Lesbian and Gay Parenthood
Charlotte J. Patterson
University of Virginia
The central heterosexist assumption that everyone is or ought to be heterosexual is nowhere more prevalent than in the area of parent–child relations. Not only are children usually assumed to be heterosexual in their orientation, but mothers and fathers are also generally expected to exemplify heterosexuality in their attitudes, values, and behavior. From such a perspective, children with lesbian and gay parents seem not to exist; for some people, the idea of lesbian or gay parenthood may be difficult even to imagine. In contrast to such expectations, however, many lesbian women and gay men are parents.
In this chapter, I first review the historical context in which lesbian and gay parenting has emerged. I then provide an overview of lesbian and gay parenthood today, including information about the prevalence and diversity of lesbian and gay parenting and about the legal contexts in which lesbian and gay families currently live. I then describe the results of research on lesbian and gay parents and their children and discuss some implications of the research findings for theories of psychological development and for the politics of family life. Next, I describe services that have been developed specifically for lesbian and gay families. The chapter concludes with a discussion of future directions for research, service, and advocacy relevant to the needs of lesbian mothers, gay fathers, and their children.
The emergence of large numbers of openly self-identified lesbian women and gay men is a historical phenomenon of relatively recent vintage (Boswell, 1980; D'Emilio, 1983; Faderman, 1981, 1991). Although the origins of homophile organizations date to the 1950s and even earlier (D'Emilio, 1983; Faderman, 1991), the origins of contemporary gay liberation movements are generally traced to police raids on the Stonewall bar in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City in 1969