Hot Topic: Should Parents Choose a Gender?

If given the option, many parents choose to adopt girls. We reported on this preference, as well as the unintended consequences for the boys who are left behind, and the article has sparked quite a debate. Here's what our readers had to say.

Readers sound off: Should you be allowed to choose whether to adopt a boy or a girl?

If you haven’t read the original article, you can read it here and weigh in with your own thoughts.

“We didn’t specify a gender, but can understand why others would.”

My husband and I we were so ready to be parents, we had very few restrictions in our search. We were blessed with an amazing seven-year-old son.

But, who hasn’t known a family larger than it might have been due to the desire for a certain sex? In my own family of three siblings, had my sister been a boy, there would have only been two of us. Wanting a son or wanting a daughter has long been a part of the family landscape. So, if an adopting couple chooses to wait for a girl and rather than adopt a boy, it is certainly within their rights.
—Dawn, via e-mail

I know families who would not have adopted if they could not have chosen the sex of their child. For example, a family with four boys probably would not have adopted had they not been allowed to choose a girl. That would have been one less child that found a forever family. In my case, I thought I wanted a little girl but I accepted a referral for a little boy. My social worker that helped me realize I did not need to narrow my options on my dossier to one sex or the other. Let families decide what is best for their situation.
—Melanie, via e-mail

Originally, I wanted a girl more than anything. Halfway through the adoption process, we changed agencies, and the new agency didn’t allow us to specify gender. We knew this meant we would probably get the referral of a boy. It was a hard decision, especially since we had already painted the room pink and bought beautiful, lacy dresses, but in the end we decided that our trust in our agency was more important than the sex of our child. The second I saw the picture of my son my heart was forever changed. Suddenly, I didn’t care about lace and bows—all I cared about was my beautiful baby boy. Last week we celebrated our son’s fourth birthday. I am ashamed that there was ever any doubt in my mind. While I don’t get to enjoy princess costumes, hockey practice is now our main entertainment. There are other things you will find to appreciate and enjoy.
—Michelle, via e-mail

[Your Guide to Learning About Adoption Online]

“We didn’t specify a gender, and don’t feel that it should be allowed.”

Your article about the questionable right to choose the gender of an adopted child really hit home with us. A tiny part of us wanted a daughter, but we didn’t feel it was right to specify. After all, a blessing is a blessing. Had we done so, we never would have met the little guy who has completely changed our lives for the better!
—Donna, Massachusetts

In your article, an adoptive mother stated, “Biology didn’t allow us to bear children, so why shouldn’t we get a choice that bio parents lack, to kind of even the score?” As a woman who has suffered primary infertility, I do not share this perspective. And although I understand the various reasons why people want to chose the sex of their adopted child, I’m not convinced this should be permitted in every situation.

It seems to me that the mentality of entitlement that afflicts so many Americans is revealing itself in the attitude of many seeking to adopt. This isn’t shopping for a new car, or cell phone plan that best suits the needs of our lifestyle or family. Since when did our children have to fit into our lifestyle? And is the difference between a male or female child such a disruption to one’s lifestyle, anyway?
—Rhonda, California

I am perplexed with perspective parents who opt to “choose” the gender of their child. Regardless, of infertility or other losses, we are talking about little human beings! Adoption in NOT your chance to get even or fulfill mental images. No matter what the parents have endured in the past, these little children have ventured down a much tougher road. These children need their parents to love them unconditionally and provide the comfort that a family brings. Children do not need the extra burden of fulfilling their parents’ needs.
—Lisa, Massachusetts

I think adoptive families should be just like biological families and the sex of their child should be a “surprise.” Anyone who has gone through the anguish of trying to conceive without success must remember the feelings of just wanting a child to love. When we were praying for a baby, I don’t think we cared about gender, so, when adoption becomes a reality, we still shouldn’t care about gender. My husband and I were given a choice in our second adoption. We chose not to specify gender, and we couldn’t be happier with our two sons. I can’t fathom anyone who truly wants to adopt a child who would turn away a child for being the “wrong” gender.
—Kathleen, via e-mail

[Share Your Story: Choosing a Gender]

I am thrilled that this important issue has finally been addressed as the subject of a major article. When I entered the process, I welcomed the element of surprise, but thought carefully about what it would mean to be a single mother of a boy—I knew that the odds were better for receiving the referral of a boy. It seemed to me that I would be comfortable with a boy and could provide him with role models through eager and supportive family and friends. This has indeed turned out to be the case.

