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social sciences

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Yet anecdotal evidence and research suggests that the children of gay fathers may number in the millions. Gay fatherhood may be more common than research is currently able to show. But because fathers in general continue to be less likely to gain custody of their children, gay fathers in particular are more likely to be restricted and much less visible.

Research on gay fathers has focused primarily on gay men who have had children in previous heterosexual relationships. Very little work has been done on gay men who become partners to men with children or gay men who plan to have children.

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Bozett shows that gay fathers who have had children from heterosexual marriages or relationships struggle to integrate their two identities. Often they must hide their sexual orientation from ex-wives and children, especially if they wish to retain visitation rights. Equally difficult can be finding acceptance from gay peers who are not necessarily aware and sensitive to the realities of raising children. According to Bozett, gay fathers who gradually find acceptance from their biological families and gain support from other gay men are able "to express both identities in both worlds" and lead happier lives.

As is the case with research on lesbian mothers, virtually all the research on gay fathers suggests that children of gay fathers experience no negative impact from their father's sexual orientation.

Contrary to the alarms frequently sounded in custody disputes, there is no evidence that gay men are more likely than heterosexual men to commit sexual crimes against their children. Nor is there any evidence that the children of gay fathers are more likely to be gay or bisexual than other children. A study examined the sexual identity of sons raised by gay men and found that only nine percent of them identified as gay or bisexual. Another has found that the large majority of sons and daughters of gay fathers identify as straight.

In their research on how gay fathers parent, Bigner and Bozett report that relationships between gay fathers and their children are positive, that sexual orientation has little impact on these relationships, and that gay fathers actually work harder than their heterosexual counterparts to create stability and positive relationships for their children.


In spite of the many legal successes in many states for gay and lesbian parents in the past thirty years, the issue continues to be debated in just as many other parts of the country. The right of glbtq people to parent will have to be secured state by state. In addition, without legal sanction for gay and lesbian partnerships in some manner, custody battles will continue to stymie the courts and result in unfair decisions against non-biological parents.

As daunting as the legal obstacles may be, the research that has been done on gay and lesbian parenting undeniably shows that glbtq people are effective, loving parents whose sexual orientation has no negative impact on their children. And in spite of the legal issues, it is fair to assume that gay men and lesbians will continue to find creative ways to parent and continue to create their own versions of family.

Geoffrey W. Bateman

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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:  Children of GLBTQ Parents

Over three decades of research has repeatedly shown that children of glbtq parents are no different from their peers reared in heterosexual families; recently queerspawn themselves have added their own voices to the discourse.

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:  Family Therapy

Glbtq family therapy is a relatively new field that merges gay-affirmative therapy with family systems theory; its goal is to help glbtq people create and maintain healthy families.

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 >> Bearse, Amanda

One of the first primetime television actors to come out publicly as a gay person, Amanda Bearse has developed a second career as a film and television director and has become an outspoken advocate of gay visibility.

social sciences >> Lyon, Phyllis, (b. 1924) and Del Martin (1921-2008)

Phyllis Lyon and Del Martin were among the founders of a lesbian liberation movement that developed and enlarged the very definition of lesbianism.

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Founded in 1977 as the Lesbian Rights Project, the National Center for Lesbian Rights is a public interest law firm committed to advancing the civil and human rights of glbtq people through litigation, advocacy, and education.

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Bailey, J. Michael, David Brobow, Marilyn Wolfe, and Sarah Michael. "Sexual Orientation of Adult Sons of Gay Fathers." Developmental Psychology 31 (1995): 124-29.

Barret, Robert L., and Bryan E. Robinson. Gay Fathers. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1990.

Bozett, Frederick W., ed. Gay and Lesbian Parents. New York: Praeger, 1987.

_____, and Marvin B. Sussman, eds. Homosexuality and Family Relations. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1990.

Gottman, Julie Schwartz, "Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents." Homosexuality and Family Relations. Frederick W. Bozett and Marvin B. Sussman, eds. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1990.

Lewin, Ellen. Lesbian Mothers: Accounts of Gender in American Culture. Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Polikoff, Nancy D. "Raising Children: Lesbian and Gay Parents Face the Public and the Courts." Creating Change: Sexuality, Public Policy, and Civil Rights. John D'Emilio, William B. Turner, and Urvashi Vaid, eds. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Pollack, Jill S. Lesbian and Gay Families: Redefining Parenting in America. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995.

Strasser, Mark. "Fit to Be Tied: On Custody, Discretion, and Sexual Orientation." American University Law Review 46 (1997): 841-95.

Wells, Jess. Home Fronts: Controversies in Nontraditional Parenting. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2000.

Weston, Kath. Families We Choose: Lesbians, Gays, Kinship. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bateman, Geoffrey W.  
    Entry Title: Parenting  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 3, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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