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We are passing through a very tumultuous period of history where traditional ideas of what a family should be are being disregarded. Divorces, separations, single mothers, adopted children and the latest deviations to join the group are gay parenting. However broad minded a person, there is a chance that even though some people may support all of the above mentioned cases of unusual family types, when it comes to gay parenting we should start having doubts. This Research Essay will delve into the topic of gay parenting and try to understand the implications it has in store for the most important part of a family, which is the child.
It is impossible to start commenting on the issue of gay parenting before addressing the issue of homosexuality. After a lot of struggle by the homosexual community, homosexuality has grown from being 'the love that dares not speak its name' to wanting their lifestyle to be accepted as part of public life. Canada became a trendsetter in this regard because of two men, Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen who planned to re-package homosexuality. RealWomenca.com, explained that their plan, simply put, called for homosexuals to re-package themselves, not as a promiscuous/immoral sexual minority, which they still remain, but as mainstream and an important, integral part of society (2007). "Hence homosexuals were portrayed as a normal bunch of people and not like the exhibitionists or drag queens as they were seen earlier. It made a lot of difference in the public perception, judiciary and in the political arena. Supporting the gay community was seen as the next best liberal thing to do. In spite of all this religious bodies were always against It" (RealWomenca.com, 2007).
A normal family has a mother, father, and, maybe, children. Religion supports this idea as it further confirms what has been said in the scriptures. According to Ephesians 5:31, "for this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh" (Ephesians, 1995). This scripture most definitely does not make reference to to two pair of men, or two pair of women. It distinctly infers "man and woman." says According to Christian belief marriage as we know it has to be between a man and a woman. Any other difference will be abhorred as blasphemy or sacrilege. Even though homosexuality has been accepted not as a norm but perhaps as a fact of modern day life that heterosexuals have to live with, the fact that they continue to live as a family with children has been very controversial. The issue has been a very sensitive one and has been dragged through the public consciousness for political mileage by certain people and by the media with a pseudo idealistic approach to the issue. The reality of the situation and social acceptance can be seen not in the public eye but only if it happens in one's own household.
A lot of research has been going on to find out the reasons behind homosexual orientation. Some believe that it is due to the combination of biological and environmental factors. "Human behavior is determined by both nature and nurture. Without genes you can't act in the environment at all. But without the environment your genes have nothing on which to act" (Harren, 2008). It is considered therefore that one of the main factors that contribute to same sex attraction is a disruption in the formation of gender identity. "Gender identity is formed through the relationships that a child has with the same-sex parent and same-sex peers" (Harren, 2008). It is through a male parent that a boy discovers what he needs to know about being a man. Only a father can impart a sense of masculinity. When he reaches school, he starts identifying himself with other boys. Eventually he develops a liking to the member of the opposite sex (Harren, 2008). Even though it is a bit more complicated this is essentially a gist of what happens with a girl child also. This kind of identification and sexual role expectation does not happen with a child who is homosexually oriented. Other factors that play an important part in this process are perception, temperament, defensive detachment and even sexual abuse. The argument that sexual orientation is genetic or a result of the way we were born is therefore a baseless argument.
So far it has been due to the scarcity of data that a decision regarding welfare of children who grew up in the midst of gay relationships could not be studied. Abbie Goldberg an assistant professor at Clark's university has analyzed about 150 such cases and her research has shown that there is not much of a difference in children from these families and children born out of hetero sexual relationships. Belkin observes that "more enlightening than the similarities however are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children "tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families" (Belkin, 2009). This change in view is attributed to the fact that these kids were raised in a family where both parents are of the same sex and the issue of gender rolesis nonexistent.
In direct contrast to the above observation, the Spanish Forum for the Family and the Institute for Family Policy, published a research paper in 2005 titled 'report on infantile development in same sex couples', in which it was claimed that homosexual parenting was harmful for children. Baklinski seems to supports that among children raised by same-sex couples, the report notes a significant increase in low self-esteem, stress, confusion regarding sexual identity, an increase in mental illness, drug use, promiscuity, STD's, and homosexual behavior, amongst others" (2009). Colin hart, director of the UK's Christian institute opined that allowing gay couples to adopt was an attempt to normalize homosexuality and had nothing to do with increasing opportunities for adoption. He further said that children needed a father and mother who were in a permanent relationship. He stated that "if homosexual adoption is legalized children will suffer. "I think it is cruel deliberately to deny adopted children a mother or a father for no other reason than to support gay rights" (Baklinski, 2010)
It is also noticed by scholars like Witt that "a child's earliest exposure to what it means to be male or female comes from parents" (1997). It is not possible for children to grow all the way to adulthood without developing gender bias or expectations. A study indicates that male and female babies are expected to behave differently even in the first few days after birth. Girls are usually more subdued than boys and are shyer than their male counterparts. Their behaviors and traits may resemble their parent's. This is because the children closely observe their parents. Unconsciously they develop certain traits and during adolescence they start having sexual feelings. There is no proof that a heterosexual upbringing will result in heterosexually oriented individuals because so far that has not been the case. (Witt, 1997) The questions that have to be answered are 'is it possible for a child who lives with gay parents to have a normal life?' and 'why is the concept of sticking to gender specific roles considered to be regressive?' In a utopian world with people who understand and tolerate people with different sexual preference, it might have been a possibility but we exist in a world where differences are used to identify individuals. A child who lives under gay parenting is bound to bear the brunt of its parent's sexual orientation. Perhaps, far more than what his parents had to endure themselves.
