Gay and lesbian parents: Teaching kids it's OK to be different

Posted on 06 Apr 2010 at 9:07am

We don’t usually publish essays or poems or, as in this case, papers written as part of a college English class assignment. In fact, this is, as far as I know, we have ever published something like this. And we won’t be doing it again.

Elizabeth Farr

Elizabeth Farr

But I decided to make this one exception because I got an e-mail from Elizabeth Farr, a student at Texas Woman’s University who, for her English class final, had to pick a topic and write a paper to try and persuade others to a specific viewpoint.

Well, Elizabeth’s dad is gay and she grew up living in the Oak Lawn area, she says, so she feels a special connection to the LGBT community. That’s why she decided to write her paper about gay parenting, speaking in favor of gays and lesbians as parents.

Part of the assignment was to “spread the word” by trying to get the paper published in some form or fashion. Elizabeth asked if Dallas Voice could help with that. So here it is:

Coming Out: Children with Gay Parents

As the child of a gay father myself, I know personally what it’s like to be worried about someone finding out that my family is different. I feared that if my friends found out my dad was gay, they wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore and would probably tease me and think I was a lesbian.

Children who grow up with a gay parent are inevitably going to be judged and ridiculed at some point in their life because of their parent’s sexual orientation. However, I believe this helps us to grow up as stronger and more tolerant individuals.

Children raised by homosexuals know there is nothing wrong with their families and learn at a young age to accept people for who they are, no matter how different they may look or act. Children who are raised in homosexual families still receive the same love and care as other children and grow up to be just as happy and healthy, while also  having the added benefit of growing up more open-minded than most of their peers.

Many people assume that there is only one type of family. The standard way of thinking about “family” has been that it consists of a husband and wife with children and a dog all living in a house in the suburb with a white picket fence in the front yard. Most traditionalists’ believe that homosexuals who have children cannot be considered families because they do not fit the norms of what makes a family. Conservative writer Don Feder is clearly disturbed by some people’s definition of family when he states:

“First, let’s get our definitions straight. A families [sic] is a man and a woman joined by marriage, with or without children. Two male homosexuals, or two lesbians, who are roommates, engaging in mutual acts of sodomy aren’t a family. Two homosexuals who have children are just that-two homosexuals who have children. They’re no more a family than a fish with a machinegun is an army. (Feder) “

The essence of Feder’s argument is that there is clearly only one definition of family, and that is a married man and woman. According to Feder, gay and lesbian parents and their children are obviously not a family and are nothing more than “two homosexuals who have children.”

I think Don Feder is severely mistaken in his view of what makes a family because he overlooks the fact that there are all different types of families in the world. As a matter of fact, the “traditional” family idea that Feder tries to promote is no longer the only family norm or even the dominate one for that matter.

Families nowadays are made up of divorced parents, single parents, guardians, grandparents and yes, even gay parents. Children of gay parents may not be raised in what could be called a “traditional” family, but to the people involved it is still a family.

My dad “came out” to my sister and me, with the support of our mom, when I was about 9 years old. I’m 25 now with two daughters of my own and my non-traditional family is closer than ever. As a matter of fact, I have a 4-year-old brother whose dad is hardly ever around and one of the only positive male role-models he has is my dad. Since my brother is closer in age to my children, he calls my dad “Papa” and my dad does not hesitate to include him as one of his grandkids.

The fact that my dad happens to be gay has nothing to do with the way he interacted with us as children or the way he, like most other grandpas, spoils his grandkids. My dad being gay does not define what makes us a family but it is a part of what makes us great.

Some pediatrician’s claim that children raised by homosexuals have to deal with sexual identity issues that can also lead to mental and emotional issues. In their online article, Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time for Change?, the American College of Pediatricians (ACPEDS) states that, “Children reared in homosexual households are more likely to experience sexual confusion, engage in risky sexual experimentation, and later adopt a homosexual identity”(Acpeds).

ACPEDS goes on to claim that this sexual confusion  is worrisome since most homosexual adolescents are at an increased risk for mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and the contemplation of suicide attempts.

Sarah S. Brown from the University of California at Los Angeles conducted a study of popular opinions on homosexual parenting by asking students of an Atlanta, Georgia, English class to write an essay about their personal beliefs (note that student grades were based on how well they presented their arguments, not their personal opinion). As a result of this study, Brown noticed that those who were against homosexual parenting (whom she refers to as the “cons”) cited “fear that the child would grow up thinking homosexuality is acceptable” (Brown 452) as their primary concern for children in homosexual houses.

Although the “cons” and ACPEDS do not say so directly, they apparently assume that there is something wrong with teaching children to be accepting of individuals, even if they are different.

I disagree with the view that children who are raised by homosexuals are more likely to grow up sexually confused and suffer from mental and emotional problems. To some degree all adolescents, whether raised by homosexuals or not, go through a period of sexual curiosity along with mental and emotional troubles, it’s called puberty. I think it is unfair to say that children who are raised by homosexuals experience these problems any more or less than children from “traditional” families.

Owing to research conducted on children of gay and lesbian parents, The American Academy of Pediatrics insists that, “A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual”(Cahill et. al. 69).

But let’s forget about what the “experts” say about children of gay and lesbian parents for a minute and get a glimpse of how the children actually feel.

