Is the number of LGBT families in the UK growing? Your thoughts, please.(30 Posts)
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?
As always, we'd value your thoughts.
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!
sorry another thought -
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.
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.
sorry long post.
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.
Well, either it is or it isn't. There's no need for "opinion" about it, it's something that could be counted.
Seems a strange question to ask opinions of - surely it's a factual thing that can only be answered with proper statistical surveys?
As to why, whether it's becoming more acceptable, and what parenting advice is around, that's different. But why cloud an issue by asking for opinions on something that can be measured? All you are getting is perceptions on whether these families are more visible etc, which is a perfectly valid question in its own right, and not to be confused with questions about actual increases.
Eartymama you are right about the access issue. I didn't see DM at all from age 2-7 and I lived with my DF and remember being in and out of court my whole childhood to discuss access issues. It was only when I was in secondary school I got regular access to DM
Not LGBT myself, but if general perceptions are helpful: I'm in my mid 40s, and none of my gay (male) friends of my generation or older have (yet) decided to become parents, but around half the lesbians I know have. I would assume that gay couples now in their 30s or younger would be more likely to have children, as it has become legally and technically less difficult, and levels of social acceptance are much higher.
I will be interested to see how differently things turn out in my DCs' generation - they are growing up with the idea of gay couples and gay parents as being completely normal and ordinary (eg although none of the gay friends of mine that DD has met do have children, one of her favourite TV programmes is Modern Family, and she doesn't seem to find anything at all remarkable about the gay family in that). In terms of general acceptance, much as I hate the Daily Mail and glossy celeb magazines, they have probably done quite a lot to normalise the idea with their photoshoots of celebrity gay couples and their children.
I think there must be more families now, because there is a widening acceptance/realisation that parenthood is an option.
I know a number of lesbian parents (including my sister). At both my kids' south east London state schools there are lesbian mums too - and when one woman died suddenly the entire school community rallied round to support her partner, it was in the school newsletter and so on.
I know there are more lesbian and gay parents now, well certainly more gay parents. I think lesbians have always found the ways and means to become mothers
It is now socially acceptable and I am delighted that is the case. Bank in the 80s and 90s the Lesbian Mother's Handbook was on the bookshelf of most lesbians with children as they fought for access to their own offspring. A close friend lost her children and didn't see them for several years when she identified as lesbian. I married early and was, in hindsight, hiding from my sexuality as I lived in a strongly Christian family.
I caused so much heartache and that is my only regret. My ex-husband hates me and has chosen not to be in my (adult) children's lives.
I love my life with a passion but I wish I been braver when I was younger. I can't undo the past and I would die rather than not be mother to my daughter and son but I wish it had been easier for them.
I love to see gay and lesbian families, it makes all the protesting and marching and fighting worthwhile!!
Now I need to get backing to campaigning to tell Cameron the being Pagan should not be equated with being interested in child abuse and pornography!!
Cameron is a . . .
I think it's a bit of both less stigma = more openly gay families and better access to fertility treatment/ change in laws surrounding adoption means more gay couples have gone on to become families.
I agree with the pp who said there is not enough focus in this from the trans point of view and that it seems to focus more on becoming a parent than the being a parent.
Things like integrating into massively hetro/female parent and baby groups or how to handle you dcs friend realising you're a couple and asking questions.
I think most parenting advice is across the board and I use mn with out having to state in any op btw I'm gay in case that's relevant. That said there are parenting issues that are specific to rainbow families and these do tend to be over looked.
I wanted to throw something in here - at the We Are Family people more than at the broadsheet questions - about the "B" in "LGBT families". We are "an LGBT family" but, to anyone who makes heteronormative assumptions about other people's sexuality, we don't look like one, because the two adults at the head of the family are opposite sex.
I agree with HotheadPaisan and others that much parenting discussion and advice transcends sexuality, but for those areas where one's queerness is relevant, bisexual parents aren't always given a lot of time or consideration by those trying to represent or support "LGBT families", and I'd be glad to see something that spoke to families like mine too.
I think there is less stigma than there used to be, which is leading to more visibility. As previous poster has said it seems like a lot more gay men feel like they have options now as well.
Personally, as a heterosexual parent, I wish more of my GLBT friends and members of the general public woud be more open. My ideal would be that my DD never even asks 'why does so and so have two mums' but instead that she just excepts it because she's always seen affectionate loving parents and couples of all genders and sexualities.
My DM left my DF for a woman when I was 2. That was 24 years ago and she's now married to the same woman. I wouldn't say it is more common now, maybe more mainstream but I've never known any different.
Sorry - not sure if the opinions sought are from within the LBGT community, or generally. Just to make clear - I am not an LBGT parent myself.
Oh, and as for the 'T' - there is a local famaily where one parent underwent gender re-assignment and is resident parent (as far as I know). To be honest, there is some rather voyeuristic gossip about this, but mostly driven by curiosity, I have heard nothing judgemental or hostile.
Within my circle of friends there is one 2-Dad family who have adopted two children, 2 x 2-Mum familes who have one child, and another 2-Mum family now following adoption procedures having tried IVF. There was a 2-Mum family in our NCT tea group. It all seems very 'ordinary'.
When I was in my 20s and early 30s I knew several lesbian couples who had children, but no gay men - despite knowing loads and loads of gay men. They just seemed to accept that it was part of being a gay couple that you didn't raise a family together. Though many had sort of special uncle relationships with the children of close friends, or were active godparents.
Then about 15 - 10 years ago it just seemed so much more of an option that men could consider. It can't not have an impact, Guardian columns like the Coronation St actor describing his fatherhood and family, or Ottolenghi.
I hope they're reading this thread. So much of the stuff out there is about conception - having a magazine that dealt with the issues once you're a parent would be massively useful.
Yes - I've noticed that often by the time I see an anti-gay post / thread, the poster's already been dealt with by other MNers.
Have you looked at the magazine preview? There seems to be more of a focus on how to become a parent than on how to parent at the moment, which I hope they'll balance out in future editions - I'd like to see more on how we support our children to deal with having "different" parents from their friends, for instance. And I thought Natalie had a definite point about the invisibility of single LGBT parents - maybe that's something they could cover too.
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