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Monday, April 25, 2011

Alternative Families, Gaybies, and Queerspawn... Oh My

By John Solleder -

We have to protect the children!

This is often the sentiment expressed by people and politicians who oppose gay marriage or adoption by same-sex couples. It sounds very noble and that’s why it has been such a successful sound bite for the conservatives on the far right.

People don’t always put a lot of thought into their political beliefs, which is why the state of California’s ballots each year are so often filled with propositions that require government spending on programs, side by side with propositions that limit the state’s ability to raise tax revenue. Taxes=bad, Programs=good, thinking about the big picture seems like a waste of time.

Sound bites are how we lost the battle against Prop. 8 two years ago. While our side put out a well-planned, reasoned argument for the defeat of the constitutional amendment, the conservatives were mastering the art of the sound bite.

Protect our children; gay brainwashing; kids at gay weddings; dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! It’s all complete nonsense, but it has been a very effective weapon against LGBT families for years. I ask, "what’s wrong with LGBT parents?" The answer is: absolutely nothing.

Studies have shown time and time again that children raised by queer parents are no less well adjusted than any other children. Some studies have even indicated the opposite, that children raised by queer parents are more self-confident, sympathetic and thoughtful than average. In fact, the American Psychological Association reports that some studies have indicated that same-sex parents may be "superior" to other parents on average.

This may simply be due to the fact, that the number of accidental pregnancies among LGBT couples is almost unheard of. Conversely, an unplanned pregnancy can put a great deal of psychological, professional and financial stress on a heterosexual couple and their family. One of the mistakes made when opponents rail against queer families is that they lump them together as if they are all the same, but as with straight families, there are many different types.

There are single parents, divorced parents, adoptive parents, step-parents, parents from different ethnic backgrounds, and widowed parents, just as there are in straight families. Queer parents also face the same struggles straight parents do: making ends meet, getting kids to soccer practice, making sure they do their homework, meeting with teachers, changing diapers and wiping noses. That’s isn’t to say that children of queer parents don’t face some specific challenges.

They invariably do, but Abigail Garner, author of the book Families Like Mine, says, "the challenges faced by the children aren’t caused by their family dynamic, but rather it is a result of the hateful vitriol spewed by the right." Garner continues with, "The struggles that typically come from having a LGBT parent are not because the parents are LGBT, but because the children hear messages everyday that people question the validity of their families. This is understandably wearing and frustrating, but it is not the result of parents being LGBT. It is the result of living in a homophobic society."

This is backed up by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP). This organization has said that while children of gay and lesbian parents are as well-adjusted as others, they often deal with discrimination from their communities and also with teasing and bullying from their peers.

The AACAP says that this can largely be mitigated, if the parents maintain a healthy open dialogue with their children and prepare them in advance for questions they are likely to encounter from friends, other parents and teachers.

Camillo Ortiz was raised by two mothers and he describes himself as queerspawn, a term used by many children of LGBT parents. At an early age, his moms helped him to realize that there were many different types of families, mothers and fathers, moms and moms or dads and dads, single mothers, single dads, etc. Ortiz says that both his mothers helped him prepare for the inevitable questions he would face at school, "I was exposed to a variety of different family styles. For example, my mothers would always include our friends as family members, extending my understanding of the relationships that existed and the importance feelings played in the sustaining of such relationships.

Vocabulary isn’t a strong suit at such a young age, but even so, I was able to interpret and understand the meaning of family based on something that was felt, so for my mothers and I, it was usually based on feelings that made us laugh, cry,and enjoy; it was a feeling of love. So going to school and talking about my family, wasn’t so much about how many parents I had or what sexual orientation they were, but what I felt when we were together."

Ortiz admits to some trepidation at various stages of his childhood in regard to how friends would react when they found out that he had two mothers. Would they think he was gay? How would girlfriends react? Would people not want to be his friend anymore? He credits his parents for giving him the advice and encouragement to navigate these challenges and for helping him become the "proud straight man" that he is today.

Although children of queer parents do face some challenges, strictly as a result of society’s prejudice rather than due to any inherent dysfunction of the same-sex parent dynamic, popular culture is helping to raise society’s awareness. Just as Will & Grace, MTV’s The Real World and other shows helped change people’s perceptions of gays and lesbians, new shows are currently exposing audiences to non-traditional families with same-sex parents.

On Glee, Rachel Berry is the daughter of two dads. Her family is even multicultural as one of her dads is black and the other is white. Yet Rachel is shown to be a perfectly well adjusted teenager... some might even say that she is TOO well adjusted, with perhaps a slightly elevated opinion of herself, but she’s certainly not bigoted, ashamed of her upbringing or afraid to talk plainly about the issue. In the show, the character’s background is simply handled in a matter of fact way and not dwelled upon.

Meanwhile ABC’s Modern Family portrays the trials and tribulations of having and raising children, including the story of Mitch and his partner Cameron who are raising baby Lily. Again, one of the best aspects of this show is that it is not a "gay show" that could turn off or at least not appeal to a non-gay audience. Instead, the gay couple and their child are but one part of the large extended family portrayed in the show. Furthermore, real-world LGBT stars are opening up about their families. Ricky Martin had twin boys with a surrogate mother, Sarah Gilbert and her partner have two children together and Neil Patrick Harris and his partner had twins via a surrogate.

Protect the children? From what? Loving parents who want them? A well adjusted childhood?

Copyright Rage Monthly. For more articles from Rage visit

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