Well-being

FAMILIES AND PARENTING

As LGBT people we all create our own families, we form social bonds with persons not related (necessarily) to blood or kin, and these social bonds can even be stronger than any blood tie could ever be.

Through a shared intimacy between two loving adults, the need to create a family sometimes arose. The longing for a baby fills the house. Sometimes it is a mutual feeling, but more often than not it is one partner who upsets the equilibrium of daily life. Lesbian/same-gender families have been around, especially where one woman was involved in a previous heterosexual relationship and later on formed a relationship/ partnership with another woman. A recent development is the planned family-concept, where two lesbians decide to either adopt or conceive a child with the assistance of human reproduction technologies. Adoption through private organisations is the preferred route, although probably more expensive than the state-supported way. Creating a family through either a known or anonymous donor enters you enter the world of ‘infertility’, but most couples find the medical system quite supportive and encouraging. Linking with couples who have underwent the process and/or a local support group in your area might assist in facilitating the process.

Life in western society is still dominated by a social discourse of ‘straightness’, so be mindful that family life is entrenched with heteronormativity. As children participate in the activities of their schools and churches, and as they watch television or surf the internet, they become aware of — and form their own perceptions of — what a family is or should be. Because of the heteronormativity of Western society, one of the major challenges for every child is the integration of her or his family experience with that of the wider society outside the home. Raising a child in a lesbian family is ordinary and extraordinary. Research is conclusive that the emotional, behavioral, and psychological development of children of lesbian parents is very similar to that of children raised in heterosexual families. Lesbian parents also create their own methods of parenting, which is not necessarily based on stereotyped heterosexual marital roles, but on the time and talents of the parents involved. What can be learnt from this is that parental roles, duties, and functions can be performed in a wide variety of ways that are not linked to gender stereotypes. It also makes it clear that the quality of relationships and the quality of care given to the children is what is most important.

Research suggests the following benefits of being raising in a lesbian/gay family, namely that the children

  • develop an appreciation of differences and different ways of living;
  • respect, empathise with and tolerate environments full of diversity,
  • celebrate how others live;
  • treat homosexuality as a normal variation in sexuality and lifestyle and are more likely to consider the possibility of having gay relationships.
  • learn not to worry so much about what other people think, and have the potential for being more self-reliant and self-confident.
  • learn take responsibility for themselves and their choices,
  • accept their own sexuality,
  • adopt an empathetic and tolerant attitude and consider other points of view.