By Charlotte Capogna-Amias
Earlier this fall I was talking with a friend of mine who is also a queer parent and she shared with me how she wished that people wrote on online forums about not only issues they are grappling with as parents, but things that are going well for them too.
I was moved by my friend’s words – she made me think of how often LGBT families are attacked by the Right for not having a mom and a dad at the parental helm and how this is sure to have a negative, emotionally scarring impact on these children. In fact, not only does my own personal experience tell me that LGBT people parent successfully and thoughtfully, but research backs it as well. A longitudinal study that was published in recent years followed children raised by lesbian couples and they found positive results on several different measures with how these kids “turned out” in contrast to their peers raised in heterosexual homes. My friend’s words inspired me to reflect on the queer parents I know and intentionally take a moment to appreciate all the things we do pretty darn great as a community of child-rearing folks.
I also feel like I need to give a major disclaimer that I know plenty of supremely awesome het parents who do many of the things I list below too. The difference is that they’re not targeted or questioned by a certain segment of the population in terms of their ability to parent well.
So, drum roll please, here’s just a few things that stand out to me in no particular order (and this list is certainly not exhaustive):
Mindfulness around gender constructs and gender expression:
Here’s just one example: I can easily recall the two times in the past year when I saw a male-bodied baby dressed in pink. Not splashes of pink in an otherwise non-pink outfit, but PINK, solidly and boldly. I will admit that I was a little shocked that I noticed that much, but then again, I was equally surprised by how rarely I have seen a male child dressed this way, even within the rather progressive community that I live. Both times, the parents were queer folks. Also, of the parents I know who make a very concerted effort to offer many different options so their child/ren can express whatever gender feels right to them and also talk with them about gender fluidity, nearly all of them are queer folks. Just saying.
Strong effort to co-parent and raise their child/ren equally:
This was something that was cited in the study that I mentioned above, and I have to say, I have found it to be true amongst the majority of queer parents I know. It seems that there’s a real goal of having parity within their parenting (say that ten times fast).
Raising children to be “body positive”:
Nearly all of the queer parents I know encourage their children to get to know their bodies and be comfortable, knowledgeable and unashamed about them. In this society, that seems like a radical act.
Real efforts made to teach kids about all different types of families:
I think there’s a reality that when you’re a “non traditional” family, you recognize how important it is to have an awareness of various examples of how families can be structured and what they may look like. Perhaps even more important than having an awareness though, I’ve witnessed a commitment by queer families to bring multiculturalism and family diversity into both their personal family lives and into institutions in which they are involved (such as their child’s preschool).
Overall, the queer parents I know are among the most dedicated and intentional parents I have witnessed. Maybe there’s something to that: we have to work extra hard to have or raise a baby in the first place and that makes us take this parenting business very seriously*. If anything, this quality may be our downfall.
* I’m not saying as opposed to those that get pregnant easily or without planning… heck, we all could use a massive dose of praise, encouragement and less judgment!
1. Alice Park, “Study: Kids with Lesbian Parents May Do Better Than Their Peers,” Time, June 7, 2010, accessed January 7, 2013, http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1994480,00.html.
Charlotte Capogna-Amias started writing in high school and produced two DIY zines in which she had a fan base of fellow punks around the country who were also trying to make meaning of their lives through stories, rants and art. These days Charlotte studies in the Amherst Writers & Artists method and her writing on parenthood has appeared in Hip Mama magazine and the forthcoming web publication of This Bridge Called My Baby. Charlotte is the co-founder and facilitator of the Queer Non-Gestational Parents Group- a support group based in western Massachusetts. Charlotte has a Masters in Social Justice Education and works for a university support program for students who are low-income, first generation college students or have a disability. Charlotte lives in western Massachusetts with her spouse and energetic two-year-old daughter. In her spare time (that was funny), Charlotte is working with her friend and fellow blogster, Betsy Fife Archer, on a guidebook about becoming a queer, non-gestational parent. She and Betsy blog at turkeybasterandabottleofwine.wordpress.com