Tag Archives: Sexuality

Myth Busting: the children of gay and lesbian parents will be gay and lesbian themselves

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.

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The proud place of LGBT+ family members and allies at Pride

The worldwide Pride season is now in full swing, with London Pride this coming Saturday. I would be there, if I wasn’t out of the country. Last year I partied in Spain, and the year before I could be found celebrating in both London and Bristol. But in between my early years, when my parents would wheel me around the parade in my buggy, and my more recent involvement, there were several years when Pride didn’t feature significantly in my life. This article by the heterosexual daughter of lesbian parents got me thinking about who should be included in a Pride march, and what the role of the children of same-sex families is when they grow up.

Bristol Pride 2012

Showing off our face paint at Bristol Pride

My memories of Pride as a child are bright, colourful and noisy. I remember men dressed in drag with giant multi-coloured eyelashes, whistles to blow and horns to beep, glitter, feathers and laughter. I shouldn’t downplay the presence of politics either, as Pride isn’t all about the (sometimes transgressive) fun – angry speeches and rousing chants are just as important too. The last Pride I attended before my adult years was when I was about fourteen. I marched in a band (I have no musical talent, but percussionists were welcome so long as you could keep beat) which made it up onto the main stage at Trafalgar Square. Afterwards I was awarded entry into the VIP area and was disproportionately pleased when the lead singer in the band Never the Bride sent her girlfriend to ask me where my ridiculously gothic trainers were from (they were black with red spikes: I was a teenager, what can I say?). I also remember gay Conservative MP Michael Portillo being booed from the stage by an audience still furious about Section 28 and resolutely anti-Tory, in any gay-friendly guise.

When I was fourteen, my own sexuality was still a mystery to me. I was a child, and I was proud of my family and happy to be marching for the LGBT+ community. Whatever your own sexual persuasion is, being a member of an LGBT+ family is significant in itself, and your life is likely to have been practically different from someone belonging to a heteronormative family. Stefan Lynch coined a term for this – he calls the children of LGBT+ families ‘queerspawn’ – recognising that whilst you may not be LGBT+ yourself, your identity is still immersed in queer culture and community and that should be acknowledged.

I used to joke on an online dating profile, that I’d attended more Prides before the age of ten than after the age of sixteen. I’m hoping that the next few years will correct that. There was no particular reason why I stopped attending Pride for a bit. The main one, probably, was that I didn’t have anyone to go with: my mothers don’t always attend, and in my secondary school years I didn’t have friends I could go with instead. Now I’m delighted that I have a beautiful bunch of LGBT+ friends to walk with. But even if I didn’t identify as LGBT+ myself, I’d still like to be there: supporting my family; proudly acknowledging our social significance; and championing LGBT+ visibility and rights.

These days there are many people who boycott Pride, disappointed with its commercialisation and de-politicisation, or resentful of the implication that LGBT+ people should only be visible one day of the year – their kisses and hand holding not nearly as welcome in the streets the other 364 days. I think that an opportunity for a community with many disparate individuals to come together, and tell the world that their sexuality and gender are worth celebrating, can only be a good thing. It gives hope to people who are unsure about whether they’ll be accepted, and assures them that they too belong in our society.

I believe that there is a definite place in Pride for non LGBT+-identifying people, but that that place should be as allies, on the sidelines, cheering on the marchers, supporting their more personal pride. I think that non-LGBT+-identifying queerspawn probably occupy a slightly different place again, and should be welcome among the marchers. If you’ve grown up attending Pride, and living among lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered people and gay men, your connection to the LGBT+ community, and the many personal and political implications of your existence, don’t automatically cease once you enter adulthood.

I’m sad I can’t be there this weekend, but to everyone marching – Happy Pride! I’d like to hope everyone feels welcome in some way at Pride, whatever their history and identity is, as long as they in turn want to celebrate the many different kinds of loves that exist in humanity.

Friends and me at Bristol Pride 2012

Friends at Bristol Pride 2012