Children for Same-Sex Couples

Recently, it was National Coming Out day, a day for raising awareness for the acceptance of LGBT people by our community. Today, my family and I were talking about what it could feel like to have a gay child.

My mom said it would be weird… you could not go visit that child and his/her spouse and their kids… because any kids they had would not be 100% their own! The most a gay couple can do is use one parents’ DNA and combine in with a donor’s. But really, with medical technology progressing the way it is, will this be true for much longer?

There are constantly being tests being done by scientist to learn more about how we can control life, whether with cloning, stem cells, or growing new organs for patients who need a transplant. It could definitely possible to have a same-sex couple have their own genetic children. It would be difficult and expensive, and it would require egg extraction, but it could be done. Perhaps not now, but I would bet within 20 years.

The ovum, or “egg”, from a female human is about 20 times the size of a human sperm. This is because the sperm is essentially just a swimming nucleus of DNA. The ovum, however, has cytoplasm, mitochondria, and all that other cell stuff. These other components of the cell are what are able to replicate to create every functioning cell in the human body.

Of course, the main difference between an ovum and any other human cell is that an ovum only has half of a full set of chromosomes; it needs to be met with a sperm which has the other half in order to form a full set of human DNA and begin to replicate. The nuclei of the ovum and of the sperm, I believe, are essentially the same. It is the rest of the cell that makes the difference.

So, what do you need to make a new baby? You need an ovum and half a nucleus from each parent.

Theoretically, for a gay male couple to have a biological child, you could take an egg from a donor, extract the nucleus from the ovum, and insert the nuclei from the two fathers. As long as at least one of the two nuclei contained an X chromosome, the egg could then be implanted into a surrogate mother, and grow into a baby!

For two women, you would take an egg from each, and transplant the nucleus from into the other. Then the two nuclei would combine inside the one ovum. Of course, by this method, a lesbian couple could only give birth to a daughter, since the mothers’ nuclei would only be X chromosomes sets.

How far fetched is this? I think some procedure like this may have successfully been done already. If I made a habit of reading up on scientific journals, perhaps I would know. I know that this procedure IS expensive and difficult and does not have a high success rate. However, as technology improves, it will definitely get easier!

I am my own fifth cousin.

No, I’m serious. My uncle keeps a record of our family’s genealogy on a computer program, and there is a view where you can see a list of names of family members and your relationship to them. Next to my dad’s name it says he is my father… and my fourth cousin once removed! I am my own self AND fifth cousin!

There is actually a very simple explanation for this technicality: one set of my great great great grandparents (of which there are 16 pairs) was first cousins. I will go into more detail.

What is a cousin? First cousins are something we are all familiar with. First cousins are people who each have one parent that were siblings with each other. Basically, my mom’s brother’s kids are my first cousins.

Second, third, fourth etc cousins occur when you go down another generation. My kids and my cousin’s kids will be second cousins. People who are any degree of cousin-ness are in the same generation, but the higher the degree of cousin-ness, the farther back your common ancestor is. First cousins have common grandparents. Second cousins have common great grandparents but NOT common grandparents, and so on.

Then there are also “removed” cousins. A removed cousin is someone who is in a different generation from you. For example, my first cousin’s children would be my first cousins once removed. This is because they are removed one generation from me, and we share ancestors who are my grandparents but my first cousin’s once removed’s great grandparents.

So how did I become my own fifth cousin? Well, my great great great grandparents, as I mentioned, were first cousins (this was like, the 1700s or something so… let it slide). This would mean their children, who were obviously siblings to each other, were technically also second cousins to each other, because the children of first cousins are second cousins. This meant my great great grandparents were first cousins once removed to their own parents.

Go down a few more generations and the same technicality remains, but you go from first to second, third, fourth, and fifth degrees. I am five generations from the first cousins who married, so I am fifth cousin to myself. I am also fourth cousin once removed to my father, and fifth cousin to my sister.

Here is a simplified family tree I have prepared to illustrate this. There are no siblings on here (I have sister, my parents have multiple siblings, basically everyone on here has siblings but they are not important to the story and it would make the chart too big).

This strange technicality occurred with my father’s mother’s mother’s parents being first cousins. There are, of course, hundreds and hundreds of pairs in this lineage where these kind of things could have happened that I don’t know about. What about my father’s father’s side? What about my mother’s side? The possibilities are endless.

If you think about it, the chances are rather high that you are your own fifth cousin, too.