Dolce & Gabbana Ignite Surrogacy Controversy with “Synthetic Family” Comments


Early last year, a story exploded upon the assisted fertility industry – one which had immediate worldwide reverberations. Founders of Dolce & Gabbana, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, received considerable backlash after their controversial comments on children born from surrogate parents.

After British music legend Sir Elton John took to social media to call for a boycott of the designers' products, many others followed suit. Meanwhile, stars such as Zoe Saldana faced their own backlash after publicly upholding the pair's right to express their opinion, and refusing to join in the boycott.

Today, almost a year later, the controversy continues to rage. Some settle for calling Dolce and Gabbana old-fashioned, outdated, or even superstitious. Others continue to advocate for a boycott of their designs, while a few regard the entire situation as irrelevant. Some have also questioned the translations from the original Italian, or simply pointed to widely-held cultural beliefs within the pair's strongly Catholic culture.
As they are a former couple themselves, however, the words of Dolce and Gabbana have struck a nerve within the international gay community. It is unlikely that the controversy over their remarks will fade any time soon, with many having come to regard them as insensitive, hateful, and vulgar. Others simply find them to be insensitive, but they draw the line prior to labeling them as hateful.

A Powerful International Backlash

“We oppose gay adoptions,” reads the translated version of Domenico Dulce's statement. “The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow. There are things that should not be changed.” He went on to add, “You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that's how it should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog.”

While less outspoken, Stefano Gabbana did have this to say: “The family is not a fad. In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”

While their words were translated, leading to the possibility of some unintended implications, many have read into their comments as possessing a certain vitriol. This is particularly true regarding the words of Domenico Dulce. Their sentiment has inspired shock, dismay, and heated outrage from across the globe, with many internationally famous homosexual couples patently expressing their outrage. Some of these have already availed themselves of the services of gestational surrogates to begin their own families.

“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as 'synthetic'” raged iconic British rocker Elton John via his Instagram account. Elton, who married his long-time partner David Furnish in December, is raising two children who were born of a surrogate mother. “And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF - a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfill their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again.” He concluded his message with the hashtag #BoycottDolceGabbana, which has since been picked up by thousands of other social media accounts.

Internationally famous chef Art Smith also held a protest gala, an event which he called “Take the Hate Off the Runway.”

“As a gay married couple with four gorgeous children,” Art stated for the Huffington Post article, “my husband Jesus Salgueiro and I join families across the world – gay and straight – in protest against these hateful, ugly, loveless comments by Dolce and Gabbana. Behind the beauty was always ugly. As Dr. Maya Angelou said, 'When people show you who they are, believe them.'”

Other high-profile comments have come from such individuals as Ricky Martin, Kaeyi Dream, and Val McDermid. Val's tweeted comment of “Oh bugger, there go my sunglasses,” which was accompanied by Sir Elton's boycott hashtag, drew a great deal of immediate attention to the Panorama interview from throughout the international community.

The Designers' Response

Stefano Gabbana publicly responded to the outcry over his and Domenico's statements within days of their being made public. “We talked about our way of seeing reality, but it was never our intent to judge other peoples' choices,” Gabbana said, adding that he and Dolce believe resolutely in the ideals of “freedom and love” and meant their comments to be taken as “traditional, not hateful.”

With Gabbana taking to Instragram in his own turn to defend his freedom of expression, his former romantic partner likewise insisted that he had not intended to suggest any illegitimacy. He pointed to his own upbringing in defense of his statements: “I'm Sicilian,” Dolce explained, in a statement issued to the Huffington Post. “I grew up in a traditional family, with a mother, a father, and children. I am very well aware that there are other types of families, and they are as legitimate as the one I have known. But in my personal experience, family had a different configuration.”

The controversy continues, with more recent comments on various traditional and social media outlets focusing on freedom of expression versus freedom of choice, and whether or not the boycott of Dolce & Gabbana products is an appropriate response to the pair's statements.