Briton makes child dreams come true for broody German gays and lesbians

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The Independent Online

Even as a teenager, Susan Darrant knew that one day she would want to be a mother. And nothing was preventing her from realising her dream - but for the fact that her partner was another woman.

Even as a teenager, Susan Darrant knew that one day she would want to be a mother. And nothing was preventing her from realising her dream - but for the fact that her partner was another woman.

Aware that many other same-sex couples faced this dilemma, British-born Ms Darrant founded an agency in Germany dedicated to bringing together gays and lesbians who share a longing for children. Her unusual matchmaking business, Queer and Kids, is probably the only one of its kind in the world.

An optician of Anglo-German parentage, Ms Darrant, 34, has come a long way from her birthplace in Hendon, north London, to working-class Friedrichshain - the latest haven for Berlin's nomadic avant-garde. After her father died, she moved with her German mother to Bavaria when she was five. From Munich she made her way to Berlin, Germany's gay and lesbian capital.

Ms Darrant herself does not regard her sexual orientation as fixed. "Now I'm a lesbian because I'm together with a woman," she says. By the same token, she frowns on the new expression "gayby" to describe a child of homosexual parents.

For an initial fee of about £100, potential parents receive consultation, legal information and an entry on Ms Darrant's database. For an additional £130, Queer and Kids provides the first three matches of other homosexuals that match the profile. "I just try to bring people together with the same wishes and interests," she says. The rest is up to them: most pregnancies are by do-it-yourself artificial insemination, but if couples want to skirt round that hit-and-miss method and do it the traditional way, it is their business.

Ms Darrant wants her clients to get to know each other personally. "It's very emotional," she says. "You get involved in the intimate lives of clients, so it takes up a lot of time." From the moment a client walks into her office to when a baby is actually on the way can take up to a year.

So far, 40 couples have agreed to have children, and several women are pregnant. What happens afterwards varies - some gay men want simply to supply the sperm, while others wish to take part in raising the child.

The other routes to parenthood for gays and lesbians have their problems. "I'm against sperm banks," says Ms Darrant. "I think they're too anonymous. It's important for a child to know his father and mother, his roots."

Foster children, meanwhile, often come from troubled backgrounds, and the relationships are only temporary. As for adopting a child, there is very high demand from heterosexual couples, and gays and lesbians are lowest priority.

"I thought something was missing," says Ms Darrant. "You could tell from the personal ads that people were looking for it." She ran the first ad for her agency in a Berlin gay magazine in February last year, and 100 requests now come into her office every month from all over Germany. Some clients live as far away as New York and Tel Aviv.

As in other western European countries, calls here for broader definitions of marriage and family have caused an uproar among traditionalists. Only the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands facilitate artificial insemination, and Germany bans both surrogate mothers and anonymous sperm donations.

Ms Darrant contends that future custody suits are as likely - or unlikely - as in conventional families. "Of course there will always be problems. You can't expect everything to be perfect for 30 years," she says. "But it's the same with heterosexuals. In Germany, 30 per cent of married couples divorce after their child reaches the age of five."

Soon, Susan Darrant, too, will become a mother, having decided with her partner that she would be the one to become pregnant. The father will be a man she has known for a long time, not someone she found through her own agency. That would be too indiscreet.