Supporting equity for all families and children.

How LGBTQ-Headed Families are Formed

Our Family Coalition




How LGBTQ-Headed Families are Formed


LGBTQ-headed families are created in a myriad of ways. Although not an exhaustive list, the following are the most common ways that LGBTQ families are formed. The list utilizes gender-neutral language because conception relies on interactions of sperm and egg, which can belong to people of any gender. Transgender and cisgender people may form families through any of these means.



  • CHILDREN FROM PREVIOUS RELATIONSHIPS: In some cases, LGBTQ families have children from previous relationships. A new partner may become a full parent or stepparent to their partner’s child or may not, and the child may or may not have connections to their other parents. A large number of all LGBTQ families are formed through previous heterosexual relationships.


  • ADOPTION: Many LGBTQ families are created through adoption. Adoptions can be (1) public foster adoptions through the county, (2) private domestic adoptions, or (3) international adoptions. The experiences of the families who go through these various adoption processes vary. It is important to note that transracial adoptions (adoptions in which one or more parents are a different race from their adopted child) are common in the LGBTQ community. People of multiple races and/or multiracial individuals can sometimes comprise a single family. Thus, try not to make assumptions about the race of either a child or a parent.


  • FOSTER CARE: Children are sometimes placed in the temporary care of a foster family as the result of problems or challenges within the birth family, or while critical elements of an adoption are being completed. These children are a part of the public child welfare system, and a social worker from the Human Services Agency will be involved in their case. Caregivers have to be licensed by the county to be foster parents. Special services are often available to help meet the needs of children in foster care.


  • KINSHIP CARE: Children may live with family other than their parents in a “kinship care” situation, and may or may not be a part of the public foster care system.


  • CO-PARENTING: Here, two or more adults who are not in a romantic relationship agree to parent together. A common example is a three-parent situation where a child is genetically related to a man and to one of two women in a lesbian relationship. Other co-parenting situations could involve two couples, or divorced parents. A co-parenting arrangement can be developed via adoption.


  • SPERM INSEMINATION: Sperm banks provide a list of donors for prospective parents to choose from. Some donors are “known donors,” and a child can contact their donor once they turn 18 years old. Others are “anonymous donors,” and the donor’s identity is not accessible to the child. Another type of “known donor” situation comprises a couple asking someone they know to become a sperm donor and the parties working out the relationship (both personal and legal) between the donor and the child. In some cases, there is an “uncle” type of relationship. Sometimes the donor is called “dad.” Non-birth parents often legally adopt children conceived by their partners. Transsexual women (sometimes referred to as male to female trans people) or other transgender people with sperm may decide to save their sperm so that they can biologically parent a child should their reproductive systems be impacted by medical transition.


  • SURROGACY: Some prospective parents, often gay men, find a surrogate who can carry a child for them. The surrogate is generally identified and paid to carry the child with the help of an agency. Commonly, the child is the biological product of an egg either of the surrogate or another person and the sperm of one of the parents.
    • Various insemination methods include:
      • Having sex with someone, either a partner, another known person, or a stranger, with the intent to get pregnant.
      • Alternative insemination, where the sperm is inserted into the vagina or directly into the uterus (intrauterine insemination) either at home or at a clinic.
      • In-vitro fertilization (IVF), where a fertilized embryo is implanted in the uterus.


  • DONOR EGG: Some parents have some of their eggs surgically removed and fertilized outside of their body, and have the resulting embryo(s) transferred to their partner. Here, the birth parent is not the genetic parent, so questions about medical history would be more appropriately directed to the genetic parent. If a couple uses a donor egg not belonging to either partner, the donor may not be referred to as a “parent” at all, but as a “donor.” Transsexual men or other trans people with eggs may choose to save their eggs so that they can biologically parent a child should their reproductive systems be impacted by medical transition.


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