These things will remain true for LGBT parents and our families.
We are (almost) everywhere. LGBT parents raising children live in 96 percent of counties throughout the United States. Add in those of us with grown children, and that number likely rises.
We come in many colors. More than 41 percent of Hispanic and African American LGBT women, and 38 percent of Asian LGBT women, are raising children, along with 28 percent of White LGBT women. Ten percent of LGBT White men are raising children, as well as 39 percent of Hispanic men, 31 percent of Asian men, and 14 percent of African American men. (Data from UCLA’s Williams Institute.)
We are good parents. Study after study has shown that children of LGBT parents are as happy and well-adjusted as any others. Just recently, the latest results from the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), the longest-running and largest study of American lesbian families, showed that almost all of the 78 teens in the NLLFS are academically successful and say they are happy with their lives.
Another new study found that young children with lesbian and gay parents tend to play in less gender-stereotyped ways—and that may give them certain strengths. The researchers, led by Dr. Abbie Goldberg of Clark University, note, “There is some evidence that children’s gender flexibility may in fact be associated with psychological benefits. . . .Thus, engaging in less gender-typed play behavior may be associated with positive outcomes in children.”
We are in living rooms across America. Television shows Modern Family and The New Normal, both of which feature gay dads, have been making audiences of all orientations and identities laugh. The Jennifer Lopez-produced The Fosters (about two lesbian moms and their mix of biological, adopted, and foster children) looks to continue that trend (with a tilt toward the distaff side) when it airs next year.
We still have a long way to go. In only 18 states plus the District of Columbia can LGBT parents petition for adoption statewide. Five states explicitly restrict us from doing so. We can petition statewide for a second-parent adoption in only 13 states plus D.C.; six states restrict it outright, making it impossible for a child of same-sex parents to have two legal parents.
And in the four states this year that faced ballot measures to determine whether same-sex couples could wed—Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Washington—opponents of equality tried to raise the fear that if same-sex marriage was legal, it would be taught in schools (as if that was a bad thing). It’s utter bunk, of course. None of the ballot measures in any state said anything about school curricula. But it’s the same argument that worked for the ultra-right in passing California’s Proposition 8 ban on marriage equality four years ago. The anti-equality side’s decision “to appeal to anti-gay prejudice by dishonestly alleging danger to kids” was the decision with the biggest impact on the outcome, according to The Prop 8 Report, an evaluation of the reasons the measure passed.
As I write this, I don’t know if that tactic will have worked again. The simple fact that the ultra-right has been using it, however, tells me that even if we’ve made some progress in the last four years, it’s not enough. Fear of LGBT matters being taught in schools is still seen as something that can motivate people to vote against equality.
Here’s what the right wing doesn’t realize, though: regardless of the official curriculum, it is impossible to keep LGBT matters out of schools, because LGBT youth and the children of LGBT parents are in schools. Legal or not, same-sex marriage will be taught in schools—just not by the teachers. It is the children themselves who will teach each other, as they talk about their lives and their families in the hallways, on playgrounds, and during after-school activities.
Which brings me to the last two things I know will remain true for LGBT parents and our families.
We are not going anywhere. The growth of acceptance and inclusion may be slow; there may be setbacks—but LGBT people and our families are here to stay. An estimated one million LGBT parents are raising two million children in this country. Soon our children will be voting. Some may even hold office themselves. Some may have children of their own.
It is painful, each election cycle, wondering if our families will come away from it having gained or lost steps towards equality. I have faith in our children and their friends, though, who by their existence and acceptance will reshape the world around them, bending the moral arc of the universe with each conversation.
We love our children. The outcome of the election and ballot measures does not change that we will continue to love, guide, and protect our children, helping them find their own paths in this imperfect world.
Dana Rudolph is the founder and publisher of Mombian (www.mombian.com), an award-winning blog and resource directory for LGBT parents.