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Johann Hari

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Stop These Bigoted Attacks on Elton John's Baby

Posted: 04/05/11 02:20 PM ET

We are living in the middle of a great gayby boom. En masse, gay people are trading the dance floor for a baby-vomit-and-puke-filled floor of their own. The latest convert from baby oil to, well, baby oil is Elton John, whose baby boy Zachary was born on Christmas Day. Of course, the bad puns came as quickly as the afterbirth. My favourite? "And you can tell everybody/ that this is your son..." The reaction was a thousand times warmer and kinder than it would have been even ten years ago. For example, the Sun newspaper - Britain's best-selling tabloid, which was a stormfront of gay-bashing in the 1980s - covered the news straight (as it were) and ran a sweet piece saying he'd be a good dad. It's a sign of progress that there was as much fuss about Elton's age as about his sexuality.

But along with all the congratulations to Elton and David Furnish, there was an uglier kick. In Elton's native Britain, there were mutterings - rarely said to our faces - that gays shouldn't be having babies. The BBC's Six O'Clock News, incredibly, turned immediately for comment on the birth to a man who believes gay people should be executed - Stephen Green of the deranged Christian Voice, who I wrote about last month. He snarled that Elton was "cruel" - unlike killing gay people, I guess.

In the sewage pipes of the internet - online comments sections - there was a tsunami of bile. The first comment on the website of my own newspaper, the Independent, was: "An abomination of nature. Totally, and overwhelmingly, disgusting. The descent into the abyss has now passed the tipping point." In the US, the backlash was more naked: one supermarket chain censored pictures of Elton with his baby from their news-stands as not suitable for families.

But this is a good opportunity to answer the anxieties about gay adoption. The main one - offered with a concerned frown - is that these gay parents are harming their own children. These critics say that the children will grow up confused and bewildered by having two parents of the same sex. They will fail to understand their own gender identity, and be more likely to be unhappy and depressed.

These are claims about the world that can be empirically tested. We can find out the truth. And we have. There have now been over one hundred scientific studies of the grown-up children of gay parents, probing deeply into how they were affected. And what did they find?
Professor Ellen C. Perrin, MD of Tufts University School of Medicine explains: "The vast consensus of all the studies shows that children of same-sex parents do as well as children whose parents are heterosexual in every way." Some 90 percent of them grow up to be straight - just like in every family. They are no more or less like to be abused, depressed, or confused. And they love their parents, like we all do. "What is striking is that there are very consistent findings in these studies," Perrin says.

In fact, they found only one difference. The children of lesbian parents do better on several key indicators - they have higher self-esteem, better academic results, and fewer behavioural problems like rule-breaking and aggression. So if these critics really were "only concerned for the children", as they claim, they would be arguing that gay women should be prioritized and implored to become mothers over straight couples and gay men. Where's that cry?

The critics of gay adoption are entitled to their own opinion, but they are not entitled to their own facts.

These attempts at concern for the kids are in fact veiled bigotry. For example, they often say that gay people shouldn't be allowed to have children because they'll be bullied. So let's see: because there's prejudice against gay people, we should enshrine that prejudice in the law. Would they say that because black and Asian children are often picked on, black and Asian people shouldn't have kids?

You can see how much real concern these sneerers have for the welfare of children when you recall how they reacted to Elton's plea last year to be allowed to adopt an adorable 14-month old HIV-positive baby he found in an orphanage in Ukraine. He was turned down point-blank by the country's homophobic government - and the critics of gay parenting rejoiced. Think about that. They would rather an HIV-positive baby was left to live out a short life in a dirty, bare, loveless orphanage than be taken to a mansion by two loving gay dads and given the best treatment available. And they dare to lecture us on how best to care for children?

Elton and David will ignore this bigoted bullshit and become great Dads, I'm sure. There is a new gay anthem in town (with apologies to the Shirelles): Gayby, It's You.

This article originally appeared in Attitude, Europe's best-selling gay magazine. You can subscribe here.

To listen to Johann's podcast - which this week discusses the bullying of gay children - click here, or search for The Johann Hari podcast in i-Tunes. You can read more of Johann's articles about gay issues here and you can follow updates on these issues at www.twitter.com/johannhari101

 

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