In Joe Gantz’s book, Whose Child Cries: Children of Gay Parents Talk About Their Lives, Gantz gets candid testimony of what it is liked to be raised by homosexuals from children who are being raised by homosexuals.

The Angellini family consists of Selena who is 13, her father Dan and Dan’s partner Andrew. This story really stuck with me because I could see so much of myself in Selena. She doesn’t necessarily fit into a “clique,” she just wants friends who are genuine. When children at her school make gay jokes, Selena says she stands up for gay people in general but never goes that extra bit by saying her father is gay. She said this made her feel kind of guilty as if she was ashamed of her father in some way.

I was the same way growing up — I would vehemently defend gay people but would never open myself enough by saying I was really defending my dad who was gay, and there was guilt associated with that silence. Both my mom and dad made sure that I knew they loved me no matter what my sexual preference turned out to be. I never suffered mental, emotional or sexual problems anymore than someone who was raised by a heterosexual family.

When my dad acknowledged his homosexuality, there was one person who stood by his side as he revealed his “true self” to his harshest critics, and that was my mom. Part of the reason that I have always been comfortable with my dad being gay is that my primary role model, my mom, never made it an issue. I give my dad a lot of credit for being strong enough to reveal his true self, but the way my mom handled the situation deserves credit as well.

For most of my life, my parents were separated but lived together so that they could provide the best for my sister and me. This all changed when dad met Dave and moved in with him. What can I say about Dave other than he was a character and really brought out the best in my dad. Dave made my dad happy, and while I wouldn’t say he was like a second father to me, I would say he was more like a fun uncle.

As I grew up and eventually moved out on my own and started my own family, Dad began coming to my house on weekends to see his granddaughter, Brianna. One weekend Dad came out and said Dave had a rare form of liver cancer and it was incurable. I didn’t believe it, I told Dad that Dave would beat the cancer, but as time went on Dave only got worse.

Dave’s niece, Susan, came to stay and take care of him for the last few weeks of his life. Early one November morning as I was getting ready for work my phone rang and it was Dad calling to tell me that Dave had passed away at home. I drove to my dad’s house and we all hugged and cried and said our goodbyes to Dave. It was a very traumatic time for my Dad and all of us because we had lost a family member.

I’m happy that for a time my Dad found love, even if it was shared with a man. It’s been five years since Dave’s passing and Dad still hasn’t moved on. My Dad and Dave were together for over 10 years, which is longer than the average heterosexual marriage in the United States, so I’m not sure that he will ever fully get over the loss.

When Dave was sick and Susan was here, she became an important part of my family. Susan and I had never met before she came to take care of Dave, but once we did we just connected and it was obvious that we were family. It’s somewhat ironic that through losing Dave, I gained Susan.

Although Dave is gone, Susan is still a very important part of my family. We talk on the phone regularly and she is more like an aunt to me than my own blood relatives. She encourages me to do well in school, is proud of my accomplishments and, like most other proud “aunties,” is waiting for me to send updated pictures of my kids so she can hang them on her wall.

As the child of a gay parent, I have decided to come out of the closet. I have finally “grown up” enough to realize that letting others know my dad is gay is a relief. I have never been ashamed of my father’s homosexuality but I have never openly acknowledged it either. I was never brave enough to stand up and say, “Yeah my dad is gay. So what?” But I am now.

I’m letting go of the fear and responsibility of keeping it a secret. If I tell someone that my dad’s gay and they look at me funny or don’t want to talk to me anymore because I might be a lesbian (heaven forbid) then it’s their loss, not mine. I always have been and always will be a daddy’s girl but now I also am the proud daughter of a gay father.

But who besides me and a handful of proud people in the LGBT  community have a genuine interest in gay parenting? At the very least researchers who want to learn more about the effects homosexuals have on their children should care — not to mention the millions of people across the globe that are ready to open their minds, get educated, and end the uninformed view that there is only one family type in which children can thrive.

My discussion of accepting homosexuals as parents is, in fact, addressing the larger matter of ending discrimination against others and teaching our children that being different is part of what makes us great. In other words, our history shows that the human race has discriminated against people based on their race, gender and now we are doing it with sexual orientation.

A better legacy to leave to future generations is that it’s acceptable to be different and we should embrace these differences rather than judge them. Let’s face it: All of us are different in some way and this is what makes life so much more interesting.

Works Cited
Brown, Sarah S. “Popular Opinion on Homosexuality: The Shared Moral Language of Opposing Views.” Sociological Inquiry 70.4 (2000): 446-61. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 10 Feb 2010.
Cahill, Sean, Mitra Ellen, and Sarah Tobias. Family Policy: Issues Affecting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Families. New York: The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institue, 2002. ngltf.org. Web. 22 Mar 2010.
Feder, Don. “Homosexual Have Easter Bunny In Their Sights.” donfeder.com. 24 Apr 2006.Web. 5 Apr 2010 <http://donfeder.com/articles/0604homoEggRoll.pdf>.
Gantz, Joe. Whose Child Cries:Children of Gay Parents Talk about their Lives. Rolling Hills Estates, CA: Jalmar Press, 1983. Print.
The American College of Pediatricians. “Homosexual Parenting: Is It Time for Change?” acpeds.org. Mar 26 2009.Web. 5 Apr 2010 <http://acpeds.org/>.

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