Guardian Article

Really great article from the Guardian here or read below, the comments under the original are good though

Getting used to gay parents

Now that it’s clear it doesn’t damage a child’s development, we should ask more interesting questions about gay parenting

By Celia Hannon

November 27 2009

It’s safe to say that when you find yourself in Jeremy Clarkson’s line of fire, you’re probably on the right side of the debate. Clarkson might be pleased that his “dad wasn’t a lesbian“, but not enough is known about the people for whom this really is the case.

The minor storm around a recent comment from Professor Stephen Scott that lesbians can make better parents illustrates that positive accounts of gay parenting are still liable to provoke outrage. But this is not all negative, because it means there is now an appetite to confront the political, social and legal questions raised by the growth of these families. It’s about time too. While gay parents have always existed, it’s only now that their families are increasing in number and visibility.

Civil partnerships, the Discrimination in Goods and Services Act and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (which granted lesbian couples equal legal rights as parents) have all paved the way in law. Now the wider availability of adoption, IVF and surrogacy means that many more gay people are able to turn their aspirations to become parents into a reality. Academic research points towards a wide diversity in family composition; some gay parents may have children from previous heterosexual partnerships, some may adopt and others may be embarking on co-parenting relationships with friends to ensure that their children have role models of both sexes. We should be just as wary of generalising about gay families as we would all British families.

Meanwhile, the idea that growing up as the child of gay parents is inevitably bad for you has been largely been discredited. A 2005 review of the research on lesbian mothers and gay fathers found there were no significant developmental differences between their children and those from heterosexual families. It’s time to move beyond that stale debate and ask some more searching questions. At the moment, far too little is known about how many gay families exist, and what their experience of parenting is like. Researchers have struggled to find large enough samples to represent a true cross-section of society. How many of these families are there? What do they want? How can public services support them equally as well as other types of family?

The past 50 years have seen us remodel the family as step-families and single parenthood have become commonplace, and women have chosen to have children later and remain in the labour market after doing so. This has been accompanied by profound shifts in our views on what good parenting looks like. The rise of gay families is a part of the next chapter of this change, and it should not be provocative to suggest that there might be things to learn from alternative approaches to parenting and kinship.

Clarkson is right on one count though. There is nothing about someone’s sexuality that predetermines their skill as a parent. What matters is how you parent, not who you sleep with. Stonewall famously introduced the slogan: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” Some parents are gay and we should get used to it so we can get on with the job of helping all parents raise their children as well as possible.

One response to “Guardian Article

  1. I would tend to agree with Clarkson. Although research may support that gay parents may tend to be equally effective as the others, but what really would count, I believe, is the total effect on the children’s outlook in life and who they are as members of the larger society.

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