Monday, 17 March 2008

My two mommies

It is proven with thorough research that lesbian families are as healthier, if not more, than traditional families. Their children do as well as children from heterosexual families and there is no affect to their social adjustment, sexual orientation or academic success.

They are, sadly surprising to many, as mentally healthy a children from heterosexual parenting families. A study, published in Child Development (Vol 75) compared a group of 44 same-sex family teenagers with 44 heterosexual family teenagers. The report states that:

“There were very few group differences between the kids who had been brought up by same- or opposite-sex parents”.

In actual fact, the children from same sex families reported closer relations with their schools and classmates.

This also disproved the myth that lesbian raised children struggled with romantic relationships due to a missing father figure. There was in actual fact no difference between the two groups in grade point averages or symptoms of depression or self-esteem.

It is in actual fact good parenting and not the parent’s sexual orientation that creates productive, mentally healthy children. It was actually proven that the children from same-sex families thrived in a world where their family and parents are not always accepted.

A study by Nanette Gartrell, MD, regrettably found that by the age of ten half of children with lesbian mothers have been exposed to homophobic teasing from their peers. However, as a group children from lesbian families are as well-adjusted as children from heterosexual families (as per the date from Gartrell's National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study).

Gartrell has commented that the resilience of the children may in part be due to their mothers’ efforts to prepare them for homophobia and protect them.

"In order to create a homophobia-free space for these children, the moms have had to educate their pediatricians, their child-care workers," says Gartrell. "They are active in the school system and make sure there are training modules in the schools that support diversity including LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered] families. All this is on top of the usual 24-7 commitment to parenting."

Gartrell has also said that the children from same-sex families are more than just precious additions to their families.

"The kids I've interviewed are enormously thoughtful–they are not only sensitive to discrimination to their groups but other groups as well," she says. "This is something LGBT families have to offer the world."

More than 10% of same-sex couples are parenting a child. Most report that biggest problem they have is discrimination, either against them or their children

It is important to create a sound foundation in your family life of support and instruction. Teach your child what to expect from people, to not be hurt by thoughless comments and to openly discuss their concerns and heartaches with their mothers.

Involve their teachers and advise them that the family is a same sex family. This is important in cases of emergency where the teachers need to be aware that either of two mothers might have to pick up the child.

It is important for your child to be able to approach you when they are harassed and that they feel safe discussing their worries and concerns with you.

It is equally important for your child to be aware that the homophobic behaviour is unacceptable ad will be dealt with, but that they are in no way to blame and did not deserve the bullying. Try to ensure that their school is a safe place for them.

Contact the school and your child’s teacher. Explain to the necessary authority at the school what happened and why you think it is due to bias. Explain to the required person that you require their assistance in ensuring your child’s emotional and physical safety and draw up a plan of action together.

Do not just stop with the teacher of the abuse or bullying does not stop. Do not be scared climbing up the ladder of responsibility and approach the principal, necessary official or even government department if necessary.

Always keep in mind that educators are not necessarily opposed to your family lifestyle and must care about children to have become educators. Explain yourself logically and keep track of all the instances of harassment and all previous meetings with teachers or other relevant individuals.

Do not hesitate to involve the police if the harassment has escalated to crime, where your child or their belongings have been injured or threatened with physical harm.

All lesbian parents must know how difficult it is to find quality daycare for their child. You have the exact same obstacles as heterosexual families, but have the additional problems of finding a childcare environment where your chid will be allowed to be proud of their family unit.

This is, sadly, a society where homophobia is rampant and this might be a bigger task than it sounds. As recently as May 2006 there was complete outrange at an Australian daycare’s choice to include books depicting same-sex families.

It is important to find a daycare centre where your child is not only allowed despite their same-sex parents, but where they will be free to enjoy themselves and will under no circumstances be singled out due to their family difference.

So where do you find a gay-friendly childcare? It is important to look in the right places. Approach your local GLBT organisations, centres and publications. Ask other same-sex parents for advice and suggestions.

It might even be an option to arrange with other same-sex families to “share a nanny”.

Once you have found a daycare that you think might be right for your family it is still important to do some research.

Interview a possible daycare and fid out how they will make their environment “gay-positive” for your child.

What will the daycare do to ensure that they do not only accept your child, but that the other children and families understand and accept your child.

Find out what their policy is about teasing and bullying and how they will ensure your child’s emotional and physical safety in (and out) of the classroom.

Homophobia is a very real concern for many lesbians who want to become or are parents. Many women feel that they would be putting their children in unfair situations and unfortunately homophobia and discrimination does exist. It is not a matter of if your child will have to deal with it but how a child will deal with it.

Homophobic organisations love to proclaim that lesbians are not fit to be parents. As discussed this is clearly a fallacy. You are however probably not worried about your parenting skills but the effect of society over your child.

Many studies have however found that children from Lesbian families experienced homophobic bullying to be no worse than “normal” children experience bullying.

It is a fact that nearly all children will experience some form of bullying in their lifetime and the fact that the bullying is caused by a homophobic component might not make a stronger impression on a child than “normal” bullying. It is however still extremely important for your child to understand and know how to deal with bullying.

You must raise your child to stand up to homophobia. Children respond best to bullying when they have a strong secure foundation to react on.

Be honest with your child at all times about your lifestyle. If you are not ashamed of who you are, your child will have no reason or cause to be ashamed. Honesty and open communication is always the best option with children. Even young children require the honesty from their parents to understand why their families are slightly different and why other kids might not always be nice about it. Never ever send your child the message, no matter how unconscious it might be, that there is any cause for them to be ashamed of their family in any way.

Don’t wait for your child to experience homophobic bullying before education them in how to handle it.

Teach your child the meaning of “gay” and “lesbian”. Warn them about the “slang” use of phrases such as “That’s so gay” and explain to them that being gay is not a bad thing. Encourage them to think of their family life style in a positive, self assured manner.

Use the opportunity of discussing LGBT family issues with your child to create a greater understanding of other marginalised families, such as adopted children or inter-racial families.

Again, the most important thing you can do for your child is to listen with an open heart. Try to understand what your child is going through in a non-judgemental manner.

Children act by learning through observation and imitation. Your child will act as he has seen his mothers act and will experience the world in much the way he has seen them experience it. He will also combat homophobia in the way he has seen his parents approach the subject of homosexuality. It is important for you to combat homophobia from a very young age in your child’s life in order for them to “learn” from experience how it is done.

Ultimately, can it ever be a good thing for a child to grow up in a lesbian family? Yes! Most children from same-sex families have only good things to say about their upbringings and are often more acceptant of diversity among their peers. They also tend to be able to recognise good friends early on. So while you may think your child is having a very hard time they might in actual fact just be climbing a steep learning curve to becoming well adjusted, intuitive and brave young adults.


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