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Instagram censors loving photo of gay dads with newborn as “graphic” & “upsetting” content

Two bearded men nuzzle their infant child in this promotional image
The previously censored image, posted by Men Having Babies Photo: Sara Callow Photography, reprinted with permission from Men Having Babies

Instagram has censored an image of two real-life husbands affectionately nuzzling their newborn infant as “sensitive” and “graphic” content.

Men Having Babies, a non-profit organization that assists gay men who want to be fathers, posted the image to promote their upcoming April 26 conference in Berlin. Soon after posting the picture, Instagram censored it with a black message screen that made users click to see it.

“Sensitive Content,” the message screen says. “This photo may contain graphic or violent content… [or] images that some people might find upsetting.”

The image is of a real-life male couple, Sam and David (who go by @scousedads on Instagram), and their child Jude. There’s nothing graphic, violent, or upsetting about the image. In fact, Instagram has many similar images of lesbian and heterosexual couples affectionately nuzzling their own children.

Two bearded men nuzzle their infant child in this promotional image
Sara Callow Photography, reprinted with permission from Men Having Babies The censored image, posted by Men Having Babies, advertises their upcoming Berlin conference.

Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies, tells LGBTQ Nation that societal bias makes people suspect why two homosexual men would want to have a baby. When people imagine a childless couple, they’re more likely to imagine a sad woman and her husband or maybe a single woman rather than two men, he says.

“People don’t see us as natural parents,” Poole-Dayan continued. “Some cannot easily forget that [gay men are] also sexual beings,” he said, so some people may consider the sight of two men with children as “threatening” and “worthy of scrutiny.”

This isn’t the first time that Meta, the company that owns Instagram and Facebook, has censored the group’s images, he adds. He also isn’t sure whether an automated system or human reporting caused the censorship. But he suspects the fact that the image promoted a European event may have contributed, especially since a similar image used to promote their San Francisco conference wasn’t censored on Instagram.

Surrogacy and adoption aren’t available for male same-sex couples outside of the United Kingdom, Poole-Dayan says, and some countries have even criminalized commercial surrogacy, due to feminists and right-wingers who argue the practice is exploitative of poor women. Even more, the Italian government has begun stripping same-sex parents of their parental rights, and anti-gay sentiment in other East European countries has led to stigma against same-sex parents continent-wide.

The bias against same-sex fathers goes beyond Europe and social media, he adds. Some insurance companies in the U.S. won’t cover the surrogate-born children of male couples or neo-natal care for premature infants born to same-sex fathers, he says.

“I think the bigger message, especially when it comes to Europe, is that part of our human dignity and equality is in reproductive justice,” Poole-Dayan says. “We are worthy of being good parents, and that it is part of our human nature, and that doesn’t change when you’re gay.”

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