4 August 2023

Lesbian motherhood: open letter to Kathleen Stock

The gender critical philosopher says she is concerned about the rights of lesbian mothers being denied 'by the Meloni government'. But it was the judiciary and not the government that decided that only biological mothers can appear on birth certificates. In order for the law to recognise sexual difference in procreation, it is necessary for homosexual women to break the front with wealthy gay males who resort to surrogacy: homogeny is just ideology
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We have followed the story of Kathleen Stock, philosopher gender critical, author of, among others Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism (Little, Brown Book Group, 2021) and former lecturer at the University of Sussex persecuted by transactivists: we told her story here. Together with Martina Navratilova and Julie Bindel Stock he recently founded The Lesbian Project for the purpose of reaffirm the specificity of lesbian identity. The aim of the project is 'to stop the disappearance of lesbians in the rainbow soup and give them a politically independent and non-partisan voice'.

A few days ago Kathleen dealt with Italy with a published article at Unherd entitled Lesbian mothers should be on birth certificates (Lesbian mothers must appear on birth certificates) in which reference is made, among other things, to the decision of the public prosecutor's office in Padua to remove the name of the non-biological mother from 33 already registered birth certificates.

With this open letter we would like to discuss with Stock the important issues that his article brings into focus ( here the letter in Italian and in English).


Dear Kathleen,

Confirming our closeness and esteem we read your editorial on Italy, its government and its positions on LGBT+ rights. What you say in your introduction is true, namely that for any politician, right or left, LGBT+ issues can be a rich electoral dish, an opportunity to gain support by taking sides in one direction or another. It has been happening for many years, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, but also in our country the matter has a certain weight.

Referring to the case of Padua you write that the centre-right government led by Giorgia Meloni has reportedly decided for children of lesbian couples that only the name of the biological mother should appear on the birth certificate, leaving the road to adoption open for the other woman.

Things did not turn out exactly this way. The indication not to transcribe birth certificates in fullby giving the names of both women -or both men, or even, in the case of heterosexual couples who have resorted to surrogacy abroad, both intended parents, both biological and non-biological- is not a decision of the government but of the judiciary.

With two different judgments, the first in May 2019, the second in December 2022, the Court of Cassation ordered the non-biological parent the adoption routespecifically a type of adoption route, fully legitimising, called 'adoption in special cases' and reserved for children who are not in a state of abandonment.

Many English-language media, such as The Guardian and the US network CNN, have incorrectly reported the news, attributing the non-transcription to a law passed by the centre-right government. But in 2019, the date of the first judgement, the centre-right government was not yet in office and in December 2022, the date of the second judgement, the Meloni government had only been in office for two months and had not addressed the issue. Neither the Italian government nor the Italian Parliament have ever subsequently enacted laws that had anything to do with LGBT+ rights.

What has happened, if anything, is that -ignoring the judgments of the Supreme Court- the mayors of some Italian cities have continued to transcribe these birth certificates in full. It was we radical feminists, with the aim of opposing the use of surrogacy abroad -in Italy, as you may know, the practice has always been punished by law-. to urge the government to provide definitive clarity. The government has therefore clarified that the Supreme Court rulings had to be applied and that it would no longer be possible to transcribe these birth certificates.

You also write: "Tired of the erasure of biological motherhood on multiple fronts these days - whether from activists renaming trans-identified fathers as 'mothers', or from surrogacy enthusiasts presenting a birth mother as a fancy kind of packaging from which a beautiful baby can eventually be unboxed - campaigners such as Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) and others have endorsed Meloni's conclusion. Any concessions to the renaming of biological reality are 'the thin end of the wedge', Keen argues - where the thick end presumably involves schoolgirls believing they are boys, transwomen photographing themselves 'breastfeeding', and other forms of present or future definitional anarchy'.. (Tired of the erasure of biological motherhood on several fronts these days - both by activists who rename trans-identified fathers as 'mothers', and by surrogacy enthusiasts who present a natural mother as a kind of extravagant package from which a beautiful child can eventually be unpacked - . Activists like Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) and others endorsed Meloni's conclusion. Any concession to the renaming of biological reality is 'the thin end of the wedge', argues Keen - whose thicker end presumably implies that the female students believe they are boys, the trans women who they photograph 'breastfeeding' and other forms of present or future definitional anarchy'.

