Today's post is from Amie Klempnauer Miller, a frequent speaker about gay and lesbian families and author of the book She Looks Just Like You: A Memoir of (Nonbiological Lesbian) Motherhood. Miller works as a development consultant to the public media industry and lives with her partner and daughter in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The recently released results of a 25-year study of the children of lesbians (specifically, the children of "planned lesbian families" – conceived through alternative insemination by women who identified as lesbian) shows that the kids turn out to have fewer behavioral problems and greater self-confidence than their peers with straight parents. As the nonbiological lesbian mom (my partner of 26 years is the birth mom) of a seven-year-old daughter, this should make me feel great. Right?
On one level, it does. While our family lives in a neighborhood, and our daughter attends a school, where we are affirmed for the most part, I am nonetheless aware that many people in the world actively disapprove of gay and lesbian parents. Sometimes I am reminded of this in small ways – little comments, odd questions – and other times it is with all the subtlety of a punch to the gut. So when studies like this one come along, I find myself wanting to wave it in front of the opponents of gay and lesbian parenting and shout HA!
The study posits a few reasons why lesbian moms might be raising especially well-adjusted kids. One of them is that lesbian moms tend to have a high level of involvement in their kids' lives. We communicate with our kids. We spend time and energy on finding and creating social spaces where our kids will feel accepted. We are active at their schools. We show up. This is at least partly because we are often concerned about fending off any potential discrimination that our children might face because they have lesbian moms. (This is a real concern; the study also reported that 41% of the kids surveyed had experienced teasing or discrimination because of their parents' sexual orientation).
All of this is good. By and large, lesbian moms (and, I would wager, gay dads) are active, involved, engaged parents who made very thoughtful (and in our case, ridiculously time-consuming) decisions about becoming parents in the first place. This is reflected in our approach to parenting.
At the same time, studies like this one leave me with a little bit of concern, like a nagging scratchiness. And here's why: it's my sense that – sometimes – studies that show our kids are doing great and, in some ways, better, can make it tough for families with gay and lesbian parents to admit when they do face problems. If the kids of lesbian parents are doing better overall, what does it mean if your kid is having a tough time? Is it because something's terribly wrong? Because you've really screwed up? Or is it because we're all human and sometimes we do well, sometimes we do better, and sometimes we fall?
Don't get me wrong. I think it's awesome that the kids of lesbian parents are, overall, self-confident and not beset with behavior problems. Those are my goals for my daughter, too. And, I hope, it is this very self-confidence that will help our kids – all the children of gay men and lesbians – to ask for help when the road gets rough.