Gay Parents

Civil marriages between homosexual partners provide a vast array of protections, responsibilities and benefits for the couple. These include health care and medical decision-making for the partner and children, immigration rights, inheritance, taxation, parenting and other benefits which are traditionally available through marriage.

Gay parents include people who are lesbian, gay men, bisexual and transgender, parenting one or more children. Gay parents have a variety of ways to have children, such as heterosexual relationships, adoption and foster care. A male may enter into a heterosexual marriage in which fatherhood is achieved through sexual union. Less common means for men are out of wedlock impregnation through natural means or artificial insemination. Mother surrogacy is also an option for gay male couples, via artificial insemination of mixed sperm of the couple. Pies (1985) noted it is common for lesbians to choose parenthood, conception occurring through artificial insemination of sperm donated by a gay man of their choice. Adoption and providing foster care are also options to gay parents.

Lindesmith, Strauss and Denzin (1977) found that gay fathers proceed through a public or objective father career. The typical process has five stages: dating, marriage, becoming a father, alteration in the spousal relationship (separation or divorce) and enactment of gay lifestyle. Gradual reformulation of sexual identity from a heterosexual or bisexual lifestyle to homosexual identity is referred to as private and subjective.

Kirkpatrick (1996) noted the most visible group of non-heterosexual parents are lesbian mothers. Similar to the gay father process, lesbian mothers conceive and give birth to children within the context of heterosexual relationships, adopting a lesbian identity later in life. Foster care and adoption are options for gay parents. Ricketts and Achtenberg note that many gay parents remain largely invisible to the general public. On one hand, this invisibility has served to increase the likelihood of gay parents adopting or becoming foster parents. Although not actively misrepresenting their sexual orientation, they simply make no mention of it. On the other hand, choosing to volunteer sexual orientation information to a social worker or evaluator presents complete transparency of parentage, to avoid future issues that may arise from withholding such information.

Pies noted that conceiving through the use of artificial insemination, known as alternative fertilization, is a popular choice among gay and lesbian couples wishing to become parents. Intricate and advanced planning of a deliberate and intentional decision to have a child is important for both gay couples. As it is widely believed that family environments exert significant influences on children who grow up around then, Patterson (1992, 1994), Tasker and Golombok, (1997) investigated what kind of home environments can foster positive development. Baumrind (1995), suggested that the experience of growing up with a gay or lesbian parent may have significant effects on the children involved.

Green, Mandel, Hotvedt, Gray and L. Smith (1986) conducted a comparison study of children of single heterosexual mothers with children of lesbian mothers on measures of sexual identity, gender-role preferences, family and peer relationships and adjustment to the single parent family. They found no significant differences for boys. Girls of lesbian mothers were less traditionally feminine in dress, play preferences and future career choices. However, researchers confirmed none of the participating children had gender identity disorder.

Response research was conducted by Mandel and Hotvedt (1980) and Solomon (1982) as a reaction to society's fear that children being raised by lesbians will be confused in their sexual identity and whether they, too, will become homosexual. Studies of children of gay and lesbian parents show that parent sexual orientation had no influence on the child's sexual orientation or feelings about their sex (Patterson, 1992).

Research by M. B. Harris and Turner (1985 to 1986), reported that gay and lesbian parents do not perceive their homosexuality posed serious problems between themselves and their children and generally had positive relationships with their children. Heterosexual and homosexual parents displayed similar rates in research investigating parent-child problems and adjustment issues (Gottman 1989).

Gay and lesbian couples are creating families which challenge the norm of the ‘nuclear' family. Western society has traditionally viewed gay and lesbian men in terms of their sexual preference. The prevailing societal attitude that gay and lesbian couples should not be parents stems from negative attitudes about homosexuals in general. Assumptions about their attitudes to children frequently lead people to believe gay couples would not make good parents.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Courting Change: Queer Parents, Judges, and the Transformation of American Family Law
Kimberly D. Richman.
New York University Press, 2009
Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out
Jane Drucker.
Insight Books, 1998
Lesbian and Gay Families Speak Out: Understanding the Joys and Challenges of Diverse Family Life
Jane Drucker.
Perseus Books, 2001
Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship
Kath Weston.
Columbia University Press, 1991
Gay Men Choosing Parenthood
Gerald P. Mallon.
Columbia University Press, 2004
Gay and Lesbian Adoptive and Foster Care Placements: Can They Meet the Needs of Waiting Children?
Brooks, Devon; Goldberg, Sheryl.
Social Work, Vol. 46, No. 2, April 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Homosexual Parents
Cameron, Paul; Cameron, Kirk.
Adolescence, Vol. 31, No. 124, Winter 1996
Queer Families, Queer Politics: Challenging Culture and the State
Mary Bernstein; Renate Reimann.
Columbia University Press, 2001
Parenting and Child Development in "Nontraditional" Families
Michael E. Lamb.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "Families Headed by Lesbian and Gay Parents"
All Our Families: New Policies for a New Century
Mary Ann Mason; Arlene Skolnick; Stephen D. Sugarman.
Oxford University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "Gay and Lesbian Families: Queer like Us"
Parents, Children and Communication: Frontiers of Theory and Research
Thomas J. Socha; Glen H. Stamp.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Communication in Lesbian and Gay Families: Building a Descriptive Base"
The Kids Are All Right: Three Teens Who Are Being Raised by Gay Parents Are Taking on the Conservative Establishment to Defend Their Families
Neff, Lisa.
The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), July 20, 2004
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