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Somewhere between 6 million and 12 million children have been blessed with gay parents. Yet, gay and lesbian parents continue to struggle on a daily basis with the challenges of a homophobic society and institutionalized oppression. Gays and lesbians are the only population facing restrictions on the rights and privileges of parenthood. When it comes to parenting, as well as other civil rights, gays and lesbians are de facto second class citizens:
Research on gay parenting has been in the forefront of the process of dismantling mistaken assumptions, both legal and cultural, facing gay parents, that have been expressed in judicial opinions, legislative initiatives, or public policies relevant to lesbian and gay parents and their children. Thus, many studies have been conducted to evaluate the accuracy of negative expectations about lesbian and gay parents or about their children.
GLBT Family Diversity
Apart from the ethnic, religious, economic, and other forms of diversity that characterize other families, additional forms and variety of parenting options exist within the construction of gay and lesbian families. For instance, a lesbian couple and a gay couple may agree to conceive children together and raise them jointly. Variants on this kind of arrangement might involve a gay couple and a single lesbian, or a lesbian couple and a single gay man. Large extended family systems of biologically unrelated adults and their children is also possible.
Dunne also found that gay men were deeply involved in ways not limited to traditional fatherhood—donating sperm to women friends, usually lesbians; adopting; foster parenting; and enlisting a surrogate mother. "In Britain," said Dunne, "about 50 percent of divorced fathers lose contact with their children within a year of their divorce, whereas divorced gay men were still actively involved in their children’s lives; many were actively co-parenting or were main (caretakers)." Friendships maintained with ex-spouses, she said, paves the way for gay fathers—who Dunne says tended to be "egalitarian type of men" when they were married"—to continue being actively involved in caring for their children.
The process of coming out, Dunne said, seems to make gay fathers more willing to challenge traditional gender roles and masculine stereotypes and "less frightened of the human qualities of nurturing and empathy and sensitivity." Almost unanimously, Dunne reported, the gay fathers in her study felt that "children had much to gain from growing up with a gay dad," with a major benefit being tolerance.
Impact of Gay Parenting on Children
Children of gays and lesbians also formed friendship bonds with their peers as easily as kids of heterosexuals, despite the harassment and teasing they were subjected to. Daughters of lesbians tended to have higher self-esteem, and sons were more caring and less aggressive relative to peers from heterosexual households. A 1994 study conducted by Charlotte Patterson revealed that children of lesbians exhibited "a greater overall sense of well-being" than kids of heterosexuals, perhaps because their moms forced fewer "sex-typed" preferences upon them.
Indeed most problems that daughters and sons of lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents are said to have, actually stem from going through a divorce, and not from parents' sexual orientation. There is no evidence that these children face any more difficulties socializing in school than children of straight parents. Gay children are exposed to more people of the opposite sex than many kids of straight parents and, there is no evidence to suggest that this is harmful. Accordingly, if these children identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, they are likely to be much better off than lesbian, gay and bisexual children of straight parents.