In all honesty we think Posie Parker is not wrong. Even if we would like -the point is this- that the law knew how to represent sexual difference in procreation, which it does not, crushing everything into a formal neutral paritarianism that distorts the reality of human experience. A latest ruling by the Supreme Court a couple of days ago stated that heterologous fertilisation often used by lesbian women (and which in Italy is only allowed to heterosexual couples with established infertility problems) is like surrogacy, and that the non-biological mother cannot be transcribed in the birth certificate.

So by law a mother is equal to a father, and two women who want to form a family are equal to two men even though we know very well that this is not the case. Whether heterosexual, lesbian or bisexual, a healthy woman of the right age has almost everything she needs to procreate on her own, whereas two men without buying egg cells and without paying a gestating mother can do nothing. Women would have no need to turn to the IVF market (We would like to know what you think of the reckless ROPA method).

This difference is concealed in the language by the term 'homogenous couples', ideological formula that creates many problems. In Italy, 8-9 out of 10 'homogenous' families are made up of women. But Even the associations that protect these families (Famiglie Arcobaleno is chaired by a woman) do not want to consider this difference and sacrifice it to men who resort to surrogacy: in short Many, too many lesbian mothers put themselves at the service of gays, Here in Italy we say that they behave like 'gay men's wives', always ready to rescue them and put their needs before their own.

Talking about homogenitoriality is just a big favour being done to men. The umbrella of 'homogeny' is a device against women.

You yourself refer to sexual difference when you write about the "code of silence over how lesbian relationships might differ from the gay male kind - bizarrely, since in many ways a female-female couple is the opposite of a male-male one. The general conceit, for the purposes of equality narratives, was (and still is) that any differences - either with heterosexual couples, or with homosexual couples of the opposite sex - are superficial, and that we are all the same really. Any diversion from this approved line tended to result in immediate cries of homophobia, and still does".. (There is a code of silence on how lesbian relationships may differ from the gay male type - Strangely enough, since in many ways a female-female couple is the opposite of a male-male couple. The general presumption, for the purposes of equality narratives, was (and still is) that any difference - whether with heterosexual couples or same-sex couples of the opposite sex - is superficial and that we are all equal in reality. Any deviation from this approved line tended to cause immediate cries of homophobiaand still does). 

And again: "Also hard to acknowledge - but still true - is that, like straight male counterparts, gay male parents are on average less likely than females to feel confident in caring for young children. A society that could mention these things easily could also offer more support for those that require it". (It is also difficult to recognise, but nevertheless true, that like their straight male counterparts Gay male parents are on average less likely than female parents to feel secure in caring for young children. A company that could easily mention these things could also offer more support to those who request it).

But as you well know these things cannot be mentioned so as not to create problems for men who resort to surrogacy. We are at their service. You will also know that in Italy it is a law is about to be passed that will make the use of surrogacy punishable even if carried out abroad -as is always the case-: this would in fact be the first law, since the Meloni government has been in office, that has to do with so-called LGBT+ rights, even though the vast majority of those who resort to this practice are heterosexual couples, and lesbians are by far the least interested in the issue.

We radical feminists strongly support this new law, with a decidedly non-partisan approach, and with us support it all the major associations that oppose surrogacy in the world, from Stop Surrogacy Now to Ciams to Finnrage, and feminists who have always been committed to the reproductive issue such as Sylviane Agacinski, Gena Corea, Phyllis Chesler (you can read here their supporting communiqués).

Ultimately: the path is the one that you yourself, together with Martina Navratilova and Julie Bindel, have indicated by creating The Lesbian Project: lesbian specificity. It also applies to procreation.

