On March 8th, 2015, I went to Harvard Square, in Cambridge, Massachussets, with a poster that contained the following question: Does having parents of the same sex have a negative effect on children?
“Since I signed our picture up on February, 4th until today when they finally announced we were the winners with 439 votes, I thought about the opportunity that this initiative offered me to make visible other forms of love that never appear in the traditional media of the island during this celebration”, wrote Paquito.
The picture showed the first time his son Javier, Michelangelo, his partner, and Paquito shared some quality time together.
Keeping this experience in mind, I decided to make a shiny poster and go to a public place to ask people if they believed that gay parents could be as good as straight ones.
Most people were very hurry to catch the train and could not answer the question. Other people looked curiously the poster from afar but did not approach to answer. But, among the respondents, most people considered difficult to adress the question.
In the article “Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian” published by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2013, Perrin and Siegel write that “extensive data available from more than 30 years of research reveal that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health despite economic and legal disparities and social stigma.”
“Children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents”, say Perrin and Siegel.
However, a controversial study conducted by the sociologist Mark Regnerus of the University of Texas at Austin and published by the Social Science Research sustained that children raised by a lesbian mother were 10 times more likely to have been touched sexually by a parent or other adult caregiver while those raised by a homosexual father were 3 times more likely. As to the question of whether they have ever been physically forced to have sex against your will, affirmative answers came from 8% of children of married biological parents, 31% of children of lesbian mothers, and 25% of the children of homosexual fathers.
A couple of months later, The New York Times published a piece pointing out some methodological errors of the research. “He included in the same category the children of stable same-sex couples and children whose parents’ marriage dissolved after a gay affair”, said The New York Times. The newspaper also raised the question of the role of faith and religion in scholarhsip. “Dr. Regnerus has a long history as an outspoken Christian who once said his faith and his scholarship were intertwined,” added The New York Times.
In the research “Quality of Life of Adolescents Raised from Birth by Lesbian Mothers: The US National Longitudinal Family Study”, the authors concluded that “the reported Quality of Life for adolescent offspring in planned lesbian families is similar to that reported by the matched adolescents in heterosexual parent families. This finding supports earlier evidence that adolescents reared by lesbian mothers from birth do not manifest more adjustment difficulties (e.g., depression, anxiety, and disruptive behaviors) than those reared by heterosexual parents”.
Nevertheless, it is not easy to be raised in a lebian or gay family, especially when you are a teenager. Adolescents in American planned lesbian families experienced negative reactions from their social environment associated with their mothers’ sexual orientation. Half of the 78 participating 17-years-olds in a study conducted in 2011 had experienced homophobic stigmatization. “Such experiences usually took place within the school context and peers were most frequently mentioned as the source”, say the authors.
At the end of our day at the T station, a man with two little girls appeared. The girls were running and they didn’t get to look at the poster, but the father did. He walked to the mechanical stairs right in time to reach the girls. I though he was gone. But he came back with his two small girls.
“Read this poster”, he said. “Does having parents of the same sex have a negative effect on children?”, repeated the girls. I couldn’t record the scene. My phone was running out of space. But we have time to ask the man what he think about it. “Having two parents together is what counts”, he wrote.