Friday, October 22, 2010

Raising (Up) Kids

I apologize for being off the grid for two weeks. My husband has been super busy at work, meaning I’ve been pulling double shifts with Max. That leaves me no time for my favorite extra-curricular activities – including blogging to you all.

One of my recent posts dealt with the amazing Dan Savage youtube project (now with its own website), “It Gets Better.” Who knew that after Stewart and I posted our video, literally dozens of celebs, from Tim Gunn to Kathy Griffin (and most recently President Obama) would join the fight by posting their own videos to combat bullying against LGBT youth. Believe it or not, our video has been watched over 3,000 times!  Had we known that, we would have dressed and rehearsed a little better! Even if only 1 of those 3,000 views was from an LGBT youth who checked it out during a tough moment in his or her life, the effort was well worth it.

I thought that with this post I’d look at the mirror image of Dan’s project – not how gay youth with straight parents cope with coming out, but how (presumably) straight youth fare being raised by gay parents.  Fortunately, study after study have shown that children of gay parents are as well-adjusted as those who are raised by their heterosexual counterparts. While the explosion of gay men having kids is too recent for any long-term study, fortunately our lesbian sisters are well ahead of the game, having and raising kids (much of the time off the public radar) for decades now. It’s gotten to the point that Hollywood has finally gotten its act together and produced a film about the subject: “The Kids Are All Right” (which we’ve yet to see, natch, given our new baby-centric lives).

The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) is the latest and most influential study yet to show that gay families are just as well-adjusted as straight ones. The longest and largest study of American families of its kind, this seminal and ongoing study has been following children of lesbian families (via a male donor) for the last 24 years. The NLLFS began interviewing the mothers when they were pregnant, then began interviewing the children when they were a year and a half to two years old, and then again at five, ten and seventeen years old. They discovered that the kids in this study might be better well-adjusted than even their straight peers. For example, kids of gay parents rated “higher in social, academic, and overall competence, and lower in aggressive behavior, rule-breaking, and social problems, on standardized assessments of psychological adjustment.”

Modern Family's Mitchell & Cameron
As I mentioned in a previous post, the reason is likely because gay parents only have kids because they desperately want to be parents – after all, it isn’t exactly easy for us to become pregnant accidentally! I think that kids intuit that loving desire, and grow up more secure as a result. I also think that many gay parents feel like they have to be “super parents” in order to overcome the stereotype that they somehow aren’t fit to raise their own children. Naturally, one would think, that extra effort benefits the emotional development of their kids.

Unfortunately, the only downside of the NLLFS study is that it found that kids of LGBT parents tended to suffer discrimination at school because of their parents’ sexual orientation. That brings us full circle to Dan Savage’s project, doesn’t it? If the primary obstacle to happy, well-adjusted kids of gay parents is high-school bullying, then what better current message to those kids – until we can finally put the kibosh on such bullying – than that “it gets better.” As an occasional target of bullies throughout middle-school and high-school, I can attest to that. I now have an amazing husband and son. I plan to work hard to make sure that many others have the opportunity to feel the same way.


  1. I also wonder if lesbians who raise kids tend to be older parents (as my partner and I are) because of the amount of planning that goes into having a baby via donor. I like to think that since we are also older parents, we are a bit wiser in things. But I do agree about the strong desire to be parents that gays and lesbians have translating to being very attentive and active parents.

  2. Did you see the wonderful Lawrence O'Donnell/Last Word segment the other night? Here's the link -- from the Advocate, and it plays the video. I was greatly moved and excited by it.

  3. Yes I did! It was pretty amazing.

  4. Prejudice comes in all forms unfortunately and especially at school, the only thing you can do as a parent is make sure the things you can influence around your child you do and create a positive environment for them to flourish in spite of what they encounter in the school playground.