LGBTQ Parents: A look at their unique experiences – Franky Pena
The LGBTQ community has been through hell and back. It’s been many decades of riots, protest, and resistance for basic human rights. Even after all these years, we are no where near liberation. Because every 5 steps we take, 10 are taken back. It was just less than a month ago where the Supreme Court heard two cases involving LGBTQ worker rights, and under consideration is: whether the Civil Rights Act covers LGBTQ workers. You read that right, THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT.
Between 2 million and 3.7 million children under age 18 have an LGBTQ parent, and approximately 200,000 of them are being raised by a same-sex couple. Many of these children are being raised by a single LGBTQ parent or by a different-sex couple where one parent is bisexual. (Gates, Marriage and Family 2015). LGBTQ parents are married, unmarried and co-habituating, separated or divorced, and single. There are intact families and blended families, and children who live between households. With such a vast number of LGBTQ parents, the intersection of LGBTQ community and parenting aren’t often researched or paid attention to.
As the saying goes, “it takes a village”. But what if you don’t have a village? Most couples rely on the aid of their family members to help raise their children, but when you’re in the LGBTQ community, the likely hood of having that family support is significantly less, especially if you’re a transgender parent. In a study on transgender parents, they found that 54% of their respondents faced family rejection and did not have support from family throughout parenthood. (Griffin, Transgender Parents and their Adult Children’s Experiences 2014) In most states, the cost of childcare per year is about as much or more expensive than a state college tuition. Child care is difficult to afford on a dual-income, but without family support, that cost is a lot more daunting.
Often overlooked, is the isolation LGBTQ parents often face in settings that were created for parents. Because their identity is often “outward” — it’s difficult for LGBTQ parents to “blend-in”. Especially a transgender parent, who might not “pass”, those who are not visibly trans, find it especially difficult to be included and feel safe in these spaces. The implications of transgender identity for their children’s well-being is one of the things that transgender parents express deep concerns about. Parents have shared instances where their child had been beaten up and bullied regularly for having a transgender parent. These ongoing concerns transgender parents have for the wellness of their family have caused them to be more cautious of disclosure, and have caused them to “go back in the closet”, which is isolating. (Haines, Boyd, Making Transgender Parents Visible..) A LGBTQ parent should not have to choose between their identity and their children’s safety.
Calling y’all out
The unique experiences of LGBTQ parents are vast, addressing each unique stressor they face would make the experiences for parents and their children safer. The community can start in addressing these stressors by helping create and maintain safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ parents. What this looks like, is education and application. Educate yourselves on how to be an LGBTQ ally, which is accessible through many platforms, such as Gender Spectrum:
Educate your children by providing books for them and for their classroom that are inclusive of LGBTQ identities: