Instead of viewing a Facebook feed full of proud fathers satisfied with ugly ties and breakfasts courtesy of Denny’s or some other family-themed diner, all this past Father’s Day had to offer were the rants of single mothers who felt like this holiday should be owed to them. After all, they are their child’s mother and “father.” I won’t get into how flawed this thinking is because no matter how much credit a woman feels she’s owed, you will never be your child’s father. Positive male role models offer a mindset that nurtures a child’s upbringing in a completely different way than a woman’s can.
I won’t exactly blame these women for feeling slighted, though. In the U.S., 72% of all African-American children are being raised by a single parent, namely the mother. In a country where fathers are often absent from the picture you think we’d applaud when not only one, but two fathers are willing to accept the responsibilities of parenthood. Sounds ideal, until those men reveal they want to do so while in a romantic relationship…with each other. Suddenly the idea of having not one, but two fathers in a child’s life becomes something many folks are actively against.
While most states are busy debating whether gay men and lesbians should be legally allowed to marry, there’s no legal barrier that stops gay couples from raising children. But are these children placed in harm’s way when their parents choose a relationship that doesn’t meet stagnant societal norms? Findings from the “New Family Structures Study” say that’s indeed a possibility. The study reported in Social Science Research journal last week reveals inferior economic, educational, social and psychological outcomes among children of gay parents. Only this study doesn’t offer evidence from research conducted among failed same-sex marriages. It intensely looks at unstable households of closeted men and woman involved in heterosexual relationships that ultimately failed.
What the study does prove is that ALL children from broken homes are at greater risk to meet negative circumstances in the future, not just the children with 2 mommies or 2 daddies. Children are more likely to meet the challenges of unemployment, involvement in criminal activity and unhealthy sexual behavior when there is no healthy structure or stability within the home, whether that home is a product of a gay or straight relationship.
The study also sheds light on the dangerous consequences sham heterosexual marriages have. In an effort to meet society’s rigid sexual standards, many gay men and women find themselves entering into heterosexual marriages to keep up a façade that is comfortable for others, even though it’s agonizing for themselves. Coming out of the closet in this situation can be a traumatizing experience that isn’t only difficult for that person claiming their preference, but for their partner as well: “Did I turn him/her gay?” “Has my whole marriage been a lie?” As painful as the process can be for those in the relationship, think of how confused and conflicted the children may be.
So does this mean that gay couples should only adopt or seek surrogacy to avoid interrupting their children’s upbringing by suddenly “switching” their sexual preference? Not necessarily; gay or straight, people fall out of love every day and not always before they’ve had the opportunity to start families. And let’s be honest, people make babies all the time while not necessarily being in love. What the study does emphasize is a need for more honesty and truth in today’s relationships. It’s important for people to be true to their feelings and feel safe expressing those feelings. One of the reasons that homosexual people attempt being in straight relationships is that the alternative is still not fully accepted in much of society. Unfortunately, this leads to a lifestyle of secrecy, dishonesty and shame that harms the whole family.
We also have to take a little more consideration about the relationships we are bringing these children into. No extra-marital affairs that result in violent outbursts of betrayal and scorn for your children to witness. No households rocking dangerously on resentment and contempt because suddenly you realized you really can’t stand the person you made kids with. No dramatic disintegration of a relationship that was forced from the beginning. When you put yourself in a position to be a mother or father, you have to change your approach to how you relate to your partner; that relationship should always be built on respect and courtesy, for each other and for your children.
I’m willing to bet that most kids don’t care who their parents are sleeping with and would in fact prefer not to think of their parents in that way at all. For me at least when I think of the person I am today, I can appreciate that my stability and success is due to the fact that I never had to witness my parents violently argue and dramatically disappear from the household. I never felt that any personal issues they struggled with were somehow my fault. What I did witness were two people who compromised, were secure within themselves and placed the happiness of myself and my sibling as their top priority. That’s really all most kids want and need, regardless if they have 1 mommy or 2 daddies.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog Bullets and Blessings .
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