The phrase “traditional family” no longer means one mom, one dad and two-point-five kids. Today’s families are diverse, with many lesbians and gay men forming a family unit through adoption, foster care, artificial insemination and other means. Research estimates that between six to 14 million children live with at least one gay parents in the United States alone.
Though it is, in some ways, simpler for LGBTQ adults to become parents in today’s more-inclusive climate, that doesn’t make it an easy proposition. Parenting is hard enough, but raising a child in an LGBT partnership or as an LGBTQ individual can be particularly challenging. This is especially true for those parents who live outside of bigger metropolitan areas with larger gay populations, where there is little to no chance of interacting with other LGBTQ parents.
Here are some of the most common concerns I hear from my LGBTQ clients when they begin to think about starting a family:
What About Role Models?
A big concern in the community is that a child will suffer from not having a male or female role model present on a daily basis. But research has shown that children of two moms and two dads grow up to be perfectly healthy and happy, in some cases more so than children who grew up in heterosexual households where a mom and dad were both present.
What About Homophobia?
It’s understandable that LGBTQ parents would worry that their child would be taunted, or even assaulted, because of their “non-traditional” family structure. No parent can 100% guarantee that their child will never be taunted or bullied, for any reason. LGBTQ couples and individuals should talk candidly with their children and prepare them for any possible negative interactions with peers. The best thing to do is to set an example by always standing tall and proud in the world, and not shying away from a confrontation while not escalating it.
What About Cost and Legal Issues?
LGBTQ parents can’t simply try to conceive, there is much more thought, planning and cost that goes into starting a family. Statistically, women make less money than men. When you factor in that getting pregnant can be incredibly expensive, you begin to understand why so many lesbian couples decide to hold off on becoming parents until they are financially stable. For many, this means waiting until their late 30’s or even early 40s.
Same-sex parents must also tackle legal issues. For men, who will be the sperm donor, if trying to conceive through insemination? Women must determine who will carry the child. Much thought is necessary when considering custody and adoption arrangements, particularly if parents live in a state where getting legal recognition for both parents is next to impossible.
Navigating these complexities can be overwhelming and stressful, to say the very least. My clients have found it to be tremendously helpful just to have someone who will listen and try and help them explore all of their options. I am also able to help couples work through any tension they may be experiencing because of this stress.
If you are an LGBTQ individual or couple who would like some help navigating the often-emotional journey of becoming a parent, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.