Next Steps in LGBT Parenting

posted on Tue, Jun 1 2010 2:28 pm by Jenn

Gay parenting is taking off in America. Thirty-one percent of same-sex couples are raising children compared with 43 percent of straight couples, according to 2008 census data. More than half of gay men and 41 percent of lesbians say they want to have a child.

While LGBT parenting is nothing new, there is no doubt that it is making its way into pop culture like never before. A CNN documentary set to air this month, “Gary and Tony Have a Baby,” follows a married couple throughout the surrogacy process. Modern Family and Glee are two hit shows this TV season highlighting gay families, and the soon-to-be-released the film, The Kids Are All Right, is the tale of two lesbian moms played by Julianne Moore and Annette Benning.

The mainstream inclusion of the LGBT family has begun. And that’s a good thing.

But we have a ways to go to show that LGBT parents are like straight parents. The optics of two dads or two moms remains startling to many, but is slowly becoming a non-event to others. It is up to us as LGBT parents to define the images and perception of parenting (and not let those opposed, or those who are not experts, do it for us). We speak a common language with other parents about hugs and homework, about bedtime and bath time. This is my call to all LGBT parents: become visible, tell your story. This is the only sure-fire way of shaping people’s attitudes.

We also must pay attention to the perception of parenting within the LGBT community. Many LGBT people in their 20s and 30s—and older—either think parenting is too difficult—or they don’t even think about it. Parenting has not been part of the community’s social fabric. We need to change this. As the one million LGBT people raising two millions children can attest, it is doable—and is absolutely worth it.

And needed. There are half a million kids currently in the U.S. foster care system, 120,000 of whom are available for adoption. Dr. Gary Gates of the Williams Institute projects that the number of LGBT people wanting to adopt far exceeds the number of kids waiting to be adopted. (Family Equality Council has made significant progress on drafting and gaining support for federal legislation aimed at loosening restrictions on LGBT adoption).

My work fortunately allows me—encourages me, really—to shout from the rooftops about how proud I am of my two amazing boys and my entire family. Family Equality’s family programming reaches thousands of families, and, this summer, we will celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Family Week in Provincetown, the annual gathering place for LGBT families. Because of this event, we have taught more than 1,000 thousand families how to be ambassadors of our movement.

Despite our hectic schedules, I think we as LGBT parents have a responsibility to be involved in the making of our own history—the history of the parents’ (and prospective parents’) movement. There’s no question in my mind we’re crossing, or may have just crossed, the first serious threshold toward greater acceptance of the LGBT family. So, this is the time to get engaged. Let’s keep this newly-minted momentum going.