Gay and lesbian parents are equally committed to and effective at parenting compared to heterosexual parents.
History has questioned whether gay and lesbian couples are adequately suited to raise a child. Laws have prevented gay and lesbian couples from getting married and starting a family. But, the laws have changed. And, they are raising well-adjusted children.
Did you know?
20-35% of lesbian couples are parents.
5-15% of gay couples are parents.
These numbers are not an accurate representation. Gay and lesbian couples are hesitant to share their identities. So, numbers like this are often underreported. But know, these numbers are growing (Goldberg, 2010).
Compared to children of heterosexual couples, children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely to have the same outcome in mental health, peer relations, gender identity and sexual orientation (Allen & Burrell, 1996; Goldberg, 2010).
A stereotype exists that says gay and lesbian parents raise gay or lesbian children.
Children raised by gay and lesbian parents are just as likely as children raised by heterosexual parents to identify as heterosexual. Although at one point, children of lesbian and gay parents are more likely to experiment with their sexuality due to being exposed to a more inclusive and tolerant family and community (Bos, van Balen, & van den Boom, 2004).
Children of gay and lesbian parents tend to have more empathy and tolerance compared to children of heterosexual couples.
Children raised by gay and lesbian parents feel less pressure to conform to gender roles.
Sometimes, children of gay and lesbian parents are bullied and teased for their parent’s sexual orientation. But, some studies have shown that the occurrence of bullying is low. Gay and lesbian parents are aware of these stereotypes and are careful of what information they disclose to others (Tasker, 2005). However, a study conducted in Australia reported that even when gay and lesbian parents were discrete about their sexual orientation, it did not prevent children from being bullied or teased by their peers (Ray & Gregory, 2001). About half of the children (grades third to tenth) claimed to be harassed.
My point is, whether a child is raised by gay, lesbian or heterosexual parents, it is important to have open discussions about sexual orientation and gender biases with your child. Teach your child to be inclusive and tolerant of others who are different. Children learn about gender through conversations. So, I urge you to talk about gender roles and stereotypes. Remember, your child pays attention to what your attitudes are and listens to how you use language. How you respond matters.
Try and avoid using gendered language. You can do this by,
- Substituting boy and girl for labels like child, friend, adult or person.
- Choose generic phrases, like “That person wants to be a teacher” or “Some boys and some girls want to be nurses.”
- Have an open conversation with your child about gender stereotypes. Discuss how words can have an impact. Also, encourage your children to practice removing gender labels from their language.
- Removing gendered language reduces the pressure your child might feel to conform to gender roles. Let your daughter play with trucks. Let your son play dress up. Let them be unique. Encourage them to own their individuality.