Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Questions for The Kid

Questions for Book Tour Five: The Kid by Dan Savage


  1. In the current political debate about gay marriage, one argument against gay marriage that is often trotted out is that marriage is for making babies. Straight sex, and with it heterosexual marriage, is privileged because it comes with the possibility of procreation. Dan addresses this, writing, "Babies make straight sex more important than gay sex…even when straights are having sex that couldn’t possibly make babies (oral, anal, phone, cyber), the fact that these people could make babies under other circumstances or in other positions legitimizes straight sex…[however] straight sex absent fertility has no larger significance… No babies means no miracles, no magic.” If you are straight (and my apologies for the heterosexual nature of this question) did finding out you weren’t fertile change your feelings about sex and marriage? Do you find that sex is different once the possibility of fecundity has been stripped away from it, and how did the realization that you and your partner are not fertile together affect your feelings about marriage in general and your marriage specifically?
  1. I really enjoyed this book and the different tone it took from many of the other books on infertility that we are presented with, namely that it was mostly humorous and told from the perspective of a gay male couple. The author says in the chapter “Grieving Our Infertility” (page 25 in my book, but not sure if we all have the same printing) that “Heterosexual identity is all wrapped up in the ability of heterosexuals to make babies....Infertility did more than shatter their expectations; it undermined their sexual identities.” If you’re part of a heterosexual couple and in fertility treatment, did you feel the same way? Did you feel that you had lost your sexual identity once you started treatment, or had somehow “failed” as a partner in terms of what is expected of you as a woman?
  1. Dan and Terry face opposition as a gay couple trying to adopt and are able to overcome that stigma with the help of an open-minded birthmother. In some international adoptions, their chances of adopting would have been slim to none due to their sexual orientation. How do you feel about the “rules” some countries have for parents looking to adopt from their country (Examples: sexual orientation, weight, age, mental health, marital status, or income)?
  1. Savage states, "Fertile couples have complete autonomy". No one is checking their background before they can be a parent and no one is checking their reproductive parts for a number of possible candidates. How have you dealt with the loss of autonomy, whether through fertility testing or home study scrutiny?
  1. Dan Savage comes to truly appreciate doing an open adoption, particularly at the moment that Melissa transfers the baby to him and Terry. He states that seeing her pain and feeling the pain of their separation "drove home the logic of open adoption, its absolute necessity" (pg. 216). How do you feel about open adoption? Did reading Savage's book influence your feelings?
  1. How did you feel about a gay male explaining the emotions of infertility starting on p. 22? Were you offended or impressed? Do you think he got it right or was he far from the mark? Did you feel that he was correct when he said on p. 26, “I understood what they must have been going through”?
  1. What would you have done if given only a few hours to decide whether or not to take someone like Melissa into your life in such a permanent way? Would you have avoided the situation altogether at the expense of becoming a parent or growing your family?
  1. After being chosen by Melissa, the birth mother, Dan and Terry attend a support group meeting for adoptive parents who are still in the pool. A couple who has recently adopted a baby attends the meeting to share their story and to boost morale. Dan comments, "The yearning in the room was palpable. A newborn baby at an adoptive-parents support group is like a five-pound bag of heroin at Narcotics Anonymous. Everyone was staring at the couple carrying the smack out of the room, and there were a lot of brave faces slapped over a deep and nearly desperate desire to have what they had. Everyone wanted to be the couple with the smack, and some were losing hope that they'd ever get their hands on any." Later, fellow adoptive parents-in-waiting Carol and Jack tell Dan and Terry that an older couple at the support meeting had been in the pool for nearly 2 years without being chosen by a birth mother. "They've both been made a little crazy by the experience," Jack says. "Every meeting begins with someone dragging in a baby that could've been theirs." Does this scene reflect your experience with online or real-life infertility or adoption support groups? Is the addiction comparison accurate or is it offensive? Do you think that the presentation of the "success story" is truly morale-boosting—why or why not? What does the experience (only hinted at here) of the older waiting couple say about the so-called guaranteed nature of adoption -- is it just a matter of the adoptive parents "hanging in there"?
  1. When I first read The Kid, one of the things that struck me was how different Dan and Terry's experiences were because they hadn't experienced infertility. They were coming to adoption from a different place than I am and it sensitized me to how much time we spent talking about infertility issues and losses in some of the adoption classes I've taken. How did that aspect of the book change how you think about adoption literature, classes, groups, etc or how you interact with people who are pursuing adoption?
  1. For a work of non-fiction, the theme of signs and coincidences plays such a large role in The Kid. On page 152, Dan writes about three twists of fate that bring Terry and he and Melissa together: “...the Seattle conception, the likelihood that Melissa spare changed us on Broadway, and the fact that the kid would be born at OHSU.” Many other signs present themselves through the book such as the incident with Judy’s fortune cookies, and my favorite, the fact that Dan and Terry had their first encounter in a bathroom and that they found themselves in a bathroom together at the moment their son was being born. What role do signs and coincidences play in your life in relation to your infertility and treatment? Do you find that you actively look for signs (good or bad), and how much do you take them to heart?


