While I’ve written about the parents of queer children, what about queer parents? As a young person, I often forget about identities that I don’t hold. But queer parents are out there and I think don’t get enough recognition and visibility. This piece will not talk much about the science and different processes queer folks can go through to have children; that’s for another day. Instead, I’m going to discuss the differences, challenges, and lives of queer parents.
But first, stats and facts:
Reported in a 2015 study, “Between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ parent, and approximately 200,000 of them are being raised by a same-sex couple. Many of these children are being raised by a single LGBTQ parent or by a different-sex couple where one parent is bisexual” (quoted in Family Equality Council).
Fact: “Overall, the highest proportions of same-sex couples raising children under age 18 reside in Southern, Mountain West, and Midwestern states – areas with the fewest protections for LGBTQ families” (quoted in Family Equality Council).
Racial and ethnic minorities who are LGBTQ are more likely to be raising or having kids. More than a third of same-sex couples raising children are racial or ethnic minorities – approximately 12% are African American and 15% Latinx” (quoted in Family Equality Council).
Nearly one in five children being raised by same-sex couples (24%) live in poverty compared to 14% of children being raised by different-sex couples”
(quoted in Family Equality Council).
“Nearly all research shows that individuals in same-sex couples have higher levels of education; however, this is not true for those raising children. Only one third of same-sex couples raising children have a college degree” (quoted in Family Equality Council).
Differences in Parenting:
Honestly, this section is short because they’re really aren’t many differences in parenting methods. I think more of this factors in society’s views on queer parents as well as the child(ren).
“…queer parents are more likely to question how they want to parent and what values they want to instill in their kids (instead of relying on: “This is how I was raised so I’ll raise my kid just like that.”). I know that for myself, I’m intersectional as fuck so I knew right off the bat I’d have to consider how best to teach my kid to not only deal with racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, patriarchy, and classism, but to take pride in who they are and what their family looks like)” (Asher from Autostraddle).
Gay parents “tend to be more motivated, more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents” (quoted in Huffington Post). I think this is something that folks forget. Whether queer couples choose adoption or sperm donors, etc, they are choosing to have a children. While that can be the case with anyone, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, I think this is important to point out. For example, I spoke to Amanda, owner of Grindhouse Coffee here in Portland, who talked to me about how it was a long process for her and her wife to have kids. She also agreed that while it can be hard for straight couples.
Raising Child(ren) without a Gender:
Before we go into societal views and the bulk of this piece, there is one difference that I think is seen more (or relates more to) queer parenting than straight, cisgender folks– raising child(ren) without a gender. There’s an awesome documentary about this that takes place in Sweden, and also the story of Baby X. Additionally, here are some other stories:
Vice Documentary https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/j5q3kb/watch-our-new-documentary-raised-without-gender
The Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/theyby-gender-neutral-child-parents-raise-couple-kyl-myers-zoomer-a8286876.html
X: A Fabulous Child’s Story http://web.bend.k12.or.us/jeremy.rubenstein/Mr._Rubensteins_Language_Arts_Page/Senior_English_files/PDF%20X.pdf
In addition to being queer, or part of the LGBTQ Community, being a parent can sometimes put folks in positions where society is judging them for an additional intersection as a parent. Here are some of those examples:
- As explained in this book, trans identities can become invisible when they appear to be a straight couple. when gay parents are single or even just go out without their partner, their identity goes back to being straight. The book explains that sometimes children can sometimes be transphobic towards their parents and shares stories and experiences children have.
- There are many different ways for gay couples to have children, putting a lot of pressure on parents in public, but also at the doctor. This can make them have to deal with the struggles I discussed here, but also information about their child(ren).
- Something Amanda talked to me about was the idea of who carried the child(ren) if folks used a sperm donor.
- The idea of one of the parents being a babysitter, stepmom, or other family figure besides a spouse.
- Assumption that one person is the mom or dad when really they both are, especially when only one parent is present with the child(ren)
As I talk about here, Portland is kind of its own queer bubble of queer identities and couples being normalized, so Amanda shared that she doesn’t really face discrimination. However, she did share that traveling to other parts of Oregon, she might get a few double takes. This article shares how folks will lie or not disclose that information if its not neccesary. The book I mentioned also talks about the treatment of children in schools and their friend groups. For example, one of the stories mentions a child’s friend not being able to come over for fear of contact.
The intersection of being queer and LGBTQ is one that I don’t think gets talked about enough. I hope this brings some visibility to it. Below are the resources I used and some additional ones to check out!
Day, S. LGBTQ Family Family Fact Sheet. Family Equality Council. https://www2.census.gov/cac/nac/meetings/2017-11/LGBTQ-families-factsheet.pdf
KaeLyn. Gayby Maybe? The Epic Queer Parenting Roundtable! Autostraddle. https://www.autostraddle.com/gayby-maybe-epic-queer-parenting-roundtable/
Abby, L. L. The Weirdest Reactions Same-Sex Parents Get From Straight People. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/evd3ek/the-weirdest-reactions-same-sex-parents-get-from-straight-people
Shanahan, M. 15 LGBT Parents Share The Story of Building A Family. Buzzfeed. https://www.buzzfeed.com/morganshanahan/lgbt-family stories?utm_term=.cg2wyjgZY#.vl0loV7Zx
Fakhrid-Deen, T. and Colage. Let’s Get This Straight: The Ultimate Handbook for Youth with LGBTQ Parents. Berkeley: Seal Press. 2010.
Horne, Amanda. Personal Interview. 17 May 2018. GrindHouse Coffee. North Portland.
Raised Without Gender. Produced by Milène Larsson. Vice Documentary. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/j5q3kb/watch-our-new-documentary-raised-without-gender
Ritschell, C. Couple Raises Child as a Child As a Child Nuetral ‘They-by.’ Independent. https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/theyby-gender-neutral-child-parents-raise-couple-kyl-myers-zoomer-a8286876.html
Gould, L. X: A Fabulous Child’s Story. http://web.bend.k12.or.us/jeremy.rubenstein/Mr._Rubensteins_Language_Arts_Page/Senior_English_files/PDF%20X.pdf
Pappas, S. Gay Parents Better Than Straight Parents? What Research Says. Huffington Post. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/gay-parents-better-than-straights_n_1208659.html
Collins, E. Children of Queer Parents Don’t Have it Easy. Vice. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/7xzjvy/children-of-queer-parents-dont-have-it-easy
Snow, J.E. How to Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent: A Book for Kids for Kids of All Ages. Abingdon: Routledge. 2013.