I grew-up in a home with both a mother and a father. By all intents and purposes, it was a typical looking family. And in the 1970s and 1980s, that was not unusual.Typical was, well, typical. Families were defined as a mother, father and their children. It of course, included grandparents and extended families, but the nucleus was almost always the same. Children from single parent families were relatively unusual and were somewhat of an oddity in those days. Everyone knew who they were and secretly felt sorry for those unfortunate "latch key" kids.
Today, families are no longer quite so cookie cutter similar. Some families are comprised of a mother and her children and a father who is no longer an active member of the family or never has been. Other families consist of two absent parents, leaving the parental role to be fulfilled by grandparents or foster families. And there are, for the first time in history, a fair amount of same sex parents who are raising children. These types of family are a few million strong.
Despite studies proving otherwise, some people still insist that children are being ruined by this type of family dynamic. They deem homosexual couples as "unfit"parents, but don't seem to have concrete or legitimate evidence to substantiate their claims. They fight against same-sex adoption with the fervor of a quarterback at the Super Bowl.
So, what do opponents argue?
1. Children of same-sex parents will become gay.
Opponents often state that same-sex couples should not have little ones because their children will become gay. As a gay man, I'm offended by this statement. Not only is it based on false assumptions, but it implies that being homosexual is a horrible thing. Saying that they would never want a child to turn out like me is hurtful. Would they be offended if I said that I hoped my future children would never be like them? Yes, they would. And for the record, I wouldn't. I wouldn't want my child to be a bigot. But I digress. Studies show that children of same-sex parents are no more likely to identify themselves as homosexual than children of heterosexual parents. Being exposed to gay parents doesn't turn a child gay any more than having a family pet turns a child into a dog. People are born either gay or straight and the environment in which they live does not increase or decrease their chances of being gay or straight. Being raised by gay parents might, though, give children an increase in tolerance towards people who are different than they are.
2. Children of same-sex parents will be the victim of teasing.
Will children of same-sex couples be teased? Yes. Will children of heterosexual parents be teased? Yes. The words may be different, but the attitudes are often the same. Face it, children are not immune to playground teasing no matter what their lot in life is. Children of low income families are teased and so are children of wealthy parents. No matter if a child is from a single parent household, a same-sex couple or a more traditional family, it's likely that they will be teased for one reason or another. As much as all parents want to protect their children from this, it's nearly impossible to shelter them from teasing.
Does being teased ruin a kid's life? It can, but it's quite unavoidable. Every child has to deal with being teased. And studies show that same sex parents are actually more likely to have a positive and healthy emotional connection with their children than most traditional families. This bond actually increases the chance that children will have support and love that will get them through the prickly jabs of their classmates.
3. Children of same-sex parents will not have proper examples of gender role models
LGBT parents have been criticized because their same-sex partnership does not give children a balanced view of gender roles. Children from these LGBT families are not afforded the opportunity to see a woman take on traditional roles such as child care and household duties while her male spouse takes on the duties of the traditional father. At its basic level, this statement is true, but one could also argue whether or not this is important. Is it harmful for a child to see a man do dishes, cook dinner and nurture children? If this is harmful to a child's development, then the children of stay-at-home dads will surely grow-up with emotional issues and children of windowed mothers are likely to need to visit a psychiatrist. It's unlikely that lifelong trauma can be blamed on a child seeing their mother mow the lawn.
In today's more liberal world, even children of "traditional" parents may not have the same, clear models of traditional femininity or masculinity that generations past have been exposed to. Today, many moms work outside of the home, leaving Dad to care for the children and the household duties. And there are traditional moms who know how to change the oil on the mini-van and dads who know how to make a mean croissant.
LGBT parents are acutely aware of the need for positive role models -- of both sexes -- for their children. "It Takes a Village" is a statement that was popularized in 1996 by First Lady of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton and is the perfect mantra for the LGBT parental community. Surrounding children with loving adults who contribute positively to their lives is the best way to raise any child. Young, impressionable children can learn how to be the best people they can be by spending time with grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends who are not only willing to teach them, but to set positive examples.
