One of the most common arguments I hear trotted out against gay and lesbian parenting, is that the children in those families are likely to grow up to be gay or lesbian themselves.
Let’s have a look at why that’s unlikely, and why even if it is true for the occasional child (statistics, kids), it’s not the massive problem it’s flagged up to be.
1. Gay and lesbian parents know what it’s like to have a minority sexuality
Most LGB adults have grown up in a society where homosexuality isn’t widespread and isn’t assumed or expected. That means they may have had to struggle to come to terms with their own sexuality, they most certainly will have had to expressly ‘out’ themselves to friends and family, and they will have faced prejudice and discrimination, including legally (it was only this year, 2014, that gay marriage was finally allowed), and personally.
Regardless of whether you believe that sexuality is due to nature or nurture, we can agree that for the majority of people it’s not a choice that is made. Instead, it’s something which people cannot control, and which can cause suffering if not accepted by friends, family and society. This is significant for two reasons:
1a) LGB parents know that the same will be true of their children. No matter what you role model or expect, children’s sexuality won’t automatically alter in response: it will be as it is. No doubt the parents of many gay adults wanted them to be straight, and all that hope added up to nothing. Why? Because sexuality is not something we can choose at will, and nor is it an isolated product of a person’s home environment. The belief that gay parents will ‘turn’ a child gay is predicated on the assumption that sexuality can be easily controlled – which simply isn’t true. Check out this awesome letter by a Washington Post agony aunt on just that point.
1b) LGB adults know how painful it is to have one’s sexuality judged and potentially rejected. This means they’re more likely to create a safe and open environment for their children, one which does not insist upon a certain sexuality, but instead welcomes any eventualities. This was definitely true in my own house – I grew up knowing that my parents would be there for me whoever I fell in love with, rather than pressure me into one choice.
There is therefore no reason to expect that LGB parents would naturally raise a higher proportion of LGB children than straight parents. Even if they did (which is contrary to all available stats), I can only imagine that that would be because there are lots of people out there feeling same-sex attraction but choosing not to act upon it, due to their fear of rejection, whereas children in most LGB families will have been given the support they need to explore and accept their sexuality, whatever it happens to be. As J.J. Bigner articulated so well, “If heterosexual parenting is insufficient to ensure that children will also be heterosexual, then there is no reason to conclude that children of homosexuals also will be gay.”
2. Parents are influential, but so is society
I mentioned above that home life is only one influence on a child. This matters even more for children in LGB families, because the society around them remains overwhelmingly heteronormative. The majority of relationships that they’ll see, both in real life and represented in the media, will be straight ones. This means that children in LGB families will never grow up thinking that gay relationships are the norm, or their only viable choice. They’ll be fully informed about the types of relationships open to them, and able to explore heterosexuality quite freely.
And what’s the big deal anyway?
Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that LGB parents are unlikely to have a disproportionate impact on their children’s sexuality meaning that they grow up to be gay, I’m going to ask why we care so much anyway?
Why are we all so traumatised by the idea of children growing up and defining as LGBT+? Is being LGBT+ that terrible a thing? Something to be protected against at all costs?
Surely our number one concern should always be that any individual is happy. If the child of gay or lesbian parents identifies as LGB, and is satisfied by the relationships in their life, what could possibly be wrong with that? It’s purely their own (and their partner’s) business. As long as an individual is able to be true to their own sexual preferences, and does not feel pressured to suppress their natural feelings, we should celebrate their sexuality, whatever it may be.
So let’s all raise a cheer, for any adult, of any sexuality, from any type of family, being able to find joy in a consenting relationship that satisfies their personal sexual and romantic preferences. And let’s stop worrying about whether kids will grow up to be straight or gay, and just focus on enabling them to be happy.