Tag Archives: research evidence

Gay Parents Are Great as Parenting

New Study: Gay Parents = Great Kids

Let’s see, so far, California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage has been found to be unconstitutional, unnecessary (or did we miss the collapse of traditional marriage in Massachusetts, Connecticut or the four other jurisdictions in which same-sex marriage is legal?) and just plain bad for the wedding reception industry. Now comes word, courtesy of the journal Family Process, that it’s also bad for kids.A new study by family therapist Arlene Istar Lev shows that children of gay and lesbian individuals and couples are actually better adjusted and have fewer social problems than peers raised by heterosexuals. Before Prop 8–lovers charge reverse bias, there’s a simple explanation for the phenomenon: gay and lesbian parents feel pressure to try harder, lest any shortcomings in their kids be taken as a sign of their inadequacy as parents.
Paradoxically, it may even be harder for the kids of non-straight parents to come out as gay or lesbian themselves. Why? “There is an assumption that the optimal outcome is to produce heterosexual children,” Lev says. “Gay parents may struggle with having gay or transgender children…because of the societal pressure they feel to raise ‘normal’ children.” One more reason for the culture warriors to tend their own gardens and let other parents — gay or straight — tend theirs.
Read more: Time, Healthland

Natural Law, Natural Sex, Natural Families.

A favourite argument used by the religious right against homoerotic relationships, and by the Vatican theologians against any form of sexual expression outside of marriage and not open to making babies, is that such sexual activities are “against nature”, and that the “purpose” of sex is procreation. Well, the people making these claims have never considered the actual evidence from, well, you know – “Nature” itself, which shows the exact opposite.  In a famous exchange, Anita Bryant once remarked that the things that homosexuals do were so disgusting that “even barnyard animals wouldn’t do it.” When it was pointed out to her that actually, barnyard and other animals do “do it”,  as is well known to farmers, she simply replied, “Well that still don’t make it right”. No, and it don’t make it wrong, either.  On sexual ethics, “Nature” is morally neutral.

“Anita Bryant, Reality Denier”

Some time ago I embarked on an investigation (which still continues) into just what we can learn from “nature” about sexuality and natural sex, reading up on sexual practices as observed in the animal kingdom, and also in non-Western and pre-industrial human societies from different periods and geographic regions. The results have been truly bewildering, and the time has come to share with you some of my findings and conclusions. In particular, there is clearly no single pattern of sexuality that can possibly be described as “natural” in all societies, human or animal.  What is “natural” depends entirely on culturally determined social practices, which vary extraordinarily.
In modern Western debates about gay marriage, we often hear arguments about “traditional” marriage, as based on the Bible, or on “Judaeo-Christian values”. The Biblical family was headed by a male patriarch, who controlled an assortment of wives, concubines, children and slaves, as well as his adult sons and their wives.
We commonly assume that most people are either “heterosexual” (the majority) or “homosexual” in orientation. But in many societies, men may be engage in sex with both men and women, either sequentially, at different phases of their lives, or at the same time. (In Chinese culture, there has always been powerful social expectations that men should marry and raise children – but that in no way prevents them taking male lovers as well. In a famous Chinese painting, two men are engaged in erotic play, while the wife of one watches from behind a screen. )


