sex marriage was legalised in Taiwan. Happily married, they are keen to expand their family and have been trying hard to have a baby through overseas surrogacy.
Since May 2019, 5871 same-sex couples have been married in Taiwan but they face major stumbling blocks to having children as a couple.
According to Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy, an NGO that assists same-sex couples in having a child, across Taiwan every year there are between 250 and 300 LGBT people are interested in having a child. However, when same-sex couples get married, they lose the opportunity to become adoptive parents.
This is because the current law only allows LGBT individuals to adopt a child. Therefore, most same-sex couples turn to the United States to seek costly artificial reproduction and surrogacy.
Tzung-Han and his husband are determined to complete their surrogacy journey even if they run out of savings. Despite the challenges and uncertainty ahead, they look forward to the arrival of a child.
The dilemma of same-sex couples adopting a child
In Taiwan, there are three options if same-sex couples would like to have a child: non-genetic adoption; artificial reproduction; and, second-parent adoption. For same-sex couples to have a genetic child by artificial reproduction, the cost for female couples is about $US29-48,000, while for male couples it ranges between $US191-287,000.
Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy’s secretary general Li Xuan-Ping says that the shocking price of artificial reproduction and surrogacy has prompted many gay couples to seek out adoption.
However, under current legislation, only one of the partners can have parental authority as an individual adopter. This has LGBT couples worried because if an emergency happens to the legal parent, the other parent has no right to take care of the adopted child.
Xuan-Ping said it was clear that the barrier to married same-sex couples adopting a non-genetic child is one of the shortcomings of the same-sex marriage bill amendment.
“There are about 300 and 400 children waiting for adoption each year, according to the adoption data in Taiwan,” Xuan-Ping said. “However, the successful adoption is usually only 200 and 300 children, so it can be imagined that every year there are about 100 children who cannot find a suitable adoptive family.
“We are working hard to promote the non-genetic adoption bill, not just because LGBT families should enjoy the equal rights as heterosexual couples. I think the important thing is to stand in the position of children who need to be adopted, and then look for more possibilities to let the children in need find a suitable family.”
This is one of the reasons why many LGBT couples choose to go abroad for artificial reproduction and surrogacy.
In addition to the cost factor – because the artificially reproduced child has the genes of one of the parents – the same-sex marriage law allows one of the partners to adopt the other partner’s genetic child. That way, both of the partners can have parental authority over the child.
The ‘rough’ process of gay couples’ surrogacy journey
“LGBT families are inherently different from other families, but at the heart of wanting to have a child and being able to love a child is the same. I think I not only have this idea, but also want to prove it,” said podcaster Tsou Tzung-Han.
In July 2020, Tzung-Han and his husband received a subsidy from an American agency that supports gay men to have children, so they started a tough journey of artificial insemination and surrogacy in the United States.
“We eagerly want to have a child (but) it is an unattainable dream; suddenly we feel that it seems possible. I always want to have a child, now there is a possibility, so I hold the chance tightly,” he said.
It takes at least two years for a gay couple to complete the surrogacy journey. Having their baby during COVID-19 times meant the couple had to go through the surrogacy process remotely.
The couple successfully sent their sperm to the US at the end of last year. Tzung-Han and his husband sperm combined with the donor’s eggs separately to form four embryos. The two male embryos belong to Tzung-Han, and the two female embryos belong to his husband.
The embryos have undergone genetic testing to ensure their health, so they know the sex of the embryos. The couple has decided not to screen the baby’s gender, but to choose the healthiest embryo to be implanted. They are currently looking for a surrogate.
Tzung-Han conceded that artificial reproduction and surrogacy in the United States is a massive expense. It will cost $48-96,000 before implantation and $96-144,000 afterwards. Although the procedures can be suspended, the risk is that the cost will only increase over time.
“If Taiwan can include the gay community in Artificial Reproduction Law, the information can be more transparent, the price is more reasonable, and I can have a child in my own country.”
The love of LGBT families has no different from heterosexual families
Li Yi-Qi, Tu Wei-Ling and their two daughters have lived together for nearly ten years. The two children, Jian Li-Xuan and Jian Jia-Ying, are currently in Year 11 and Year 10 and are the children of Wei Ling’s previous marriage.
Yi-Qi and Wei-Ling met in October 2011, and they began to live together with the children in early 2012. They married in November of the year that the same-sex marriage law passed. Because the second-parent adoption procedures are so complicated and the two children are close to adulthood, they currently have no plans to apply for second-parent adoption.
Rather than calling Yi-Qi ‘mommy’ or ‘auntie’, the sisters call her nickname ‘Qi-Qi’. They agreed that the most important element that forms a family is not whether there is a father and a mother, but if the family love, listen to and trust each other.
“I think that self-identification is something that everyone needs to do,” said Jia-Ying. “It doesn’t matter whether homosexuals or heterosexuals, it’s actually the same.
“We don’t define a special perspective on LGBT families as bad things; we can turn it into our strength rather than a weakness. Of course, it was defined as bad at the beginning, but when your self-identity is strong, it can become a very special thing that the world pays special attention to you.”
Yi-Qi said parents’ need to encourage their children to love themselves as they grow up, whether it’s sexual orientation, mentality, or physicality.
“When you educate enough of these things, the children will have a healthy mind. I can face it with the strength to say that I am different from others today, and I can be at ease.”
The current progress of related laws’ advocacy
Taiwan LGBT Family Rights Advocacy made a proposal on the governmental public policy network this year and put forward three major demands.
The first is that the Artificial Reproduction Law should include same-sex couples. The second is the non-genetic adoption bill amendment. The third is the social welfare-related package to allow same-sex couples to also receive subsidies for artificial reproduction and childcare allowances.
Xuan-Ping said LGBT Family Rights Advocacy has been cooperating with the government actively about the research proposal for amendments after the same marriage legalization.
Gay couples having a child is relatively challenging because surrogacy involves a third person giving birth. In terms of non-genetic adoption, three groups of same-sex couples’ adoptive families that tried adopting their children were rejected by the courts. This process is currently being appealed.
LGBT Family Rights Advocacy hopes to apply for the interpretation from the constitutional court through litigation. Additionally, the non-genetic adoption bill amendment proposed in the Legislative Yuan by LGBT Family Rights Advocacy in cooperation with the legislators has passed the first reading.
Asked about becoming a father, Tzung-Han said that he still had a very unreal feeling that he hasn’t met the child.
“When the child is about to be born, we will fly to the US to pick up the child. I plan to take my mum with me and go through this process together.
“Expectations for the future are that I hope my child can grow up in love and then grow up like himself. I promise myself not to be a control freak daddy.”