The homosexual orientation lesbian women have in common with gay males -and also on this there would be much to discuss- is not sufficient reason to continue to think that we can form a common front on the level of reproduction, and therefore on the level of the law that governs it.

What is needed is a leading act on the part of lesbians: their motherhood, if they desire it, has nothing to do with the paternity of rich gays who buy children from women in need and try to make this market count as LGBT+ law, demanding a commitment of solidarity from homosexual women. This equal plan is merely ideological. Reality Matters, as the title of your book states.

For sexual difference in procreation to be recognised by law, it must first of all be recognised and supported by women, and in particular, courageously, by lesbian women.

In sisterhood

Marina Terragni


The gender critical philosopher says she is concerned about the rights of lesbian mothers denied 'by the Meloni government'. But it was the judiciary and not the government that decided that only biological mothers can appear on birth certificates. In order forthe law to recognise the sexual difference in procreation, it is necessary for homosexual women to break with the rich gay males who resort to surrogacy: same sex biological parents is only an ideology 

We have followed the story of Kathleen Stock with attention and sisterhood, gender critical philosopher, author, among other things, of Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism (Little, Brown Book Group, 2021) and former professor at the University of Sussex persecuted by transactivists: we told her story here. Together with Martina Navratilova and Julie Bindel, Stock recently founded The Lesbian Project with the aim of reaffirming the specificity of lesbian identity. The aim of the project is "to stop the disappearance of lesbians in the rainbow soup and to give them a politically independent and non-partisan voice'. 

A few days ago Kathleen spoke of Italy with an article published in Unherd with the title Lesbian mothers should be on birth certificates  in which reference is made to the decision of the Padua Prosecutor's Office to remove the name of the non-biological mother from 33 registered birth certificates. 

With this open letter we would like to discuss with Stock the important issues that your article focuses on. 

Dear Kathleen, 

confirming our closeness and our esteem, we read your editorial on Italy, its government and its positions on LGBT+ rights. What you say in the introduction is true, namely that for every politician, right or left, LGBT+ issues can constitute a rich electoral dish, allowing them to gain support by siding in one direction or another. It has been happening for many years especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, but the matter also has a certain weight in our country. 

Referring to the case of Padua, you write that the centre-right government led by Giorgia Meloni has allegedly decided that only the name of the biological mother should appear in the birth certificate for the children of lesbian couples, leaving the path of adoption open for the other woman. 

That's not exactly what happened. The decision not to transcribe the birth certificates in full, reporting the names of both women - or of both men, or even, in the case of heterosexual couples who have resorted to surrogacy abroad, of both intended parents, both organic and non-organic - it is not a decision of the government but of the judiciary. 

With two different sentences, the first in May 2019, the second in December 2022, the Court of Cassation ordered the path of adoption for the non-biological parent, precisely a type of adoptive path, fully legitimising, called 'adoption in particular cases' and reserved for minors who are not in a state of abandonment. 

Many English-language media outlets, such as The Guardian and the US network CNN, misreported the news, attributing the non-transcribability to a law passed by the centre-right government. But in 2019, the date of the first sentence, the centre-right government was not yet in office and in December 2022, the date of the second sentence, the Meloni government had been in office for just two months and had not dealt with the issue. Indeed, even since then the Italian government and Parliament have ever enacted laws that have to do with LGBT+ rights. 

If anything, - ignoring the sentences of the Cassation - the mayors of some Italian cities continued to transcribe these birth certificates in full. It was us radical feminists, with the aim of countering the use of surrogacy abroad - in Italy, as you may know, the practice has always been punishable by law - to urge the government to definitively clarify. The government therefore clarified that the sentences of the Cassation had to be applied and that it would no longer be possible to transcribe these birth certificates. 

You also write: "Tired of the erasure of biological motherhood on multiple fronts these days - whether from activists renaming trans-identified fathers as 'mothers', or from surrogacy enthusiasts presenting a birth mother as a fancy kind of packaging from which a beautiful baby can eventually be unboxed - campaigners such as Kellie-Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) and others have endorsed Meloni's conclusion. Any concessions to the renaming of biological reality are 'the thin end of the wedge', Keen argues - where the thick end presumably involves schoolgirlsbelieving they are boys, transwomen photographing themselves 'breastfeeding', and other forms of present or future definitional anarchy'.