  1. If you were participating in an open adoption, what are the top three questions you would ask the birth mother?
  1. On page 25, Dan Savage says about infertiles - "...your sex is all recreational, like gay sex, deligitimized and desanctified. Straight sex absent of fertility has no larger significance...No babies means no miracles, no magic. The sex you're having may still be pleasurable, but in a sex-hating ...culture, pleasure is not a good enough reason, otherwise gay and lesbian sex would never have been stigmatized." Do you agree with this? If you waited until you were married or are part of a religion that believes sex is for baby making and therefore birth control is not allowed, does this especially ring true to you? Has your sex life changed now that you know you have little to no chance of a baby being a result?
  1. Savage refers to children in foster care as "damaged goods." How did you react to this? Did you find it offensive or an honest way of expressing why people choose to adopt a newborn rather than a waiting child?
  1. Dan makes a point that straight infertile couples have something in common with a same sex couple who are, by definition, "functionally infertile" and draws an analogy between coming out as gay/lesbian and "coming out" as infertile. This got me thinking about the issues of donated gametes, and how this approach to building a family has long been accepted by lesbians, of course, while the huge growth in egg donation has now begun to make donated gametes quite mainstream. But while a lesbian or gay couple have no choice but to be open about the making of their family (as Dan points out, the child will eventually realise he wasn't born of two dads) it seems common for straight couples using donated eggs or sperm to keep it a secret. What's your take on all of this? If you have used donated gametes, do you see your family as non-conventional? Do you have an ongoing relationship with the donor? Do you plan to be open about the donation?
  1. Do you believe that Dan's statement on p. 22, "And there were no ‘losses inherent in adoption’ for us, but only victory", is necessarily true? Do people that know they cannot have biological children from the beginning, i.e. a woman with a medical condition discovered in childhood, have an easier time coping than those who have spent a lot of time and resources trying to have biological children?
  1. Dan mentions that while he wasn't put off by the concept of a home visit prior to adoption, but that for the straight couples it was another "insult on the pile of injuries and indignities of infertility” ( p.70). During your IF journey, what has been the experience that has left you feeling most exposed?
  1. One thing that got to me in this book is how these guys didn't have to go through the initial questioning of there OWN fertility. Two men can't make a baby, so they just moved straight to adoption. My question is this: Do you think the reason that you've gone so far with your fertility treatments is because you are caught up in proving to yourself that you ARE fertile? How much are you willing to put your body through in your quest for a baby before you decide to move onto adoption (if that is even an option for you)?
  1. On p. 164, Dan is terrified of bringing baby items into the house before the adoption is finalized. Will you (or did you) bring items into the house before a birth or an adoption?
  1. What do you think DJ will think when he reads this book down the line?

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