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social sciences

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Children of GLBTQ Parents  
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Another daughter of a lesbian couple said, "Knowing that they are gay has taught me to be honest about my feelings with them, because they have always been honest with me."

In 2000, editors Noelle Howey and Ellen Samuels published the first collection of personal essays written by the children of glbtq parents. These personal accounts do not shy away from the more challenging realities that children must face as they come to accept their glbtq parents.

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As Laura Zee admits of her father, "Truth is, I was ashamed of my dad. I thought it was freaky that he felt the way he did. And as long as I pretended to myself and others that he was 'normal,' I didn't have to face my guilt about those feelings."

Despite this painful acknowledgment, Zee slowly progressed in her own understanding and acceptance of her father's gender identity. Even though theirs is not a perfect relationship, she knows that the road to full acceptance will take time. "I wished I could tell my dad," she writes, "who had always been there for me, that I was proud of him, too. I couldn't. I'm not there yet. But I'm getting closer."

Zee's essay is characteristic of the volume's more complicated advocacy for glbtq families. Written by children from their own experience, it does not flinch from telling the entire story, even the parts that might not allay the fears and misunderstandings of many Americans.

In one of the most moving of the essays, Stefan Lynch, the son of the late Toronto activist Michael Lynch and a closeted lesbian mother, recalls how he grew up fearful of the ever-present threat of violence from antigay haters and hostile police and how this experience affected him. "When I hid the truth about my family, I thought it was because I didn't want to be ostracized. I was a bit nerdy and awkward and out of place already without adding to it by outing my parents. But now I can more fully appreciate how my anxiety about antigay violence motivated my silence. I only caught a glimpse of that anxiety's true impact once or twice a year: usually at a Gay Pride march, when every step felt lighter, like a weight I didn't know was there had gone away."

As children of glbtq parents mature and come into their own as adults, activists, and writers, they are increasingly speaking on their own behalf, taking ownership in a debate that ultimately affects them most.

Abigail Garner's 2004 book, Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is, perhaps most clearly exemplifies this impulse. Presenting a less than politically correct take on glbtq family advocacy, Garner speaks as the daughter of a gay man. Her primary purpose is to support other children of glbtq parents as they struggle through the difficulties that can beset them. Consequently, she does not idealize or glamorize glbtq families or minimize the toll that homophobia sometimes takes on the children of such families.

Perhaps the most exciting recent development in the advocacy for the children of glbtq families is the creation of a term: queerspawn. The term, coined by Stefan Lynch and employed by Garner, has been embraced by a new generation of children who have incorporated the campy irreverence of activism and adopted it for their own identities.

In identifying as queerspawn, they assert their membership in a larger glbtq community even if they are heterosexual.

The term is used as the name of a blog in which children exchange stories and experiences online, as well as of an online audio documentary project that hopes to produce narratives by the children of glbtq families.

Geoffrey W. Bateman

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Although there are frequently social and legal barriers to overcome, adoption is an important way in which lesbian and gay male couples create families.

social sciences >> Overview:  Artificial Insemination

Artificial insemination is often used by heterosexual and single women who wish to conceive without sexual contact with males; it is frequently the method of choice when gay men create families through surrogacy or co-parenting.

social sciences >> Overview:  Census 2000

Census 2000 revealed that there were 594,391 gay male and lesbian couples in the United States, living in 99.3 percent of all U.S. counties; nearly a quarter of these couples are raising children, and these families live in 96 percent of U.S. counties.

social sciences >> Overview:  Coming Out

"Coming out" is the revelation or acknowledgment that one is a member of a sexual minority, a process that is at once personal and social and often political.

social sciences >> Overview:  Custody Litigation

While the courts of some states have been almost unremittingly hostile to gay men and lesbians involved in custody litigation, others have declared that glbtq parents have the same rights and responsibilities as other parents.

social sciences >> Overview:  Family

Many glbtq people reject a fixed definition of family imposed by society, and instead claim the right to define their own families as they choose.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parenting

Even though glbtq people have been parents throughout history, recent political movements and advances in fertility technology have given rise to a much more visible and self-identified gay and lesbian parents.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

arts >> Etheridge, Melissa

Award-winning rock singer and songwriter Melissa Etheridge has not only managed to carve out a spectacularly successful career as a popular mainstream performer, but she has also become a lesbian icon and activist for gay and lesbian causes.

social sciences >> National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)

The oldest continuously operating national glbtq interest group, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has played a significant role in the development of the glbtq movement for equal rights.

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Comedian, actress, television talk show host, and openly gay mom, Rosie O'Donnell has achieved remarkable success in her relatively short career.

literature >> Savage, Dan

Best known for his syndicated sex-advice column, Dan Savage is also the author of books chronicling his and his partner's experiences in adopting a child and dealing with the issue of same-sex marriage

arts >> Wong, B. D.

Asian-American actor B. D. Wong came to prominence with his extraordinary performance in M. Butterfly and has since established himself as a talented character actor in film and television and as a champion of glbtq causes.


Anderssen, Norman, Christine Amlie, and Erling André Ytterøy. "Outcomes for Children with Lesbian or Gay Parents: A Review of Studies from 1978 to 2000." Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 43 (2002): 335-351.

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Donor Sibling Registry.

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Family Pride Coalition.

Garner, Abigail. Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is. New York: HarperCollins, 2004.

Golombrok, Susan, et al. "Children with Lesbian Parents: A Community Study." Developmental Psychology 39 (2003): 20-33.

Harmon, Amy. "Hello, I'm Your Sister. Our Father is Donor 150." New York Times (November 20, 2005): 1.

Howey, Noelle, and Ellen Samuels, eds. Out of the Ordinary: Essays on Growing Up with Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Parents. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Johnson, Suzanne M., and Elizabeth O'Connor. The Gay Baby Boom: The Psychology of Gay Parenthood. New York: New York University Press, 2002.

Pareles, Marissa. "Queer Kid Camps: Youngsters and Teens from Queer Families Get a Summer Recess from Homophobia." The Advocate (July 25, 2005): 46-47.

Patterson, Charlotte. "Children of Lesbian and Gay Parents." Current Directions in Psychological Science 15 (2006): 241-44.

_____. "Family Relationships of Lesbians and Gay Men." Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (2000): 1052-1069.

Pennington, Saralie Bisnovich. "Children of Lesbian Mothers." Gay and Lesbian Parents. Frederick W. Bozett, ed. New York: Praeger, 1987. 58-74.

Perrin, E., and Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. "Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents." Pediatrics 109 (2002): 341-44. A New Forum for Kids of Queers.

Stacey, Judith, and Timothy Biblarz. "(How) Does Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" American Sociological Review 65 (2001): 159-183.

Steckel, Ailsa. "Psychosocial Development of Children of Lesbian Mothers." Gay and Lesbian Parents. Frederick W. Bozett, ed. New York: Praeger, 1987. 75-88.

Tasker, Fiona L., and Susan Golombok. Growing up in a Lesbian Family: Effects on Child Development. New York: Guilford Press, 1997.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bateman, Geoffrey W.  
    Entry Title: Children of GLBTQ Parents  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2007  
    Date Last Updated March 16, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2007 glbtq, Inc.  


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