This week, Cambridge University released a study. It was published by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering. Their conclusion on the basis of the report was “Gay fathers, in particular, are extremely committed to parenting.”
“Professor Susan Golombok is Director of the Center for Family Research in Free School Lane and co-authored the report. She is quoted as reporting, “The anxieties about the potentially negative effects for children of being placed with gay fathers seem to be, from our study, unfounded… Overall we found markedly more similarities than differences in experiences between family types. The differences that did emerge relate to levels of depressive symptoms in parents, which are especially low for gay fathers, and the contrasting pathways to adoption which was second choice for many of the heterosexual and some lesbian parents – but first choice for all but one of the gay parents. It appears that children with same-sex adoptive parents are no more likely to suffer from psychological disorders than children with heterosexual adoptive parents. Neither do they differ in gender role behaviour.”
As a gay dad, I found the Father’s comments nonsensical and would have welcomed the chance to discuss them over a coffee somewhere.
Based on his article, I would imagine our face-off conversation would go something like this:
(The coffee shop is pleasant, almost cozy. Two men gather in the corner with two large mugs. Each sports a beard. One has a crisp white and black collar, the other is in a more worn, wrinkled shirt with a tell-tale milk stain from the morning’s breakfast.)
Me: Hi Father Tadeusz. Thanks for meeting with me. We both saw that study from Cambridge. Quite something, wasn’t it? Saying that homes like mine were actually quite optimal for kids!
Father Tadeusz: “The studied outcomes, were limited to children four to eight years of age, so that any later effects, as they passed through puberty, for example, and “came of age,” were not included.”
Me: Yeah. You say that like it’s a bad thing. I can tell you that by 8, my sons were pretty solid in their personalities. They are now both 10, and peer and school influences compete with mine. It is something I have to be vigilant about actually. Jason is a deep thinker, loves to cook, has rhythm and is sensitive. Jesse is personable, intuitive, loves sports and could sell you an ice cube in winter.
Father Tadeusz: “How capable would two men be at helping their adopted daughter with very female matters pertaining to growing up and maturing physically? For daughters, this is often an issue requiring ongoing support, communication and sharing. It’s not something men can just read up on in a book; it can be a delicate, personal matter, closely connected to a young woman’s sense of self-identity, and it’s reasonable to conclude that there are real advantages to the empathy shared between a mother and her daughter.”
Me: I guess you missed me saying that I have two boys. Not girls, boys. Gay men who feel they might not be prepared to parent a girl, might chose to adopt a boy. Those that I know who are raising girls are doing great in spite of your judgment that they are inadequate.
You create the premise that parent genders are best aligned with those of the children being raised. Based on your premise, my boys , having two male parents, are in an even better situation than if there was a woman parent in the mix. By your theory, she would not be as qualified as a male to give the “male matters” coverage.
Gender interests are something with which all parents deal. Even when we are the same gender—am I big enough of a jock? Can I repair a car? Good parents seek out coverage in the areas they lack. It is that simple. Really.
Communicating, sharing and relating to a child’s interests in terms of self-identity is what any attentive caregiver would do. Most of the elements in that self-identity are not really tied to some predetermined gender role; they have to do with interests, talents and ambitions. That is what the study…studied …after all, and showed exactly that your concerns were bad assumptions.
Father Tadeusz: “Two other major studies addressing the question, one by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, and the other by Loren Marks, a researcher at Louisiana State University, presented compelling evidence countering the claim that a child’s psychosocial growth is equally supported in lesbian and gay environments as it would be in heterosexual parenting environments.”
Me: Those studies were neither credible nor compelling. They were embarrassing. Regnerus’s study was found to be lacking by representing same sex families as those which were broken and a parent at some later point identified as LGBT. He compared them to married, intact, heterosexual families. Marks had to back off his conclusions when it was determined his analysis confused the make up of the families on which he was commenting. Neither study in fact, even looked at intact, gay-dad families.
The Cambridge University study did.
Father Tadeusz: One of the cliches we hear is that adopting children is really just a matter of the “rights of parents.”
Me: Now that is just silly. It is not a “cliché.” It is a falsehood. There is no such argument. No one has unalienable rights to parent, even natural parents. Those who bring harm to their children, or would bring harm to children, are denied the “right” to parent. What you do not have the right to do is to deny good capable parents because of your prejudices.
Father Tadeusz: “Robert Oscar Lopez, who has described himself as a “bisexual Latino intellectual, raised by a lesbian, who experienced poverty in the Bronx as a young adult,” now works as a professor at California State University. He described the notable challenges he faced growing up with lesbian parents.”
Me: So now we have gone from imagined “clichés” to anecdotes? Can I bring up every individual from heterosexual lead homes, especially those who as you say “experienced poverty,” and describe notable challenges? I happened to come from a very stable heterosexual home myself, and guess what? I turned out the way you fear kids from same-sex homes might. I am gay anyway. But if we are going to go “anecdotal,” I have two words: Zach Wahls.
Father Tadeusz: “A compassionate society seeks to help and assist orphaned children, but no reasonable society intentionally deprives those children of a mother or a father. That is, however, what placing them into a same-sex home invariably does. Common sense ought to serve.”
Me: Father Tadeusz, you aren’t paying attention. The study states that gay male families are the ones who chose adoption more than any other family type. Ours are the ones most likely to step up and assist orphans. Your supposition is fiction. Society is not depriving children of a parent by placing them in same-sex homes, they are giving them their only chance at parents. Your supposition is also faulty in your determination of a single quality that is missing in a same-sex home and placing undue value on it. How about complaining that children are in homes where there is no artist, or financial genius, or scientist? There are only two people in a typical parenting unit, and the two will have some limits in their worldly experience. It is as likely that two same-sex individuals will have approximately the same amount of valuable experience as two opposite-sex individuals.
You talk about common sense, but what you really mean is your own personal sensibilities as well as your Church’s dogma. What is really pertinent is experience. And forgive me, but who should we look to here for experience beyond this study: a “Father” who has a calling that tells him personally to never be a parent, to not raise children, to not hold a weeping child through a disappointment or to thrill over his child’s sudden ability to tie a shoe … or a “Dad” who has wanted to parent more than anything else in the world, who has done all of those things and more, and has had the honor to be vomited upon but kept on going, and did not care, because it happened as he was comforting his child? Parents know the feeling of being willing to die for their children. I’m not so sure that priests do.
Being a parent means special feelings, but it does not mean special rights. Being a parent may be an ordinary thing to do, even if some parents do not meet your measure of “common sense” to do it. Sometimes being a parent is just about love, pure and simple.
And, forgive me Father, but isn’t LOVE the business you are actually supposed to be in?
Thanks for the chat.
[box type=”bio”] ROB WATSON is Director of Partners and Alliances Communication for Hitachi Data Systems, and blogs at evoL= . He has served as the president of the board of directors for Santa Cruz AIDS project, is a dedicated activist for the LGBT community, and a frequent contributor to the Huffington Post. He is the proud father of two sons he first fostered then adopted. They reside in Northern California.