Perfectly normal

On Being a Gay Parent

by Brett Webb-Mitchell    
Published: October 27, 2012 in On Being a Gay Parent

“Gay and Lesbian Parents are Perfectly Average,” screamed the headline on salon.com. In an article by Katie McDonough, the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (another social scientific study) reported that “’high-risk’ children adopted from foster care do just as well when matched with gay, lesbian, or straight parents.” To summarize, 60 foster children were placed with straight parents, and 22 with gay or lesbian parents. At the second year evaluation, there was little difference between the cognitive growth and any behavior or social problems were stabilized (Salon.com, Oct. 19). According to this report, what was unusual was that lesbian and gay parents were more prone to adopt children with “heightened risk factors — such as premature birth, prenatal substance abuse or repeat placements in foster care.” The conclusion of this report? Gay and lesbian parents are “ordinary parents.”

Every time I read a report like this, I simply smile. The purpose of social science study is to take something that seems ordinary and common sense and see how common it is, or determine why it is ordinary. Both those who are pro-LGBTQ parenting and those who are anti-LGBTQ parenting use these articles to prove a point or establish social policy. If memory serves me correctly, I believe that most of the studies seem to come the same conclusion: LGBTQ parents are pretty “normal,” just like the “gold standard” of parenting: straight parents. However, having been raised by straight parents in middle-class America, I can point to anecdotal experience, along with enough Lifetime movies, family system theory case studies and other social scientific evidence that makes any impartial observer question such a rating.

Like many other dads and moms who had their children while being in a heterosexual marriage, I would have to say I have been a better dad out of the closet than when I was in the closet. There were some family members along with friends who cautioned me about being out, warning me about what hardship I would put upon my children as an out gay dad in a southern city. Living truthfully means that I can be a more honest, and thus more earnest, parent. Throughout my children’s growing and turbulent teenage years I was free to ask them about what was going on in their life because I was living more honestly and openly. As a former special educator, it is my hunch that the reason some out-LGBTQ parents do so well as parents of foster-care children, or with children living with behavioral or social disabilities, is because these children are in the presence of those who have had their very mettle tested in simply coming and being an out LGBTQ parent. There is something about being in the company of those who have been stigmatized in life, branded as an “outsider,” marginalized, where others who have been ostracized feel comfort and a sense of belonging. I’ve witnessed a unique kind of love among friends who are gay or lesbian foster-parents with their children, or parents who have adopted children with disabilities. While the possible rants and tirades of a child who may not know how to love or accept the love of another person initially would scare many others, I have watched as a gay dad or lesbian mom simply waited until the storm was over, never leaving the side of a child in pain, always there to apply the medicine of a healing touch of love. Such is the care and love of a perfectly normal parent. : :