We assume that in a “traditional” family, the husband is male, the “wife” is female. In many traditional African cultures, numerous ethnographic studies have shown that the “husband” is the one with the wealth and the power. Where a woman was able to acquire sufficient wealth and could pay the bride-price, it was entirely acceptable for her  to marry wives, and take on the role of “husband”. (In these families, procreation and child-bearing were necessarily arranged outside of the family – but were raised inside it, and recognised the female head of the family as “father”. In one remarkable instance, Nzinga was a woman who came to the throne by military skill – but only men could be kings, so necessarily she was accepted as male. As king, she required a harem of wives – but as she was entirely heterosexual in orientation, she had no need of female wives, and instead kept a harem of male wives.(“Africa’s Female Kings and husbands”). Elsewhere in Africa, some wealthy men also included a male or two among their wives, valuing their strength for certain household tasks.
Nor do all cultures think only in terms of two genders. Commonly in South Asia, North America, and in some parts of Africa, societies accepted as a distinctive third gender biological males who took on female roles, or females who took on male roles (possibly but not necessarily included the corresponding sexual roles.) In the animal kingdom, especially among fish, there are many species with more than one gender, or where the physical appearances of some biologically male individual males resembles that of females or vice versa, or where individuals quite literally change biological sex, in an animal counterpart to human cross-dressers and transsexuals.
We also tend to assume that same sex interactions, where they occur, apply to a minority of individuals, or to a relatively brief period in their youths, before settling down to “normal” married life. But in some New Guinea societies, “natural” sex requires that as young boys, they first go through a period whereby they act as recipient partners in sex with older boys, because it is believed that the essence of manly virtue is contained in the semen – which they need ingest in regular doses before they can become real men. As they grow older, they adopt the active role in sex with younger boys, completely avoiding heterosexual intercourse until they are strong and manly enough to withstand the “debilitating” effects of women that they will be exposed to in marriage. In one specific group, the combined period of partnership with males typically lasts about thirty years, before he marries at around forty. In this culture, homosexual sex is certainly a far greater portion of a man’s life-long sexual experience than heterosexual experiences. For them, it is homosexual actions that are “natural”.
The Vatican claims that homosexual “act” lead people away from God.  Many societies take the exact opposite view, believing that “homosexuals” generally, and the third gender exemplars in particular, have extraordinary spiritual gifts. Frequently, it is they who will take on the roles of religious leaders or spiritual guides. (Is it any surprise that a disproportionately high proportion of Catholic and Anglican priests are believed to be gay?) In some places, this association of spirituality and male-male sex combines with a variant of the New Guinea practice – young men become  sexual partners of religious leaders in order to ingest their spiritual wisdom.
We also often equate “masculine”, macho virtues with heterosexuality, and homosexuality with effeminacy. Among both humans and animals, this is
not always so. For the ancient Greeks, the Japanese samurai, and many others, homosexuality was especially associated with the military. There have been times even in European history where “effeminate” dandyism was characteristic of rampant heterosexuality. Among bighorn sheep, most rams are exclusively homosexual in their activities, and the few that have heterosexual intercourse display remarkable submissive, behaviour – that in humans we might describe as “wimpish”.
It is also simply not true that in the natural world, even heterosexual sex is exclusively directed at procreation. Non procreative sexual activity is commonplace, including full intercourse during pregnancy, immediately after giving birth, or outside fertile periods Some primates females reaching sexual maturity, and begin sexual activities, several years before becoming fertile and capable of giving birth. Also common are  mounting behaviour without penetration or ejaculation, oral sex and masturbation (alone or with another). Some animals even make dildos and masturbation aids – or use natural objects for the purpose.
So what is the “purpose” of sex in nature?
Writing about Bonobo Chimps, Joan Roughgarden puts it neatly, in describing “at least six” situations that lead to sex :
    1. Sex facilitates sharing (for example, reducing conflicts over food supplies)
    2. Sex is used for reconciliation after a dispute
    3. Sex helps to integrate new arrivals into a group
    4. Sex helps to form coalitions
    5. Sex is candy – females sometimes barter sexual favours to obtain gifts of food from males
    6. “Oh, I almost forgot – sex is used for reproduction”
              Recognising the diversity of sexual and gender expressions in “nature” is not a licence for a code of “anything goes”. There still remains a need for a coherent system of sexual ethics, but the study of “nature” does not help us to find one. There simply is no sexual “law of nature”. To construct sexual ethics, we must look elsewhere.

              See Also:

              Gay Soldiers? Role Models, at the Foundation of Democracy.