The legal implications also must be taken into consideration, 'the odds that a gay mother or father will lose privileges increase if the parent's sexual orientation is an issue in custody hearings'. (Cramer, 1986) The three issues that will be taken into consideration are whether the child will turn gay, whether the gay parent will sexually abuse the child or reject the child of opposite sex, whether the child will be stigmatized by his peers. Relationship issues that could arise are; the quality of relationship between the parent and the child, how influential is a non-gay parent and will a gay parent's disclosure affect the relationship. There are support centers for such families. But the support for children belonging to such families is nonexistent "less help seems available for the children. In all likelihood, such children will feel quite isolated and shut off and unable to share their secret that for some unknown reason is so terrible to them" (Cramer, 1986).
A popular site remarks that "it is beyond doubt that children thrive best in an opposite-sex family environment where they can learn gender identity and sex-role expectations from their biological parents" (RealWomenca.com, 2007). Children are not meant to be used as status symbols or pawns to further political ambitions or to be owned. Issues that could arise in such relationships that could affect the child are short duration of these relationships, high rate of infidelity, mental health problems, substance abuse, high level of violence in this kind of relationship and interference in the natural process of the child's sexual orientation. (RealWomenca.com, 2007)
Homosexuality in itself is nothing more than a sexual preference that could have manifested itself as a result of many things. The problem here is not members of the gay community living together and there is no danger to the heterosexual community from the gay community because nature has the ability to tolerate certain aberrations. This might even be a passing phase. The problem arises when gay couples insist that they must be given the opportunity to adopt or give birth to children through artificial means and raise these children in the unnatural circumstance that they have created. Statistical reports cannot be relied on because they might not be accurate because the couples from these communities have a tendency to stay away from such intrusions. It is important for people belonging to these communities to realize that a child's life is more precious than any other thing in the world. If they indeed value a child's well being they should let it grow in a normal environment.
Baklinski, T. M. (2010, April 13). Windsor Children's Aid Society Pursuing Homosexual Foster Parents. LifeSiteNews.com - Your Life, Family and Culture Outpost. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2010/apr/10041311.html
Belkin, L. (2009, November 9). Do it for the children; a call for gay marriage | Mom Houston | MomHouston.com. Mom Houston. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://blogs.chron.com/momhouston/2009/11/do_it_for_the_children_a_call.html
Berk. (2000). Gender Role Development. Web address changed. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://ehlt.flinders.edu.au/education/DLiT/2002/family/gender.htm
Ephesians. (1995). In The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised. Philadelphia, Fla: National Pub.
Harren, J. (2008, April 9). Homosexuality 101: What Every Therapist, Parent, And Homosexual Should Know. NARTH Home Page. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www.narth.com/docs/hom101.html
McNeill, K. (n.d.). The Lack of Differences Between Gay/Lesbian and Heterosexual Parents: A Review of the Literature. Ibiblio.org - travel and the outdoors. Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.ibiblio.org/gaylaw/issue6/Mcneill.htm
Real Women of Canada - Newsletters - COMMON-LAW RELATIONSHIPS - A DANGEROUS PLACE TO BE. (2005). Common Law Relationships: A Dangerous Place to Be, XXIV(4). Retrieved May 27, 2010, from http://www.realwomenca.com/archives/newsletter/2005_july_aug/article_10.html
REAL Women of Canada - Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life - Publications - Analyses - HOW SAME-SEX MARRIAGE LEGISLATION WILL AFFECT OUR FUTURE. (2007). REAL Women of Canada - Realistic, Equal, Active, for Life - Home. Retrieved May 28, 2010, from http://www.realwomenca.com/page/pubanalys7.html