Friday, December 7, 2007

On Gay Parenting

In reading anti-gay blogs and websites, I mostly find that anti-gay advocates make the general claim, presenting no evidence, that all children need a mother and father. And worse, some go so far as saying that it is a form of child abuse for same-sex couples to raise a child because every child deserves a mother and a father.

Now, I personally believe that more important factors than gender that determine whether an individual and the two individuals in a couple are good parents. But, my humble opinion is not likely to convince anti-gay advocates that gay people can be, and often are, good parents. Nor should it. See, I am just as unconvinced by one's personal opinion that "gender complementary" parents are a prerequisite to good parenthood as others are by my personal opinions.

So, today I am going to mostly let the experts do the talking and then draw conclusions from their arguments and findings. I want to focus more on the argument some make that a child needs both a mother and a father as opposed to the more easily discredited and based-in-stereotypes arguments against gay parenting like "gays are child molestors" and "children raised by gays will turn out gay."

First, we have a psychologist, professor, and researcher Gregory Herek, PhD providing an honest round-up of the data regarding parenting and how it is often misused. Following that, we have gay dad Terrance giving us a round-up of some "poisonous" parents who demonstrate the danger in thinking that "natural" "heterosexual" parents are automatically, unquestionably fit for parenthood.

1. The Research and Its Misuses

In the words of Dr. Gregory Herek, who has published extensively in this area, (he has his own blog here) research regarding parenting is often misunderstood and/or mis-used by anti-gay advocates:

"When Dobson and other Christian Right activists claim that research shows “children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father,” they are not talking about research comparing gay versus straight parents.

Instead, they are trying to apply the findings from studies comparing children from two-parent (heterosexual) homes and children raised by a single parent, often in poverty. Many of the single-parented kids in those studies had endured divorce, the death of a parent, or other types of family disruption now known to have negative effects on children’s well-being.

Those studies show that, all else being equal, children generally do better with two parents than with one. However, they don’t address the question of whether the parents’ gender or sexual orientation makes a difference.

As I’ve discussed in
previous postings, the research that has actually looked at families headed by sexual minority adults has consistently found no inherent deficits among gay parents. Moreover, their kids have proved to be as well adjusted as children with heterosexual parents." (Emphasis Added).

So, the bottom line is that anti-gay advocates often use research comparing two-parent versus single-parent families to draw conclusions about two-parent opposite-gender families versus two-parent same-gender families. And, when they do acknowledge the faulty analogy, they try the "the data is not conclusive either way, so we should err on the side of assuming children are harmed by having two same-gender parents" argument. Even though, as Herek states, the research actually looking at same-gender families reveal no inherent deficits or adjustment problems.

Ultimately, the opposition to same-gender parenting comes down to some anti-gay advocates' personal opinion that "every child deserves a mother and a father." Or, perhaps, that no child should be deprived of its natural parent because a natural parent is inherently a better parent than an adoptive or non-biological parent. And further, they believe that a child having a married mother and father is the most important prerequisite for good parenthood. Natural and biological parents, you see, are automatically fit for parenthood.

So, let's examine that belief now.

2. Good Parenting Requires Parents Who Lead, Love, Guide, and Protect, Not Who Have Different Genitals

Read gay parent Terrance's article on "Poisonous Parenting" where he presents evidence that good parenting depends less on the parents' gender and more on other traits like, you know, sanity, caring, and compassion. He actually has a running series on "poisonous parenting" where he highlights abusive heterosexual parents who are parents more because they are able be, rather than because they actually want to be or are particularly good at it.

For instance, Terrance writes of one woman who kept her "12-year-old son chained to a shed, beating him with a hammer, cans, metal poles and other items." The boy, at the police station, was found with scars and marks all over his body. The boy's father was arrested for doing nothing to stop the repeated attacks. Terrance sarcastically writes,

"Now there are two candidates for Parents of the Year. But I can’t criticize them. They met the bare minimum set by the Maryland Court of Appeals, something I’m biologically incapable of, even if I spend my time kissing my son’s “boo-boos” instead of giving them to him."

The point of this series is not, I think, to degrade heterosexual parents by only showing examples of horrible hetero parents. We all know that there are many good heterosexual parents. Heck, most of us were raise by them! His point is to show the primitive logic of some in assuming that (1) heterosexuality and (2) ability to procreate = good and fit parents.

As his response to one commenter questioning whether Terrance was a "real" parent indicates:

"Apparently, in this commenter’s eyes someone who ejaculates and evacuates is more of a father than someone like me, who’s spent the last five years loving and raising an amazing little boy. And, if I may say so myself, doing a pretty good job of it....[The potential to procreate] is privileged above all else, including loving and raising the resulting children in homes where they can grow up knowing they are loved, wanted, safe, respected, and appreciated. So long as you have the working body parts to get them into the world, it matters somewhat less whether you have the capacity or desire to see them safely through it."

I'll end with this quote:

"In the time it took to ovulate, ejaculate, and thus procreate, [the highlighted abusive parents] did indeed manage to do something the hubby and I can’t do. At least not with one another. For the last five years, however, we’ve managed to do something the parents above and the rest of the parents in this series did not. We do it every day, because it’s what we love most of all to do, and we’ll continue to do it: loving, teaching, guiding, protecting, and raising our son to a happy, healthy adulthood.

Tell me again. Why do we deserve less recognition, and fewer rights and protections than them?"

Good question. I challenge anyone to logically explain, without mis-using research and using more than your own personal opinions, how the poisonous parents Terrance details are more deserving of parental and marital rights than Terrance and his partner are.

Remember, "logically" is the key word here.

Cue the crickets chirping.

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