Lesbian motherhood: an open letter to Kathleen Stock
The gender critical philosopher says she is worried 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 in birth certificates. For the law to recognize sexual difference in procreation, homosexual women need to break the front with rich gay males who resort to rented wombs: homoparenting is just ideology

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We followed the story with attention and sisterly Kathleen Stock, philosopher gender critical, 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 have told her story here. Together with Martina Navratilova and Julie Bindel he recently founded Stock The Lesbian Project in order to 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 she dealt with Italy with a published article on Unherd by title Lesbian mothers should be on birth certificates (Lesbian mothers must appear on birth certificates) which refers among other things to the decision of the Padua Prosecutor's Office to remove the name of the non-biological mother from 33 birth certificates already registered.

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

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Dear Kathleen,

confirming our closeness and our esteem, we read yours 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, an opportunity to gain consensus by taking sides in one direction or another. It has been happening for many years, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world, but the matter has a certain weight in our country too.

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

Things didn't exactly go that way. The indication not to transcribe 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 the biological and the non-biological one- 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 has ordered the path of adoption for the non-biological parent, precisely a type of adoption process, fully legitimizing, called "adoption in particular cases" and reserved for minors who are not in a state of abandonment.

Many English-language media, such as The Guardian and the USA Network CNN, they reported the news incorrectly, attributing the non-transcription to a law passed by the centre-right government. But in 2019, the date of the first sentence, the center-right government was not yet in office and in December 2022, the date of the second sentence, the Meloni government had only taken office for two months and had not dealt with the issue. Even later, the Italian government and Parliament never issued laws that had anything to do with LGBT+ rights.

What happened, if anything, was that - ignoring the rulings of the Supreme Court - the mayors of some Italian cities continued to transcribe these birth certificates in full. We were indeed radical feminists, with the aim of countering the use of surrogacy abroad -in Italy, as you may know, the practice has always been punished by law- to urge the government to definitively clarify. The government has therefore clarified that the rulings of the Supreme Court 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 photography themselves “breastfeeding”, and other forms of present or future definitional anarchy”. (Weary of the erasure of biological motherhood on multiple fronts these days – both from activists who rebrand trans-identified fathers as “mothers,” and from surrogacy enthusiasts who present a birth mother as some kind of fancy confection from which a nice child can finally 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,” says Keen – the thicker end of which supposedly implies that female students believe they are boys, trans women that do they photograph “breastfeeding” and other forms of present or future definitive anarchy".

In all honesty we think Posie Parker isn't wrong. Although we would like to -the point is this- that the law could represent sexual difference in terms of procreation, which it does not do, crushing everything in a formal neutral equality that distorts the reality of human experience. A latest ruling from the Supreme Court a couple of days ago stated that the heterologous fertilization that lesbian women often resort to (and which in Italy is only permitted to heterosexual couples with proven infertility problems) it is like surrogacy, and that the non-biological mother cannot be transcribed in the birth certificate.

Therefore by law a mother is equal to a father, and two women who want to start a family are equivalent to two men even though 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 a pregnant mother. Women would have no need to turn to the assisted reproduction market (We'd like to know what you think of the daredevil ROPA method).

This difference is hidden in language by the definition "homoparental couples", ideological formula that creates many problems. THEIn Italy, 8-9 out of 10 "homoparental" families are made up of women. But even the associations that deal with protecting these families (Famiglie Arcobaleno is chaired by a woman) do not want to consider this difference and sacrifice it to the 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 "gays' wives", always ready to help them and put their needs before their own.

Talking about homoparenting is just a great favor that is being done to men. The umbrella of "homoparentality" is a device to the detriment of women.

You yourself refer to sexual difference when you write about “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's a code of silence on how lesbian relationships can differ from the gay male type – oddly 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 differences – whether with heterosexual couples or with homosexual couples of the opposite sex – are superficial and that we are all the same in reality. Any deviation from this approved line tended to result immediate cries of homophobia, and still does). 

It's still: “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's also difficult to recognize, but still true that like their straight male counterparts Gay male parents are on average less likely than female parents to feel confident in caring for young children. A company that could easily mention these things might also offer more support to those who ask for 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 being approved that will make the use of surrogacy punishable even if carried out abroad -as always happens-: 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 if 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 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 front of the reproductive issue such as Sylviane Agacinski, Gena Corea, Phyllis Chesler (you can read here are their statements of support).

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

The homosexual orientation that lesbian women have in common with gay males -and there would be a lot to discuss about this too- is not a sufficient reason to continue to think of being able to constitute a common front on the level of reproduction, and therefore on the level of the law that regulates it.

We need an act of protagonism on the part of lesbians: their motherhood, if they desire it, has nothing to do with the fatherhood of rich gay men who buy children from women in need and they try to assert this market as LGBT+ right, demanding a solidarity commitment from homosexual women. This equal footing is merely ideological. Reality Matters, as the title of your book says.

For sexual difference in procreation to be recognized by law, it must first be recognized and supported by women, and in particular, with courage, by lesbian women.

In sisterhood

Marina Terragni

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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 for the law to recognize 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 center-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 legitimizing, 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 center-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 wrote: “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 photography 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 it doesn'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 fertilization which lesbian women often resort to (and which in Italy is permitted only 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 favor 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 that 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 opposed 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 recognized by law, it must first be recognized and supported by women, and in particular, courageously, by lesbian women. 

In sisterhood

(translated by Elaine Kelly)


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