The socio-legal recognition of same-sex relationships often co-evolves with the discussion or even leads to the recognition, of sexual minority individuals’ access to parenthood. Previous research indicates that sexual minority men largely possess lower childbearing desire and intention than heterosexual men.[2–7] The road to parenthood for sexual minority men is often impeded by a myriad of economic (e.g., the high cost of surrogacy), social (e.g., the anticipation of minority stress), and legal (e.g., the lack of protection for the second parent in adoption) barriers, and these are in part attributable to heteronormative expectations regarding parenthood that are endemic in many societies.[8–9] Compared to lesbians, gay men also face additional layers of obstruction resulting from social norms regarding reproduction as an exclusively feminine domain and therefore seeing men as less warm, nurturing, and capable of properly rearing children,[10–13] together with the practical difficulties of finding a surrogate compared to a sperm donor.
Emerging studies have identified that legal recognition of same-sex relationships may influence sexual minority individuals’ childbearing desire, intention, and subsequent parenthood experience.[14–15] While over two-thirds of respondents in Perrin et al’s. US study reported having experienced stigma based on being a gay father, gay fathers living in states with few legal protections were confronted by more stigma against their parenthood compared to their counterparts living in states with more legal protections. Drawing on the legal consciousness theoretical framework, a change in the ‘laws on the books’ can translate into how people make sense of and interact with that legal change in their daily life. Therefore, a question remains whether the legalization of same-sex marriage (SSM) can readily shape sexual minority men’s desires and perceptions related to having a child even when the methods (e.g., adoption and surrogacy) remain unavailable. This study investigated the institutional dependency of sexual minority men’s childbearing desire by examining the effect of SSM legalization in Taiwan.
Childbearing desire among sexual minority men
Sexual minority men share similar reasons with their heterosexual counterparts for becoming, or not becoming, a father, such as a quest for life enrichment, expected positive changes from childbearing, continuity of the family line, and consideration of financial, emotional, and physical costs.[2, 17–19] Even those who choose not to pursue parenthood may perceive having a child as desirable and valuable.[3, 20]
Notably, the emergence of sexual minority men’s desire to have a child otherwise termed “procreative consciousness”, is sensitive to social climates and legal shifts concerning their partnership and parenthood. Research has sought to locate an “ah-ha” moment, a definitive event or turning point when individuals realize that they have the ability, choice, right, or an internal inclination to become a parent.[8, 9, 21] These moments can arise from personal experiences or interactions, such as seeing a friend having a child, learning about new assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), or through discussion with an intimate partner.[9, 21]
As the procreative identity framework suggests, socioeconomic, legal, and cultural barriers can intensify sexual minority individuals’ hesitance or reluctance to seek parenthood.[14, 15, 22] Several studies have investigated how changes in the legal recognition of SSM may influence sexual minority individuals’ desire, intention towards, or actual, childbearing. For example, Italy recognized same-sex civil unions in June 2016, yet access to parenthood through donor insemination or surrogacy or adoption is still not allowed. Compared with Baiocco and Laghi’s estimates, Scandurra et al. found a higher childbearing desire (72.4% vs 51.8%) and intention (64.2% vs 26.9%) among Italian gay men after the legalization of same-sex civil unions. Scandurra et al’s. estimates were also higher than those of Riskind and Patterson who used the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth (Desire: 54%; Intention upon desire: 67%). [25, 26]
The current study
Although previous studies have suggested that judicial rulings and marriage equality policy can be associated with sexual minority men’s childbearing aspirations, their results are either qualitative or cross-sectional.[8, 14, 15, 22, 27] To date, no longitudinal research has been conducted to pinpoint the change in sexual minority men’s childbearing desire as a function of the legalization of SSM. A unique opportunity to collect prospective data emerged in Taiwan when the Judicial Yuan made the ruling, Interpretation No. 748 in 2017, requiring the Legislative Yuan to either pass a new bill or amend the existing Civil Code to legally recognize same-sex partnerships by May 2019. Capitalizing on this prospective process of legalizing SSM in Taiwan, this study aimed to address an empirical gap, whether the passing of SSM fostered childbearing desire among gay and bisexual men. Based on the foregoing literature review, then, we hypothesized that the passing of SSM legislation would increase Taiwanese gay and bisexual men’s childbearing desire. We also inquired about gay and bisexual men’s perception of the importance of childbearing to further understand their attitudes about childbearing over the policy shift. Lastly, we accounted for their intention of and attitudes towards getting married since previous studies suggested that childbearing desire and attitudes might be more pronounced among those who consider the legal recognition of same-sex partnership important or relevant to them. [16, 28]