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Children of GLBTQ Parents  
 
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Despite over three decades of research that has repeatedly shown that children of glbtq parents are no different from their peers reared in heterosexual families, glbtq families and their advocates continue to feel the need to justify their family structures and find ways to support them in a world sometimes hostile to their identities. Recently, queerspawn themselves have added their own voices to the discourse.

Gay and Lesbian Baby Boom

Since the 1990s, same-sex parenting has exploded in the United States, Canada, and much of Western Europe, becoming increasingly visible and prompting scholars like Suzanne Johnson and Elizabeth O'Connor to observe that the "gay and lesbian community is experiencing a baby boom."

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The birth of children to glbtq celebrities such as Rosie O'Donnell, B. D. Wong, Dan Savage, and Melissa Etheridge has also helped make the gay and lesbian baby boom more visible in the mainstream media.

Scholars estimate that six to fourteen million children in the United States have at least one gay or lesbian parent involved in raising them. Using data from the 2000 Census, Sean Cahill and Sarah Tobias have calculated that "34 percent of lesbian couples and 22 percent of gay male couples have at least one child under eighteen years of age living in their home."

Although many children of same-sex couples were conceived in traditional heterosexual relationships, same-sex couples often decide to produce children themselves, utilizing such methods as adoption, artificial insemination, and surrogacy. They make their decision to have children for the same reasons as do heterosexual couples. Some wish to cement the bonds of love they feel for their partner with a larger commitment to sharing the responsibilities of raising a family. Others want to feel connected to the next generation and enrich themselves by nurturing another life, while still others may simply wish to help children who have been abandoned or mistreated by their biological parents.

Yet glbtq parents typically face many more challenges in having children than do heterosexual couples, and they have to be more thoughtful both as to how they have children and how they care for them in a legal and cultural climate that is often extremely hostile to their interests.

Lesbians may decide to get pregnant through artificial insemination, but in some states they are not allowed to seek the assistance of medical providers if they use a known donor; and in most jurisdictions the non-biological mother may not be acknowledged on the child's birth certificate. Gay men may wish to adopt, but may be deemed ineligible by some adoption agencies or prohibited outright in some states. Or they may hope to have a woman serve as their surrogate, but face exorbitant fees and the possibility of legal complications.

Once same-sex couples actually have a baby, securing parental rights for both parents remains difficult and in some states impossible. In states that do not recognize same-sex marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, glbtq parents often exist in legal limbo. Some parents turn to private contracts to designate parenting rights and responsibilities, but it is unclear whether these will be respected by the courts, especially in states hostile to glbtq rights.

Despite these challenges, same-sex couples and glbtq individuals have turned to parenting in increasing numbers in the past three decades.

Initial Research on the Children of GLBTQ Parents

Since the 1970s, a growing body of scholarly literature assessing glbtq parenting has emerged. Most of this scholarship has been conducted within the disciplines of psychology, sociology, law, and medicine. Overall, this research refutes the charges commonly leveled by opponents of glbtq parenting that children are harmed by being reared by glbtq parents or same-sex couples and even the more benign suggestion that the optimum parenting model is a married heterosexual couple.

This research initially focused on children being reared by divorced lesbians whose children had been born in heterosexual marriages. Coming out during the rush of second-wave feminism and the early gay liberation movement, these women were often subjected to difficult custody battles in which their legitimacy as mothers was challenged.

To measure the impact of their mother's lesbianism on these children, researchers typically compared the development of children of divorced lesbian mothers with those of divorced heterosexual women. As Charlotte Patterson notes, these studies found "few significant differences" between the two groups.

According to Saralie Bisnovich Pennington, normal childhood development depends on the "quality of mothering rather than the mother's sexual orientation." In her 1987 clinical study of children of lesbians, all of whom were born in heterosexual contexts, she identified three main issues that confronted these children: concern about disclosing their mother's sexual orientation, daughters' worries about becoming lesbian, and anxiety about custody issues.

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Two photographs from Family Portraits (2003) by artist Amber Davis Tourelentes. Images courtesy of the artist's web site.
  
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