My son has been the joy and light of my life. Never was there such an affectionate, loving, cuddly, responsive child. And, he has plenty of male role models in his life. But, what about a female role model? Doesn’t a boy also need that, as well? Don’t little girls need male adult role models, too?

On a somewhat humorous note, ALL the parents I have spoken with over the years swear by the fact that in reality, their boys were much easier to raise on the whole than their girls, especially in the teen years!
—Elizabeth, Massachusetts

My husband and I adamantly refused to request a gender when adopting our three children (and even requested that birth moms keep it a secret, if they already knew). Why should we have a choice in adoption that we wouldn’t have had biologically? Still, I wonder if some adoptions only happen because families who are boy- or girl-heavy can specify that they are ready to round out their family with the opposite sex. Perhaps there is a time and a place for it, but I think it becomes a very fine line to walk.
—Kelly, Minnesota

“We feel it’s okay to specify, and we chose a girl.”

As the biological parents of two boys, my husband and I wanted to adopt a baby girl, which we just did. I believe that if an adoptive parent WANTS to choose which gender they adopt, they should have that choice. It is our choice to adopt. The fact is that there are so many children in this world that need adopting that it shouldn’t matter to the adoptive country, the adoption agency, or bystanders (especially ones that aren’t adopting one of these precious children themselves), which gender an adoptive parent wants to adopt. In my opinion, the total number of children in orphanages or foster care dropping with each adoption matters more than the boy/girl ratio.
—An AF Reader, via e-mail

I just wanted to comment that we have two biological sons and we decided to adopt so that we could be assured of having a daughter. We would not have adopted if we hadn’t had that choice.
—Julie, New York

After undergoing eight years of infertility, lots of uncertainty, and several let-downs, we chose to adopt from Guatemala. We chose this over domestic because we had a bit more control over “when the baby would come.” It was kind of like a bonus that we were able to choose the sex… something you’d never be able to do with a biological child, and I’d always wanted a girl. If I am given the opportunity to adopt in the future, however, I’m pretty sure I would either choose a boy, or just leave it up to fate.
—Kim, Illinois

[Parent-to-Parent: My Best Advice to Myself]

“We feel it’s okay to specify, and we chose a boy.”

I can’t understand why people are so enamored with adopting little girls. We opted to adopt a boy, and he is a joy! Yes, he is a typical little boy who likes to roughhouse, is loud, and very physical. He also loves to read and cuddle and is one of the most tenderhearted children you will ever meet. Yes, boys are a lot of work when they’re young. But I wouldn’t miss the hug and kiss I get each night, the spontaneous “Love you, Momma,” or the hundred other things that happen every day with my son for anything.
—Shelli, Ohio

Yes, I believe parents should be given this choice. We will bring home our seven-year-old son next month. We wanted a boy, and we wanted an older child. I am sad, though, for the older children and the boys who do not get “chosen.”
—Shari, via e-mail

Just because one can’t determine the gender of a birth child doesn’t mean that the same rule should apply to adoption. After all, adoption is always about choice. This is, in my view, what makes it special. On the other hand, I think it’s important to reflect upon the assumptions that may underlie our preferences in the first place.

For example, the idea that a single woman is better off adopting girls instead of boys seems to be based on a sexist assumption that certain behaviors and preferences apply to all females or to all males, and that the existence of this standard makes raising a child of the same gender easier for a single parent. That’s nonsense, in my opinion, and why I decided I could parent two brothers from the foster system. With that said, I agree that a single woman adopting boys has a responsibility to ensure adult male family members and friends. But this also applies to girls, because they need positive male influences, too!
—Beverly, California

Adoption Professionals Weigh In

I wanted to congratulate Lisa Milbrand on a job well done. What an excellent, well-written, well-rounded article on a topic that especially needed to be addressed. I think every family should have a copy of this article as part of their decision making process. Bravo!
—James Molter, MA, executive director, God’s Families International Adoption Services

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