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Same-sex attracted parents

gay; lesbian; bi-sexual; homosexual; parents; family; families; homophobia; heterosexual; gay; straight;

Contents

The traditional view of 'family' in Australia is one in which the parents are heterosexual with 2.5 children.

However, the idea of family these days is much broader than this. It may include sole parents, step-families and families where one or both parents are same-sex attracted or transgender.

What is important for a family is the presence of love, care, consistency and support for the people in it, particularly the children.

Note: Some of the terms in this topic might be unfamiliar to you. Read the topic Sexuality for definitions.

Family options

There are several options available to same-sex attracted people these days.

  • For example, two gay men may choose to have a child with the help of a female friend who is willing to carry the baby throughout pregnancy.
  • Two lesbian women may choose to have children using artificial insemination using the sperm of an unknown donor, or a male friend.

There are families where more than two people may share the responsibility of caring for their child.

  • For example, a gay man may provide the sperm and a lesbian couple may carry the child. They could all then "co-parent" the child.

And there are families in which a mother and father had children together, then separated or divorced, and one or both began a relationship as a gay man or lesbian.

Coming out

An important issue for same-sex attracted parents can be whether, when, and how to tell their child about their sexuality.

  • Coming out to their kids often represents a struggle for parents. In most cases where a parent has disclosed to their child, the young person has responded favourably, but parents may fear how their children will react.
  • They may fear that they will be targets of abuse from their children if their children have homophobic attitudes.

There is also the concern that children or young people may experience discrimination or abuse by others who know about their parent's sexual identity.

  • Some young people with same-sex attracted parents feel they need to conceal this part of their lives from those around them in order to maintain their physical and emotional safety.
  • Having your mum or dad and their same-sex partner come to school for parent teacher interviews, sports day, picking you up from a friend's place, or being around when you have friends over can be difficult for young people and parents.
  • Some people's attitudes and behaviour can be very abusive and make everyone in the family feel threatened and unsafe.

Sometimes children or young people will know about their parents' sexual orientation though, and coming out may not be such an issue in these families.

  • There are many families in which children have grown up only ever knowing dad to be with a male partner or partners, or mum to have a female partner. In these families there may be no need to come out to the children, but the parents may still need to work out strategies to protect their children from abuse or discrimination.

Will my own sexuality be affected?

Research has shown that sexuality is not affected by having heterosexual or same-sex attracted parents, but attitudes to sexuality are shaped by parents' attitudes.

  • Most lesbians and gay men have heterosexual parents; the sexual orientation of a parent does not cause the sexual orientation of a child.
  • It is increasingly understood that a range of factors determine an individual's sexuality, including genetic factors.

Effects of having gay or lesbian parents

To date there have been no long term studies of significant numbers of children with same-sex attracted parents.

  • A lot of the existing research has been motivated by custody cases, such as when a parent's sexual orientation has been used to try to deny custody to a gay parent.
  • What research has found is that there are no significant differences between kids with gay parents and kids with straight parents on a variety of psychological measures, including gender roles, self-esteem, and more.

What have some young people said?

Jim's Story

"From my dad I've learned that gay people are just like all people. I like some of them and don't like others. My likes and dislikes have little to do with their gayness and more to do with who they are. I can see that dad is happier and that's what is most important. ……..I've learned not to be so judgemental about people who are different." (From COLAGE website. 'Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere' http://www.colage.org )

Joshua's Story

"I grew up in the gay community and it was never kept from me. I always was around gay and straight couples. It never seemed strange to me. It was my life. My mom's sexuality of same sex attraction has not been imposed on me. I have been brought up as an individual, not a follower. My mother is a lesbian and I'm proud of her for not being afraid to show it. She's been a great mother for the last fourteen years, and she's always been there when I needed her. She has kept us both alive and well as being the only source of money. She is my best friend. I don't know exactly what I think about being the son of a lesbian, but I know I'm damn lucky to have a mum like mine." (From the COLAGE website. 'Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere' http://www.colage.org/ )

Some other issues for parents

Coming into a family and taking the role of parent can be difficult for non-biological same-sex attracted parents.

  • There will usually be another biological parent somewhere for the children, which can mean the non-biological second parent can find it hard.
  • Some issues can be the same as those experienced in other step-families. For example: In situations where someone requires parental consent (say for emergency medical treatment), the non-biological parent has no legal rights as a parent, even though he or she may do a significant part of the parenting and have a very close relationship with the child/young person.
  • An adult who has had a significant relationship with the child or young person can legally be recognised as a guardian if they have successfully applied for guardianship of a child/young person under 18 years.

Resources

South Australia

General

  • Your local health service
  • COLAGE website - 'Children Of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere':
    http://www.colage.org/
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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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