When we think about Greece these days, images of protesters throwing Molotov cocktails at police in Syntagma Square demonstrating their anger over austerity measures come to mind. On a daily basis, we hear about the Euro crisis and Greece’s plummeting economy sure to destroy the Eurozone and quite possibly the world economy.
This was pretty much normal life for us when my partner Barb and I were living in Athens, Greece. Barb is a Foreign Service officer for the Department of State so we get sent all over the globe for two-year assignments. While in Greece, we witnessed this kind of spectacle on a daily basis, but we also faced a separate, silent type of Greek crisis—the kind you don’t hear about on the news. We wanted a baby and were planning our fertility process in this Mediterranean machismo, sexist, anti-gay culture. Forget about resources, support groups, or LGBT community centers – this place was like living in the pre-Stonewall world. On a recommendation from a non-Greek, we found an OB GYN who was willing to help us make our wish come true. However, she was only able to do IUI, and after several unsuccessful rounds of this, we decided we were ready to go the IVF route. This meant leaving the safe haven of our understanding, very “un-Greek-like” female OBGYN and venturing out into the male-dominated medical field in Greece.
We were turned away from the first IVF doctor we visited; he told us he could not help us because it is simply “not legal for homosexuals to have children in this country.” Wow. While I was pretty sure this cannot actually be true, there was obviously no use in arguing. I am a female and a foreigner — what do I know?
Dumbfounded, we went home and decided we needed a strategy. At the next doctor that we visited, I went in alone while my partner of six years, who I introduced as my sister, sat in the waiting room while I lied through my teeth to the doctor. I am a single woman who wants to have a child. I have a friend who will be my donor…Whoa! Stop right there. Apparently it is also “not legal to use a known donor who is not your husband in this country.” Seriously? In Greece, known donors are only used in fertility treatment for married couples. And yes, they actually insist on seeing a marriage certificate provided by none other than the Greek Orthodox Church! If a single woman chooses to have a child through IVF (although why she would ever want to do such a thing without a husband is unfathomable in Greece), she must use an unknown donor.
So, we went home again to devise yet another new plan. In Greece, it is all about relationships and who you know, so I did as any Greek villager would do and reached out to my friend’s Greek teacher’s sister’s lawyer boyfriend, and he agreed to meet with us to help us navigate (or circumnavigate) the system. Since a Church-issued marriage certificate is damn near impossible to forge, we decided to fabricate a story that our American donor and I were engaged to be married, but he was about to be sent to fight in Iraq before our official wedding and we wanted to get me knocked up… ya know, just in case. This the Greek doctors could finally understand – because the threat of a man dying without passing on his manly man genes is a more serious tragedy than an unmarried woman becoming pregnant.
The whole thing was completely ridiculous but somehow the (note: Greek male) lawyer’s letter seemed to do the trick and the next doctor we visited — who acted like he was doing us a favor worthy of naming our child after him — finally agreed to allow us to pay him thousands of Euros to work with my “sister” and me. At each visit I had to politely ask if my sister could come in the room with me, as an extra set of ears because I was so emotionally distraught over my soldier-fiancé-fighting-in-Iraq-as-we-speak dilemma that I might forget my instructions and shove the needle into my face or something. Oh, and did I mention we could get a 50 percent discount if we paid in cash, so the doctor could evade taxes and screw their economy even more? Way to go Greece. Maybe the day you get your machismo heads out of the sand you’ll be able to start fixing your ailing country in more ways than the rest of the world views on the news.
As for Barb and me, while our dream didn’t end up coming true in Greece, we now live in New York and have a beautiful three-month-old baby girl.
Jen is currently a full-time “slava:” a slave to Ava, her new baby. She is also the spouse of a diplomat, which means packing up the cats and moving to a new faraway land every few years. They’ve lived in Cyprus and Greece and head to Finland next year. In the meantime, she and her partner Barb are the only lesbians that live in the gayborhood of Chelsea and they love it.