For the past centuries, the topic of homosexuality has been the subject of hot debates. Recently, the topic seems to grow specifically on the subject of homosexual partners raising their own children from adoption to artificial insemination. While some believe that homosexual partners should be discouraged to raise children as it may result in negative outcomes for the children, some still believe that homosexuals should also be given the chance of feeling a sense of fulfillment by raising their own children.
The phenomenon of openly homosexual parents bearing or raising children represents a sociocultural innovation unique to the present time in history; at no other time were openly lesbian women and gay men allowed to conceive and raise children. This single category representing the many categories of family constellations is a single category which in turn gives birth to a variety of shapes and forms in its own right. Whether looking at a traditional heterosexual family or a non-traditional gay or lesbian family, children enter into families in different ways.
It may be through the parents’ sexual intercourse, adoption or insemination. On the basis alone of how children arrive within a family, lesbian and gay families diverge from each other and start to reflect a variety of shapes. This paper examines four literatures for a closer look at homosexual parenting. Each of the four literatures has provided some insights to each of these questions: How can homosexual parenting be defined? Is homosexual parenting any different from the traditional heterosexual parenting?
Can homosexual parenting be considered morally right (or even just moral)? What are the needs of homosexual parents? How can the setting of homosexual parenting affect the children? Stacey and Biblarz: Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter? In 2001 Stacey and Biblarz studied the constraints that heterosexism contributes to the ideologies about homosexual parenting. The authors provided the limitations of definitions, samples, and analyses of the studies to date to show the constraints the ideologies of heterosexism contribute to the results of these studies.
The authors reviewed literatures both standing for and against the case of lesbian and gay parenting. According to the articles undermining the concept of homosexual parenting, homosexual parenting are proved to have negative effects on children raised in such a condition. In contrast, some studies show that there are no significant differences between the developmental outcomes of children raised in a homosexual setting and those raised in a traditional heterosexual setting.
The authors argue that this particular perspective can be linked to the ideological family values of the researchers that it affects the design, conduct and interpretation of their studies (Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). This constraint may be linked from the “ambiguity, fluidity, and complexity of definitions of sexual orientation” (Stacey and Biblarz, 2001; p. 165). They then examined findings from 21 psychological studies published between 1981 and 1998. The studies chosen were those they thought to address the sociological question how sexual orientation matters or affects the children raised in such a condition.
For this part of their research, they evaluated the conclusion of one meta-analysis of 18 such studies (11 of which are included among the 21) that “the results demonstrate no differences on any measures between the heterosexual and homosexual parents regarding parenting styles, emotional adjustment, and sexual orientation of the child(ren)” (Allen and Burrell, 1996, as cited in Stacey and Biblarz, 2001). To do this, they reviewed comparison studies between a sample of homosexual parents and heterosexual parents (with their children).
They evaluated the differences of the two groups through statistical significance in which the children’s development is directly relevant. The independent variable for this study is the sexual orientation of the parent the children were raised by. The independent variables are further divided into attributes of parents such as the method the children entered into the family (whether through adoption or insemination), their behavior toward their children’s gender and sexual preferences, their skills as parents, their relationship with their children and their psychological well-being.
The dependent variable of the study is the developmental outcome of the children. The dependent variable is further divided into three categories – gender behavior or preferences, sexual behavior or preferences, and psychological well-being. Although almost all of the 21 studies included in Stacey and Biblarz’ research claim that there are no differences measures of parenting or child outcomes, they found that, under their careful scrutiny, sexual orientation do matter for their children although the difference is not significant.
They found some difference between the developmental outcomes of children raised in a homosexual environment than those raised in the traditional heterosexual setting. However, they clarified that these differences are not direct effects of the parents being homosexual but rather “indirect effects of parental gender or selection effects associated with heterosexist social conditions” (Stacey and Biblarz, 2001; 176). Stacey and Biblarz’ study is successful in fulfilling what it set out to do. The findings are given not just in tables but are also explained through each category of independent and dependent variables.
Through the end of the paper, a summary of each of these categories were provided in order to provide a brief and quick view of what the authors’ findings are. Huquemborg and Farrell: Lesbian Motherhood Huquemborg and Farrell, in their study Lesbian Motherhood: Negotiating Marginal-Mainstream Identities in 1999, examined the methods that lesbian mothers and comothers use to “gain acceptance for their marginal-mainstream identities in their family networks” (Huquemborg and Farrell, 1999; p. 540). They compared the strategies used by lesbian mothers with those used by birth mothers and stepmothers.
