Although gay parenting is becoming more common in American society, same-sex parents and children still face many challenges when it comes to raising their children. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 33% of female same-sex couples and 22% of male same-sex couples had children under 18 living in their households. That figure has been increasing steadily over the years. However, these figures may still under-represent the actual numbers of same-sex parents in the U.S. today.
In June 2012, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a report titled APA on Children Raised by Gay and Lesbian Parents: How Do These Children Fare?, in which they purported: “The APA and other prominent health and social organizations have concluded that there is no scientific evidence that parenting effectiveness is related to parental sexual orientation.”
In other words, lesbian and gay parents, just like heterosexual parents, are able to provide support and a healthy environment to raise their children. Moreover, the psychological well-being of children living with same-sex parents compares to those being raised by heterosexual parents. Children of same-sex parents are also just as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to flourish. Despite the growth in numbers, same-sex parents and children still face important challenges.
PRIDE, PREJUDICE & DISCRIMINATION
Same-sex parents and children face prejudice and discrimination in schools, society, and even their families. “When I told my mother I was a lesbian, she was crushed. However, when I told her my partner and I were planning to have a child, she strongly opposed. She stopped talking to me until the baby was born. It was very painful,” recalls Lourdes. “Being raised in a traditional Hispanic household, homosexuality was not well-received. Furthermore, lesbianism was something people could not even comprehend and it was very taboo.”
In turn, Lucie and Vivian, a lesbian couple with three children, have experienced prejudice, not so much from their families, but at school. “I see the way some parents look at me, as if though I were ill or something,” says Lucie. “One time, one student asked one of my girls ‘where is your father?’ She said ‘I don’t have a father, but I have two mothers.’ I was devastated to think that, in Kindergarten, my daughter had to endure those hard questions. I have to say I was pretty impressed at how she, in spite of being so young, handled the question. Even though I could not help tearing up over the whole deal. Children should not be scrutinized for having two gay parents.”
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY
According to the APA, some people think that homosexuality is a mental illness and that homosexuals make inadequate parents. Moreover, some believe that homosexual women are less maternal than heterosexual women; thus, children of the first may not get as much nurturing as they should. However, there is no scientific basis for these concerns. Let it be clear that homosexuality is not a psychological disorder and that homosexuality does not impair the psychological functioning of individuals. Prejudice towards homosexual parents, however, can be a cause of acute distress. “The main fear that I have, raising my children in a conservative society, is that they will face discrimination and be bullied in school because of their background,” says Margaret. “I try not to worry about it too much but I cannot help it; it is always in the back of my mind.”
THE BIRDS AND THE BIRDS; THE BEES AND THE BEES
Having ‘the birds and the bees’ conversation with children of same-sex parents may be harder than for heterosexual couples or single parents. Many parents are very uncomfortable when it comes to talking to their kids about sexuality and how children are conceived. Homosexuality may make that conversation more complex and may lead to questions and answers that require planning ahead and lots of preparation.
SAME-SEX PARENTS ARE BETTER PARENTS?
According to Dr. Charlotte Patterson, there is no evidence to support the notion that lesbian and heterosexual women differ in their child-rearing approaches. Though same-sex couples have been found to divide the workload of child-rearing and childcare more evenly and report being more satisfied with their relationships and their partners. Moreover, some studies have found that lesbian mothers and gay parents may display superior parenting skills to their heterosexual counterparts. Given the substantial evidence on same-sex parenting, APA has resolved that “the sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation of natural, or prospective adoptive or foster parents should not be the sole or primary variable considered in custody or placement cases.”
Parenting is a challenging venture. Same-sex parenting may add more challenges to the mix; however, honesty, openness, and a lot of love are good tools to use to be successful parents.
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