              Gays in the Military: Japan

              Animals Use Sex Toys, Too

              Same Sex Parents, Furred and Feathered

              Natural Law, Laysan’s Albatross,  and the Question of Evidence

              The Wildlife Rainbow

              Queer Bonobos: Sex As Conflict Resolution

              Exclusive Heterosexuality Unnatural?

              Bighorn Rams: Macho Homos, Wimpish Heteros


              Books:

              Bagemihl, Bruce: Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (Stonewall Inn Editions)

              Crompton, Louis: Homosexuality and Civilization

              Naphy, William G: Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Revealing History)

              Roughgarden, Joan: Evolution’s Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People

              Sommer, Volker and Vasey, Paul: Homosexual Behaviour in Animals: An Evolutionary Perspective

              Catholics Support Gay Adoption.

              In the US, the struggle over adoption by lesbian or gay families concerns those states which prohibit it, either by state law, or (in Florida) by a complete constitutional ban. In the UK, where discrimination against gay or lesbian prospective parents is prohibited by law, the battle is entirely different. Here, the Catholic Church is seeking an exemption from the terms of the law for one of its agencies.
              My friend Celia Gardiner, who as a lawyer and as chair of the Roman Catholic Caucus of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, is heavily involved in correspondence with the Charities Commission on the Church’s application. I fear I have become totally lost in trying to follow the legal niceties – so don’t ask. However, I have undertaken to assist with passing on links to empirical evidence to contradict the claims on which the bishops base their case, so that I can happily share with you.
              I have previously pointed out that in claiming that “Catholics” or “the Catholic Church” oppose gay marriage, the bishops (American or British) are being somewhat economical with the truth. It may be what the bishops oppose, it may be what they want the rest of us to oppose – but we do not simply mould our beliefs to episcopal diktat. Contrary to the Vatican line, most American Catholics do not believe that same sex relationships are morally unacceptable, and overall, are in favour or recognizing same sex marriage (that’s full civil marriage, not just civil unions).
              I have now tracked down similar information specifically on adoption, and guess what? the bishops may oppose it, but Catholics as a whole are in favour. Now note, please, that the data are two years old, from 2oo8 (prior to the US election). All the evidence is that attitudes have moved on since then. For the case of the UK, which prompted my investigation, public attitudes are generally more supportive. Any claim by the bishops that “the Catholic Church” opposes same sex adoption is almost certainly not factually correct. ?
              Source: Pew Research, 2008

              "Lesbians Make Better Parents" – Research Finding

              Yet again, there is new research, this time tracking children of lesbian parents from birth to adolescence, which shows clearly that children of lesbian parents do not just as well as other children in their development patterns, but in some respects, do even better. The researchers expected their results to demonstrate again that children of lesbian parents would do as well as other kids on measures of development and social behaviour, and so they did. What they had not anticipated, was that these children would do even better on some specific measures. They scored higher than kids in straight families on some psychological measures of self-esteem and confidence, did better academically and were less likely to have behavioral problems, such as rule-breaking and aggression.
              “We simply expected to find no difference in psychological adjustment between adolescents reared in lesbian families and the normative sample of age-matched controls,” says Gartrell. “I was surprised to find that on some measures we found higher levels of [psychological] competency and lower levels of behavioral problems. It wasn’t something I anticipated.”

              This was emphatically not because their lives were in any way easier than others: over 40% of them had experienced teasing or other difficulties from their peers on account of their family backgrounds, and in the early years they expressed higher than normal levels of stress. As they grew older, however, they learned to overcome this, and by later adolescence, their stress levels were pretty standard for the age group.

              This is based on a new analysis, published today in Pediatrics, of data from the the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS), begun in 1986. This looked at families with two moms who had deliberately chosen to raise families by artificial insemination. The families were interviewed at discreet intervals over a twenty year period, giving an insight into how well the children were developing across a range of social and physical development indicators, and compared with  national norms. 

              -(Read more at Time)