It’s National Infertility Awareness Week here in the U.S. For some LGBTQ people, “infertility” is simply the inability to reproduce by ourselves or with a partner without medical intervention—sometimes called “social infertility.” For others, infertility is a medical diagnosis indicating that even with help, conception will be hard. Here are some resources to help no matter how you’re defining it.
- RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, is the go-to for information about infertility. Their website includes information on the biology of infertility, the medical options for treating it, insurance coverage, and more. There’s also a special page on LGBTQ Family Building Options.
- Family Equality also offers a number of family-building resources, including a glossary, family-building grants, information specific to trans family building, and more.
- ReproductiveFacts.org, from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), is a reputable, if not necessarily all-gender-inclusive, source of information.
- FertilityIQ nformation, profiles and reviews for doctors and clinics, as well as paid courses on all aspects of fertility, LGBTQ and otherwise.
Expanding the Definition and Expanding Coverage
RESOLVE also works on legislation across the country to ensure equal access to family building options for all. Part of this work includes a revision to the traditional definition of infertility (“the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse”) to be more inclusive. They now define it thus:
“Infertility” means a disease, condition or status characterized by:
- the failure to establish a pregnancy or to carry a pregnancy to live birth after regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, or
- a person’s inability to reproduce either as a single individual or with their partner without medical intervention, or
- a licensed physician’s findings based on a patient’s medical, sexual and reproductive history, age, physical findings and/or diagnostic testing.
RESOLVE uses this definition in its model legislation and model benefits for employers. This is crucial for LGBTQ folks, because most insurance companies will only cover fertility treatments with a medical diagnosis of infertility. If a person or couple has “social infertility,” they’re often out of luck.
The good news, though? Some companies are starting to offer fertility benefits without needing a medical diagnosis and preauthorization, as I discussed a couple of years ago. And RESOLVE notes in its 2021 Survey on Fertility Benefits that it asked companies that provide coverage for IVF and IUI (intrauterine insemination) whether these benefits were “specifically designed and communicated to be available to LGBTQ+ or single employees. This would mean, for example, that a clinical diagnosis of infertility based on heterosexual intercourse would not be required for coverage.” The results? “Over a third (35%) of respondents say they designed the benefit to be available to LGBTQ+ and/or single employees and made that clear in the benefit communication.” That’s progress, though still far from where we need to be.
If you are interested in advocating for such benefits at your employer, RESOLVE has resources to help you there, too. (The RESOLVE website itself still needs updating in at least one place with the more inclusive definition, but generally, they’re a force for good in helping us LGBTQ folks.)
Looking for a medical provider to help? Try Family Equality’s LGBTQ+ Family Building Directory, the ASRM’s directory of practicing members, or FertilityIQ’s directory of providers and crowdsourced reviews (not necessarily LGBTQ).
Love and Loss
For some LGBTQ people, infertility falls under the third bullet point of RESOLVE’s definition. Conception is difficult even with medical help. I am not a medical professional or therapist, so the best advice I can offer is: You’re not alone. You might want to join any of the many Facebook groups for queer parents or specifically for those trying to conceive (TTC), which can be found through a simple search. Folks often share stories there of their struggles with infertility.
Additionally, there are several books that may offer both information and a sense of connection:
- Reproductive Losses: Challenges to LGBTQ Family-Making, by Christa Craven, explains that the past few years, with renewed attacks on LGBTQ rights after previous gains, “have created more pressure than ever for queer people to marry, have children, and create public narratives of LGBTQ progress.” This means that “losses, challenges, and disruptions to stories of ‘successful’ LGBTQ family-making are often silenced, both personally and politically.” Craven, a cultural and medical anthropologist at the College of Wooster, tries to break the silence by drawing on interviews with 54 queer people who experienced loss as gestational parents, non-gestational parents with gestational partners, or through adoption loss (when a child is reclaimed by their birth family before the adoption is finalized), as well as from her own experience with pregnancy loss. She explores the queer-specific nuances of how her subjects experienced grief, the support (or lack thereof) available to them, how they commemorated their losses and found resiliency, and the intersections of social class, race, and religion.
- The Other Mothers: Two Women’s Journey to Find the Family That Was Always Theirs, by Jennifer Berney, is the thoughtfully written story of how the author and her spouse Kellie became parents despite fertility challenges and a healthcare system not designed for queer families.
- Love Song For Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood, by Cheryl Dumesnil, shows the author’s background as an award-winning poet in its careful details, metaphors, and self-reflections. While her and her partner’s struggle with infertility provides the main theme of the book, the marriage equality fight in California—and her role as participant, chronicler, and media subject—also looms large.
- There are also a couple of older memoirs in my database under the “Infertility” tag, which you can also check in the future to see what’s new. Also check out my database under the “Family creation” tag (and the “Grown-up books” category) for more general guides and memoirs about LGBTQ family creation.