Queer Families Event

LGBTQ+ Fertility Support workshop

On the evening of the 2nd December, our Queer Families group gathered on Zoom for a chat about navigating fertility systems as an LGBTQ+ person. The event was organised by Queer Families and Deva, (she/her) an intersectional doula who runs Braw Birth, which supports people and families in their pregnancy and fertility journeys. Deva believes that: “everyone deserves to have fertility and birthing experiences that give them dignity, respect and autonomy.”

The event began with us having an informal discussion about what support is currently missing from the fertility systems and processes for LGBTQ+ people in Scotland. We went on to discuss ways that healthcare providers can best support LGBTQ+ people, and read through the requirements and recommendations for healthcare professionals. Scroll to the bottom of this post to find a link to the NICE guidelines on fertility care. They lay out what you should be able to expect from support around fertility.

We learned about barriers to fertility support such as referral criteria, BMI, rules about alcohol and smoking, and wait times. The NHS waiting times are said to be up to 12 months, but since the pandemic, the reality appears to be closer to 18-20 months.

Scottish Trans Alliance report on LGBTQ+ Fertility Support

We also discussed the Scottish Trans Alliance research on fertility support which you can read by following the link at the end of this blog. This research identifies experience of sexism and homophobia as well as the systemic barriers that can prevent transgender people from accessing fertility support. It is important to acknowledge the particular challenges that trans people can face in the fertility and birth process. Some of these challenges are highlighted below.

• Trans people may need to get a family lawyer to ensure that they are named as a parent on the child’s birth certificate.
• Depending on the gender recognition certificate, they may not be named correctly as the ‘mother’ or ‘father’ on the birth certificate.
• The STA research identifies that some trans people have been told that they cannot access gamete storage. (Preservation of sperm, egg or embryos)

There is now a trans specialist medical worker in the Glasgow fertility clinic and if you live in certain areas, you can request this person to be your main contact.

Intersectionality in fertility support

Deva also talked about the importance of thinking about fertility in a fat-positive way. Support needs to include every unique person and we believe in an intersectional approach to inclusion. Another thing we talked about was the fact that healthcare professionals all have different levels of LGBTQ+ cultural awareness and competency, and this means that a lot of people may have to explain their relationship and identity to different doctors, which can be hard.

Advocating for yourself in a medical context

The final section of the event focused on how to advocate for yourself in a medical context. We came up with some bullet points to remember.

• Know your medical rights.
• Identify your needs and wants, and practice asking for them to be taken into account.
• Practise how to express negative thoughts / experiences and have them heard. If this makes you uncomfortable, check out the link to assertive phrases from Mary Cronk at the end of the post.
• You can ask for the medical professional’s NHS pin – they all have one!
• There are liaison officers in the NHS who can help you with complaints.
• Ask for access measures / accommodations / reasonable adjustments.
• Listen to your body!

Final thoughts

Despite the ongoing pandemic making it necessary to hold this event on Zoom, we managed to have an inclusive and welcoming discussion. There were also some notable moments of connection and supportive interactions during our discussion. Two families that joined the event discovered that they were from the same area and managed to share contact details after the call to stay in touch with more people going through the same thing.

Some people were in very rural areas of Scotland and had just got their electricity back after power cuts. A huge positive of holding this event online was that people from all over Scotland, and a few from England too, were able to come together and share experiences. Fertility support needs to work for everybody, no matter where you live or what your family looks like.

The Queer Families group also meets in person in Glasgow at Rumpus Room and stay in touch regularly online. Find a link to their Instagram below.

Links to further resources

Workshop Leaflet from Braw Birth

Queer Families: Support and Advice for Services Working with LGBTQ Families

Queer Families: Hints and Tips for LGBTQ Families

NICE guidelines on fertility care

The Scottish LGBT Rural Equality Report

Braw Birth website

Scottish Trans Alliance Report on fertility research

Mary Cronk’s assertive phrases

Queer Families Instagram