We've been asked by a national broadsheet about the rise in LGBT parenting, and the changing make-up of families in the UK.
The first independent LGBT family magazine, We Are Family has arrived, and there are a number of social media sites (not to mention Mumsnet's own Lesbian/Gay Parents topic!) dedicated to LGBT parents.
Here's what we've been asked:
Do you think LGBT families are on the rise? If so, why do you think this is? Are there more families headed up by LGBT parents now than there were a few years ago? Or do you think the situation hasn't actually changed very much in the last decade or so? Do you think mainstream parenting advice is supportive enough, or are LGBT parents and parents-to-be seeking help from their own communities? And how do you use Mumsnet (and other forums) for support?
It's certainly not a new phenomenon, although I agree there are more high profile/"visible" LGBT families - though as PPs have said, probably more lesbians than gay men still. I know plenty of adult children of LGBT parents, conceived in the 70s/80s (and I'm married to one). In my (not especially unusual) social circle I know of 2 LGBT families with young DC, one of our NCT group couples are lesbians, and our close neighbours are a lesbian in her 50s and her teenage sons.
My DC have 3 gay/bi GPs, as well as the friends and neighbours mentioned above. I am so pleased they are growing up in a world where they will have no assumption that to be gay means not to have a family.
would have been helped by clinics no longer having the right/obligation to ask a woman if she is married/secure relationship with a man or not before allowing her to access AI or IVF treatments. can't remember how long ago that was but relatively recent.
the more gay families there are the more there will be. the thing that held off a friend of mine (now in his late 50's) was that he couldn't stand the idea of what children would be put through at school by being 'different' and having two dads. he is now trying to be supportive of a male colleague who is starting a family with his partner via surrogate but you can see he struggles with it and still feels it is selfish and unfair on the child.
as it becomes more 'normal' and more people are doing so the less the stigma/stand-out-ness upon the child and the less couples may worry about is it the right thing, are we being selfish, what will it be like for them etc. much like single parent families really.
we still live in a massively heteronormative society though (more so than ever with the Return of the Tories and unrepentant social engineering politics) and i suspect we are still more accepting of the 'two mums' than the 'two dads' ironically though we're probably still more accepting of a gay couple who live like a straight old style unit and have a child together than we are of a single woman deciding to have a child on her own without a partner whatever her sexuality.
i think there is room for way more creativity in how we support children and produce them. i can see for example how having two households and incomes etc could be good for children and how that single woman could combine forces with a gay man or couple and have a child together with 50/50 parental responsibility.
i know at least a couple (as in prob no more but it doesn't come up once they're married with kids) of women who are bisexual and probably leaned more towards women relationships and sex wise in their 20's but turned to men when they got broody in their 30's. presumably as gay families become more socially accepted and common younger generations of bisexual women might be more likely to have children with female partners?
it also seems like a significant number of women become/realise they are (not my call) gay much later in life when they've had their children and that might be linked to the same issue of wanting children and a family leading women into relationships with men. maybe that would change with more acceptability as well.
whilst some women are absolutely lesbians who feel they were born that way and have always been so many women seem to experience a lot more 'fluidity' around sexuality so if changing norms in society continue i can see how that could lead to a lot more lesbian families especially given the logistics are easier for women couples than male ones.
Hannah Latham here, Editor of We Are Family Magazine.
What an interesting debate. I've often been asked the same questions about LGBT parents. This is something quite difficult to measure but I'd say it's a bit of both. There have always been LGBT parents, but our increased visibility, improved rights and recognition, changes in social attitudes and access to fertility treatment has meant that we are more visible. So we're also on the rise. As far as support goes I started We Are Family magazine because I felt there wasn't anything out there in the mainstream bringing the whole LGBT family together: normalising and supporting the whole family unit from conception through to grand-parenting and extended family members. There are lots of forums, Facebook groups, websites for starting families etc, but I wanted to create something tangible and independent that I would want to read and my in-laws would also find relevant.
It's really interesting to hear the comments about the magazine. I work hard to balance the content between the journey to parenthood and parenthood itself as well as covering general issues from an LGBT perspective, and representing all members of the community. The current issue has an interesting story from a bi mum which touches on issues mentioned here around visibility. We also heard from trans parents in issue 1 and have an ongoing column from a lesbian mum with a trans identified child at the moment. I urge you to support this much-needed magazine by ordering a copy, give it a read and then get in touch with me directly and let me know your views. I want to hear from you!