In all fairness we think Posie Parker is not wrong. Even if we would like - the point is this - that the law could represent the sexual difference in terms of procreation, which itdoesn't do, crushing everything in a formal neutral equality that distorts the reality of the human experience. A final ruling by the Cassation a couple of days ago affirmed that heterologous fertilisation which lesbian women often resort to (and which in Italy is permittedonly to heterosexual couples with proven infertility problems) is like surrogacy, and that the non-biological mother cannot be transcribed on the birth certificate. 

Therefore, according to the law, a mother is equal to a father, and two women who want to start a family are equivalent to two men, even if we know very well that this is not the case. Straight, lesbian or bisexual, a healthy woman of the right age has almost everything she needs to procreate on her own, while two men can do nothing without buying eggs and paying for a pregnant mother. Women would have no need to turn to the IVF market (we'd like to know what you think of the reckless ROPA method)

This difference is hidden in the language by the definition 'homoparental couples', an ideological formula that creates many problems. In Italy, out of 10 same-parent families, 8-9 are made up of women. But even the associations that take care of protecting these families (Rainbow Families is chaired by a woman) do not want to consider this difference and sacrifice it to men who resort to surrogacy: in short, many, too many lesbian mothers put themselves at the service of gays, here in Italy we say that they behave like 'gay's wives', always ready to help them and put their needs before their own. 

Talking about same-sex parenting is just a big favour being done for men. The umbrella of 'homoparenting' is a device against women. 

You yourself refer to sexual difference when you write about the "code of silence over how lesbian relationships might differ from the gay male kind - bizarrely, since in many ways a female-female couple is the opposite of a male-male one. The general conceit , for the purposes of equality narratives, it was (and still is) that any differences - either with heterosexual couples, or with homosexual couples of the opposite sex - are superficial, and that we are all the same really. tended to result in immediate cries of homophobia, and still does".

And again: "Also hard to acknowledge - but still true - is that, like straight male counterparts, gay male parents are on average less likely than females to feel confident in caring for young children. A society that could mention these things easily could also offer more support for those who require it" easily mentioning these things might even offer more support to those who request it". 

But as you well know, these things cannot be mentioned so as not to create problems for men who resort to surrogacy. We are at their service. You will also know that in Italy a law is being approved which will make the use of surrogacy punishable even if carried out abroad -as it always happens-: in fact this would be the first law, since the Meloni government has been in office, which it has to do with the so-called LGBT+ rights, even if the vast majority of those who resort to this practice are made up of heterosexual couples and lesbians are by far the least interested in the issue. 

We radical feminists strongly support this new law, with a decidedly non-partisan approach, and all the major associations in the world that oppose surrogacy support it with us, from Stop Surrogacy Now to Ciams to Finnrage, and feminists who have always been committed to the front of the reproductive issue such as Sylviane Agacinski, Gena Corea, Phyllis Chesler (you can read their press releases of support here)

Ultimately: the road is the one that you yourself indicated together with Martina Navratilova and Julie Bindel giving life to The Lesbian Project: the lesbian specificity. It also applies to procreation. 

The homosexual orientation that lesbian women have in common with gay men - and there would be much to discuss about this too - is not a sufficient reason to continue thinking that we can form a common front in terms of reproduction, and therefore in terms of laws that regulate it. 

We need an act of protagonism on the part of lesbians: their motherhood, if they want it, has nothing to do with the paternity of rich gays who buy children from women in need and try to make this market count as an LGBT+ right, demanding a solidarity commitment on the part of homosexual women. This level playing field is merely ideological. Reality Matters, as the title of your book says. 

For sexual difference in procreation to be recognised by law, it must first be recognised and supported by women, and in particular, courageously, by lesbian women. 

In sisterhood

(translated by Elaine Kelly)


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