Last Tuesday, on October 15, the French National Assembly approved by a 57 to 17 vote a bill opening up medically assisted reproduction to single women and lesbian couples. Right now, only straight, married women can access the procedure here in France.
Though the draft didn’t mention transgender men, several deputies proposed amendments including them. The amendments were defeated, but the good news is that trans men became visible through the issue, and they’ve been getting support, both in parliament and in the media.
There was a strongly worded piece in the daily Libération by Cléo Carastro that denounced the weight of religion on the debate, calling for access to artificial insemination for everyone that wanted it, gay, straight, cis, trans, married, unmarried, “without distinction, and without discrimination related to civil status or gender.”
The approved bill now goes to the Senate for debate. A vote is expected there sometime in January.
It is likely the law will be ultimately enacted. The most recent polls show almost 63 percent of the French public supports extending the right to all women, up six points since early October, just before the law was handily approved in the Assembly.
What’s interesting is how effective opponents have been in giving the impression that French society is widely opposed.
The heavily Freudian Academy of Medicine got plenty of press for its declaration that it would be a “major anthropological rupture” to get rid of the “father figure which remains essential in the development of the child according to child psychiatrists, pediatricians, and psychologists.” Agnès Buzin, the minister of health, responded that the Academy was “perhaps, a little out of date.”
On October 6, the rabidly homophobic Manif pour Tous (Demo for Everyone) movement poured a huge amount of money into bringing its followers from all over the country to march in Paris against the new law. Being more than a little Freudian themselves, their rallying cry was Liberty, Equality, Paternity.
According to an independent research group, about 74,500 protesters eventually attended, though the organizers claim more than half a million, with Donald Trump apparently doing the math. This was significantly less than the average of 340,000 protesters the group mobilized on several occasions to protest the law approving same-sex marriage seven years ago, when Manif pour Tous emerged as the paramount ultraconservative, anti-gay force.
I expected a bigger march. The two round-the clock TV news channels did free publicity for them day after day, sometimes featuring scrolling banners on the bottom of the screen wondering how many demonstrators would turn up this time.
And news shows seemed to give more time to guests trying to kill the law than to those in favor. Though this time, after months of pressure from activists, talk shows and panels occasionally featured real-life lesbians who’d had artificial insemination, or at least were competent to talk about the issues. Not just discussions among straight men with the power to determine our dykely fates.
Could it be that lesbophobia is slightly diminishing in France? Maybe some bigots agree with the extreme right patriarch Jean-Marie Le Pen, who doesn’t care who’s having babies as long as they’re bolstering the white population.
Or perhaps the arguments of our enemies just began to sound bizarre. At some point, Manif pour Tous started warning that there would be a run on sperm banks if dykes were allowed access to artificial insemination, effectively denying straight couples suffering from infertility the God-given right to reproduce. On the basis of no evidence whatsoever, they shrieked, “There’s already a lack of sperm!”
Thankfully, gay men stepped in, amusing the public by publishing a letter offering to donate sperm to their needy dyke friends. Gametes for everyone!
One of the upsides of all this is that Laurence Vanceunebrock-Mialon, a deputy from the governing party, La République en Marche, has emerged as a strong voice on LGBTQI issues. Only the second out lesbian ever elected to the National Assembly, she knows first-hand the issues of assisted reproduction, herself having gone to Belgium for the procedure — and after splitting with her partner facing the legal nightmares. She also wants trans men to have access to it, and is working to ban genital surgery for intersex babies.
Lesbians are also organizing again. Gouines contre la Nature (Dykes against Nature) held a rally supporting reproductive assistance for everyone of all genders, a couple of weeks ago at Place Saint-Michel in Paris.
And at this past weekend’s EXISTRANS rally and march in the capital, along with the demand for an end to violence against trans women, both assisted reproduction for trans men and protection of intersex children were on the agenda.