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The Gay Parent
Challenging the Myths
by Demian
© October 2004, Demian

An estimated four million gay men and lesbians are raising eight-to-ten million children in the United States.

Usually invisible in the mainstream media, lesbian and gay parents are generally perceived through myths and stereotypes that go unchallenged. Here are basic issues that are often raised by such myths.

Myth: Children Benefit from Having a Mother and a Father

Strong families are defined by parents who are nurturing, caring, and loving. Orientation is irrelevant to these qualities.

The majority of studies have demonstrated that children raised by lesbian and gay parents grow up to be just as healthy, and well-adjusted, as children reared by non-gay parents.
[For study summaries, see the “Too High a Price” articles listed below.]

Further, male and female adult role models are available, in abundance, through friends of the family, relatives, schools, as well as through television and movies.

Myth: Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents are Likely to Become Gay Themselves

Raising this as an issue highlights the prejudice that gay people face. While same-sex attraction is totally common to humans throughout history, and witnessed throughout the animal kingdom, some still cling to the notion that it is somehow “unnatural” — even though it is an integral part of nature.

Prejudice notwithstanding, the idea that a parent could force one orientation or another is nonsense, and completely unsupported by fact. It is, after all, from straight parents that most gay children are born.

Numerous psychological and sociological studies have shown that children raised by lesbians and gay men are no more likely to become gay than those raised by non-gay parents.
[For study summaries, see the “Too High a Price” articles listed below.]

It is true that children raised by gay men and lesbians tend to be more aware of social differences and are more tolerant of others.

And, given the socially-driven hardships faced by lesbian and gay youths, the focus should be on parental and social support of lesbian and gay youth, not on whether lesbian and gay parents encourage their kids to be gay.

Myth: Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents Suffer from Stigmatization

According to a report by the American Psychological Association, not one study out of nearly 50 found children of gay or lesbian parents to be disadvantaged in any significant respect to those children raised by heterosexual parents.

The children of lesbian and gay parents are no more likely than the children of other targeted groups to suffer stigmatization or harassment. African-American and Jewish parents help their children cope with racial or religious bigotry. Similarly, gay parents guide their children to deal with anti-gay prejudice.

The right of a child to be raised in a loving and emotionally healthy home should not depend on the prejudice of others.

Myth: Gay Men Abuse Children

Every study on sexual abuse, by diverse organizations that range from the Connecticut Correctional Institute to the Child Welfare League of America, reports that there is no connection between child abusers and sexual orientation.

Myth: Most Social Worker Organizations are Against Lesbian and Gay Adoptions

The Child Welfare League of America, the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the National Association of Social Workers all support evaluating gay and lesbian applicants for adoption using the same criteria as heterosexual applicants.

Myth: Lesbian and Gay Parents Enjoy the Same Rights as Non-Gay Parents

Lesbian and gay parents are denied many of the rights and benefits afforded to non-gay parents. Many struggle to retain fair custody and visitation arrangements, or to secure employment-related benefits for a non-biological child. In some states, children have been taken away from their mother simply because of her orientation.

Lesbian and gay parents deserve, and should be given, the same rights and responsibilities that non-gay parents enjoy.

Why Same-Sex Couples Want Second-Parent Adoptions

Many same-sex couples, who jointly raise children, are burdened by the lack of a next-of-kin status that a legal marriage would allow. Presently, no U.S. state allows legal marriage for same-sex couples.
[Please see: Quick Facts on Legal Marriage]

Vermont offers a Civil Union, thereby a kin status, but only within the state, and it is not recognized by the federal system.

For most same-sex couples, only one of the adults is legally recognized as the parent. That is, only one person has the right to make decisions about a child’s health, education, and well-being. Only one of them is obligated to support the child.

If a child is not their next-of-kin, they may not be able to get workplace medical benefits for a child.

In the event the legal parent becomes ill or dies, the surviving partner could lose any ability to be the child’s guardian, even though the surviving partner may have been the one who devoted most of their time raising the child.

Same-sex couples want to protect their children by securing legal relationships with both parents.

© 2004, Demian

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