Same-sex parents: The kids are still all right

Research out of Australia focuses on how same-sex parents and their kids are faring. But do we really need another study confirming that queer families are doing all right?

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This just in: the kids are still all right.

In this case, the kids are so-called “queerspawn”: children of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) parents. This week, The Australian Study of Child Health in Same-Sex Families released findings that show that these kids are doing as well or better than kids in the general population. Specifically, children of LGBTQ parents showed no difference on factors such as temperament, mood, mental health, and self-esteem, and scored six percent higher in the areas of general health and family cohesion. Researchers collected data from 325 families with a total of 500 children.

I’m not surprised. And that’s not because of my own bias: after all, I’m the proud parent of two queerspawn, who seem to be doing just fine, thanks—as do their many, many peers with queer parents. I’m also not surprised because the Australian study is just one in a series that confirms that having two moms or two dads or a trans parent or two is not only not harmful, but may actually be beneficial.

Lesbian-headed families, for example, have a zero—yes, nil—risk of child abuse, according to the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) (not enough is known about two-dad families to confirm this stat for them). Queer parents readily give their children information about how they were conceived and the origins of their families—which contributes to resiliency. (Makes sense to me: my kids have always had a strong sense of how they came to be in the world and delight in their two-mom-one-dad-multiple-grandparent family—and telling the story was important enough to me that I co-edited an anthology on donor parents and queer families.) While children of same-sex parents do experience bullying—Simon Crouch, the lead researcher in the Australian study, cautioned that two-thirds of children with same-sex parents continue to experience discrimination—they also learn how to stand up for themselves. And those skills may just translate into them learning how to stand up to discrimination everywhere.

Read more: Queer parents: Just like everyone else>

Lesbian parents seem to be happier with emotional support and chore-sharing in their families than moms in straight couples. Crouch confirmed this, saying that a departure from traditional gender definitions helps contribute to harmony in families with same-sex parents:

“We know that same-sex attracted parents are more likely to share childcare and work responsibilities more equitably than heterosexual parent families, based more on skills rather than gender roles. This appears to be contributing to a more harmonious household and having a positive impact on child health.”

In other words, LGBTQ parents split up household chores and childcare more equitably. This one makes sense to me. Trust me, there are many days when our household seems chaotic and imperfect, but whenever Rachel and I have sat down and discussed who does what, we always end up concluding that we’re each doing our fair share of the grunt work around here. Sometimes, we divide up chores by preference (I deal with scheduling car maintenance, for example, while she’s much more likely to buy shoes for the kids). Sometimes it’s simple fairness: we both hate grocery shopping and cleaning the kitchen, so we alternate those. And sometimes, it just makes sense: I’m in charge of mowing the lawn not because I’m “the guy” in the relationship, but because Rachel is allergic to grass.

Read more: How my family manages household chores>

So what I find striking about all the studies isn’t that kids of queer parents are just fine—better than fine in fact. What I find striking are two things. First, it’s astonishing to me that we still need to study the issue at all, rather than accepting as a foregone conclusion that kids with loving and committed parents tend to do well.

Second, and more important: good parenting outcomes don’t depend on sexual orientation or gender identity. Any set of parents, gay or straight, could divide up chores equitably. No parent ever has to hit a child. We could all learn how to tell the stories of our family’s origins and what makes us strong—and we could all teach our kids to stick up for themselves and for the underdogs. We could all stand up to bullies.

Do we really need another study telling us what I and so many people already know—that kids of queer families are doing just fine? Judging by some of the hateful comments on the original story (just take your pick of any news outlet), maybe the answer is yes, although I highly doubt that any study, no matter how exhaustive, would convince the haters to change their beliefs. In the meantime, perhaps it’s time to stop focusing on “proving” to the world that the queerspawn are just fine, and instead find ways to ensure that all families can do well, no matter what mix of parents they have.

Thunder Bay, Ont., writer Susan Goldberg is a transplanted Torontonian and one of two mothers to two boys. Follow along as she shares her family’s experiences. Read more of Susan’s The other mother posts and tweet her @MamaNonGrata.

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