However, in their article, the definitions of stepmothers are different. Stepmothers “are partners who form relationship with birth mothers who have children from a prior relationship” (Huquemborg and Farrell, 1999; p. 542). A new term comother was given to recompense for the lack of terminology for lesbian partners of women who conceive through alternative insemination. Huquemborg and Farrell employed an exploratory qualitative study because they believed that such a study is the most feasible to learn the details of the daily lives of lesbian women.
The researchers started to interview the nine lesbian-mothers for the study in 1995. These lesbian-mothers came from a large city in the north-eastern United States. Six of the participants were self-identified lesbians, one was an adoptive mother, and two were comothers. The participants were contacted using snowball sampling techniques except for the two who were contacted through community organizations. The interviews last for approximately 1. 5 hours for each of two segments.
The interviews were open-ended to allow the participants to share their everyday experiences as both a lesbian and a mother without the constraint of boxing their answers to particular responses. The questions include the details of how the participants’ families were formed, her everyday activities and the problems encountered by her family. Two interviews were conducted with the both the mother and their lesbian partner as per their request. Although there is a written consent to allow the recording and transcription of data, the names of the participants were changed for the discussion.
The independent variable for the study are the characteristics of these lesbian-mothers while the dependent variable is the daily experiences of these mothers and the strategies they employ to cope with the stresses of raising their children while having to stabilize their marginal-mainstream identities. The study concluded that lesbian-mothers employ diverse strategies to “cope with the stresses of constructing a balanced identity in their nuclear families and with their extended families” (Huquemborg and Farrell, 1999).
In the duration of the interview, lesbian-mothers constantly readjusted their feedbacks to give off an impression that they are able to balance between being a lesbian and “good” mothers. Some demonstrated their abilities as mothers to their children, adopted or not, while some counterbalance the others who attack their abilities and personalities just because of their lesbianism. Aside from showing the diverse strategies used by lesbian-mothers, the study, in a more important and broader sense, provided a detailed description of the daily experiences of lesbian-mothers.
The study found that birth mothers, comothers and stepmothers have different strategies in balancing between raising their children and their lesbianism. Moreover, the study found that legal system nowadays helps lesbian-mothers stabilize their marginal identities. These findings further suggest that legalizing second-parent adoption and same-sex marriages would help lesbian-mothers stabilize their marginal-mainstream identities. The study provided a detailed answer for the authors’ research question.
However, the problem with this paper, as the authors acknowledged, is that the sample size is too small to generalize the findings. Moreover, the sample is homogenous as the participants consist of mostly white, middle-class respondents living in urban settings. Thus, future research in this area should consist of a larger sample size and a more diverse category of classes to be able to generalize the findings. Dunne: Opting into Motherhood
Dunne’s 2000 study Opting into Motherhood: Lesbians Blurring the Boundaries and Transforming the Meaning of Parenthood and Kinship aimed to take a closer look at the experiences of lesbians as co-parents who have children through donor insemination. The study further aimed to evaluate the author’s claim that “lesbian parenting represents a radical and radicalizing challenge to heterosexual norms that govern parenting roles and identities” (Dunne 11). The author used the method employed by the Lesbian Household Project.
The Lesbian Household Project “is a detailed investigation of the allocation of work and parenting responsibilities between women that aims to provide empirically grounded theoretical insights into divisions of labor more generally” (Dunne, 2000; p. 14). The project showed the experience of 37 cohabiting lesbian couples with dependent children, 8 of which have children from a previous marriage of one of the couples, 1 have adopted children, and the rest have children conceived through donor insemination. The participants were chosen from across England using the snowball technique.
The criterion for selection was partners living together with at least one dependent child. Majority of the participants live in the inner-city neighborhoods of three northern cities and three southern cities. Participants are of different races including Irish, Greek, Iranian, and Jewish. Participants chosen also tend to have an educational or occupational advantage. Although the sensitivity of the topic and the rareness of open lesbian couples in the population limit the representativeness of the sample, the sample can still be considered representative of lesbian couples who have experienced donor insemination.