4. Children from same-sex parents have their rights violated.
Some opponents suggest that children adopted into same-sex marriages are having their rights violated. Children adopted when they are under five years old don't have the opportunity to choose their families. But neither do children raised by their biological parents, or children adopted by inter-racial couples. Should we discriminate against mixed-race families by not allowing them to adopt children because they may be teased or because some people don't feel its right or wise? Should we remove children from their biological parents because one of the parents dies?
Children do have rights. They have the right to live in a loving household with parents who will love them, guide them and teach them right from wrong. Children who have been surrendered into the adoption and fostering system often feel as if they have already suffered a major loss and rejection. It's very important that these children are nurtured and loved. Heterosexual parents and homosexual parents alike are equally capable of providing this type of environment.
You don't have to examine the situation too long before you realize that legislators and the public alike are using the topic of gay adoption and parenting to propel their political agenda. The arguments against it are not aimed at protecting children, but at getting votes and winning constituents. These law makers are prohibiting LGBT couples, who are good citizens and upright people, from becoming parents and are ignoring decades of science and studies. And they aren't considering the child's welfare, because prohibiting gay adoption does absolutely nothing to solve the current child welfare conundrum. As a society, we need to strive towards providing more permanent families for all children, not create laws that place fewer of them.
Of course, adoption is not the only way that gay families are created, Many same-sex couples are co-parenting the biological children of one or both of the partners. And though these families probably face fewer legal battles than those with adopted children, their trials exist outside of the courtroom. Society still frowns on this type of family structure and discrimination abounds. Society is chock full of those who feel that not only is gay adoption wrong, but gay parenting in general.
The good news is that there has been a slight shift in views on homosexual parenting in recent years. The popular ABC sitcom, "Modern Family" features two dominant gay characters, Mitchell (played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and his partner, Cameron (Eric Stonestreet) are the proud parents of a daughter, Lily, whom they adopted from Vietnam. Just a few short years ago, a program featuring this type of family structure would not have been a smash hit, in fact, it would not have even been allowed on cable television. But we still have a long way to go.
What do we do to solve this crisis and change peoples' minds? Personal relationships coupled with an open mind is the only way to bridge the gap between the opponents and understanding. Look around your neighborhood and community for positive examples of gay parenting. I did and I found a shining example of a loving family.
Kyle and Pennington share their home and love with adorable little Cayden. They are a perfect example of a positive, functioning same-sex family. Their home is full of laughter and love, family dinners and snuggles. Their calendar is full of school activities, birthday parties and community events. Cayden is a straight "A" student and purple belt in karate. He is also an active gymnast and overall a very happy and emotionally healthy young man. Kyle and Pennington have an excellent relationship with Cayden's biological mother. They have their share of scraped knees and monsters under the bed, but those are easily fixed by bandages and kisses. Their home is delightfully normal. They are an excellent example of a true "Modern family."
What is unfortunate is that beyond the normal struggles of married and parental life, they have to fight a society that thinks that not only is their relationship wrong and impure, but that they, as a couple, are not fit to raise their son. But if you, if they, the opponents, were to take the time to personally get to know these people they would see that their love is real and their skills as parents hasn't diminished or been tainted by their relationship. Cayden is a loving, normal little boy who is fortunate enough to be adored by two amazing fathers.
If you are opposed to same-sex marriages, I challenge you to examine your own beliefs and morals. Why do you, personally, object? Do you feel threatened or are you just too timid to stand up for what you really believe? Take the time to create real relationships with a member of the LGBT community and then reassess your beliefs. Perhaps your opinions will change or you will be bold enough to state them. Perhaps then you will see that same-sex parents are as capable and loving and legitimate as their heterosexual counterparts. If fact, in some cases, they are more qualified, stronger and more capable of nurturing a child than mixed gender couples.
Tradition and existing conditions are not satisfactory evidence for discrimination