You’ve got life figured out pretty well. In your mid-thirties, you are a successful Manager of Human Resources at the London branch of a multinational financial services company; you and your husband Iain, the mathematics teacher, have comfortably settled into your townhouse in Vauxhall; you have loving in-laws (both of you), a sizeable diverse group of friends, an active social life…and yet…something is missing.
Long before you met, you and Iain both longed to be fathers, and since moving in together six years ago, you have often discussed wanting to raise a child. You know there are no financial or legal impediments to your having and raising a child together; you have looked into the various possibilities, including surrogacy and adoption, and the two of you are emotionally ready and eager to make that leap into parenthood.
There’s just one potential impediment: You’re gay. It’s entirely possible that you will meet with hesitation or outright hostility from adoption agencies and/or fertility clinics and/or other governmental or NGO agencies and healthcare providers. It can be even more difficult to become parents if one of you is HIV-positive. Where can you get information regarding these and other issues faced by LGBTQ parents, both HIV-positive and negative?
Enter the P3 Network. The P3 Network was established in 2014 to support ambitious, successful LGBTQ professionals who are hoping to become parents or who already have children. Before then, help that was available to couples hoping to become parents was geared to heterosexual couples; the needs of and issues faced by LGBTQ couples were too nuanced, too “niche” for traditional family support networks to deal with. The P3 Network seeks to address those “niche” needs for LGBTQ parents and would-be parents as well as for heterosexual parents who have LGBTQ children. Currently, P3 supports professionals in over sixty UK multinational corporations, government and regulatory agencies, and schools. The P3 Network’s core belief is that “Family is family—irrespective of sexual orientation or family make up—and that at the heart of every family is love. And love doesn’t discriminate.”
Reflecting the diversity of the population they serve, the P3 Network was founded by and is staffed by LGBTQ parents who themselves have demanding careers in finance, law, and professional services, and who understand the different routes to creating a family. The network’s board is comprised of men and women, straight as well as LGBTQ, who have created their families in a variety of ways—in the traditional way, via IVF, or through adoption. Since its inception, the Network has partnered with other organizations and companies to present informational, educational panel discussions.
For example, in September 2016, P3 Network presented “Going At It Alone: Single LGBT Parenting,” the very first single parenting panel event in the UK. The panel consisted of single LGBTQ parents and covered topics such as childcare, coping strategies, work/life balance and dating. Similarly, in October 2016, P3 presented “The Birds and Bees of Creating LGBT Families”; this panel discussion featured LGBTQ parents and industry professionals covering topics such as adoption and foster parenting, surrogacy, donor insemination, co-parenting, and the financial, social, and legal considerations of being LGBTQ parents. In March 2017, P3 sponsored the UK’s very first panel on parenting in the transgender community. “Trans*Parenting: “Trans*itioning into a Modern Family” addressed the effects of parenthood on transitioning, the effects on parenting of being gender-fluid or non-binary, and how identifying as trans affects one’s role as a parent; the panelists, all recognized as Financial Times Outstanding Leaders, emphasized that being transgender has not prevented their having a family. And finally, in June 2017, the Network sponsored “Introducing my Family: Out & Proud,” an informal discussion and networking session that featured straight kids with LGBTQ parents and LGBTQ kids with straight parents, discussing what it means to be a member of a diverse, inclusive family.
Addressing the concerns of parents, both straight and LGBTQ, with LGBTQ children in school, the P3 Network, in conjunction with Diversity Role Models, wrote an informational resource for parents and caregivers to assist them in determining how committed their children’s school is to diversity and inclusion. The very first resource of its kind, Inclusion Matters provides information about state and independent schools’ statutory obligations under the Equality Act 2010. Composed by education specialists, consultants, diversity practitioners and parents, the guide is aimed at parents and caregivers considering educational options available to their children (aged three to eighteen years). The guide is useful not only to LGBTQ parents and students but also to anyone, parents or caregivers, concerned with all measures of diversity and inclusion, including gender, race, and religion.
The difficulties of parenting or becoming a parent are magnified when one or both of you is HIV-positive. Will any adoption agency allow an HIV-positive man or woman to adopt a child? If you choose surrogacy, do you run the risk of transmitting the virus to the mother and/or the child? The P3 Network firmly believes that one’s ability to love and raise a child is not, and should not be, hampered by their HIV status; they hope to remove the stigma surrounding HIV-positive parents and demonstrate that parenting while positive is indeed possible and safe.
Thus, they launched their “Positive Parenting” campaign. The campaign hopes to challenge general biases and stereotypes around HIV; to remove the stigma associated with being positive; to provide positive role models for prospective parents; to educate a community of business managers and human resources professionals so they can better support HIV-positive parents; and to explore the options available to HIV-positive folks looking to become parents (adoption, surrogacy, etc). Considering that (according to a study revealed at the European AIDS Conference in October 2017) sixty-eight percent of HIV-positive UK respondents said they fear disclosing their status, nearly half believing that being positive would be a barrier to having a family, and seventy-three percent saying they are afraid to transmit the virus to their partners (or, in the case of women, to their child), it seems that there is definitely a need for the dissemination of current, nonjudgmental information (including the recent news that an HIV-positive person who has a suppressed viral load and who remains on ART medications, cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners).
As part of “Positive Parenting,” on December 1, 2017, World AIDS Day, the P3 Network launched a global campaign to challenge stereotypes and provide useful, up-to-date resources to those with HIV who are looking to start a family. Campaign partners include DIVA, Terrence Higgins Trust, Elton John Aids Foundation, Attitude Magazine, the NHS, British HIV Association (BHIVA), Care Fertility, STOPAIDS and Pride in London. Beginning with “Positive Parenting: Parenting with HIV,” a panel and networking opportunity co-hosted in London by LinkedIn and co-sponsored by the Terrence Higgins Foundation and others, the event will present two panel discussions, one on the emotional aspects of becoming a “positive parent” from the perspectives of real HIV-positive parents, and one on the medical and legal considerations surrounding adoption and surrogacy for ‘positive parents’ from the perspective of industry experts.
Also on World AIDS Day, the P3 Network launched a new website, www.hivandfamily.com. Combining resources from various legal, medical, and charitable organizations, the new website will provide access to data and factsheets that will enable people with HIV, as well as councilors, educators, and medical professionals, to educate themselves on available options for starting a family. The Positive Parenting campaign will also launch an anti-stigma video designed to help remove stigma, debunk myths surrounding parenting with HIV and demonstrate that it is both possible and safe. (See below for a link to the video.)
For the P3 Network’s COO, Michael Newton, the network’s work is very personal. “As a gay man living with HIV,” he told A&U, “this has been a very personal project for me. I was diagnosed with HIV in 2012, and even with the advances we have seen in medicine in the last ten years and the topic being more talked about than ever there is still a huge amount of stigma around this disease and it is still very much viewed as an LGBT disease; this disease is a mainstream issue—not a gay issue…[I]t has made me want to be a voice for people with HIV (LGBT or straight) as there aren’t many people speaking up for the community, saying that ‘yes, you can do….’”
Hank Trout is an Editor at Large at A&U. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.