While considering my options for my research project, the idea of adolescents with gay and/or lesbian parents crossed my mind. When I considered this topic, I thought about how much my partner, Ryan, and I would love to have children of our own, and want nothing more than the best for them. Therefore, this is a very close topic to both of our hearts.
With the changes taking place not only in society as a whole; but also in the Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Intersexed (LGBTQI) community– I wanted to gain the viewpoint of several adolescents. Unfortunately, due to unavailability of adolescent children of gay/lesbian parents, and the unwillingness of the few others that I have met recently, I was unable to gain the wider spectrum of reference experiences for an adolescent to grow up with an LGBTQI parent. As of 1990, six million to 14 million children in the United States were living with a gay or lesbian parent (collage.org, 2008).
My first area of research involved a few questions regarding the adolescent’s personal ideas of having to deal with having a gay or lesbian parent, relationship with peers of straight parents, discrimination, and school or community life. The objective was to gain a deeper perspective of how an adolescent copes and deals with daily life having a gay or lesbian parent compared to other adolescents who happen to live with heterosexual parents.
My second area of interest was uncovering myths and ideas that individuals have who is not part of the LGBTQI community. I wanted to, not only look into these myths but, test them and see if they were actual myths or if they may have turned up as fact. In doing so, I could now find rather Ryan and I would meet the criteria for “fit” parents.
Overall, I used several methods for my research. I not only interviewed both of my participants via email, and spoke with each of them in person; nevertheless I also utilized various mediums that I was able to acquire additional information on the subject matter. Prior to this research, I was unaware of the topic’s vastness and normalcy in research. This research assisted me in empathizing with an adolescent child of a gay or lesbian parent.
My research began by interviewing two young men, ages 15 and 17, of diverse backgrounds. I was also able to get a slightly broader spectrum of adolescent’s thoughts from the book “How it Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent,” by Judith E. Snow, MA. The adolescents that I turned to from this book, were thirteen and fourteen year old females, a brother and sister ages sixteen and eighteen respectively, and an eighteen year old male. The idea was to do some comparisons with the young men that I interviewed.
The 15 year old was the first young man I was able to interview. Adam lives part-time with his mother who is remarried, and his father (whose boyfriend lives in San Diego), in Placerville. His mother and step-father attend a fundamentalist church while his brother, father and he attend a more liberal church.
The 17 year old, Scott, filed for emancipation, at the age of fifteen, from his parents. When the emancipation took place, he contacted a long time friend of the family, whom he has always called grandpa, and asked him to legally adopt him and be the keeper of his legal and parental affairs. Although, his grandfather has moved to Ecuador to be with his partner, due to certain situations outside of their control, Scott, who will be eighteen in April, is currently living with friends. The everyday parental guidance and control is still handled in the appropriate manner.
When I started talking to my first adolescent, Adam, I had briefed him on the topic of adolescents with gay parents. Within a few days he responded with a response that I would have expected from an adult. Adam had such an open-minded reply, that I was nearly floored by the reaction he had given me on the topic of having a gay parent.
He had started out by saying, “Personally, I believe that parenting skills are parenting skills, regardless of the orientation of the parent. I feel that if an adolescent is raised in a home where the environment is that of a loving and positive nature that this is the true means of the effects on the child,” (Adam, personal communication, Feb 8, 2008). As Adam continued, he talked on the various aspects of his parents divorce, his dad coming out to him, religious upbringing, high school and peers, “I do however believe that I have benefited from having a gay parent. …Once I hit high school, I was totally open about him. …I’ve developed into a much more loving, accepting, and open-minded person.”
After having the opportunity to ask Adam the survey questions later that day, his responses were very much the same. Below is a portion of the transcript from our email communication.
Adam , here are the areas of my research that I wanted to ask.

1. How does an adolescent deal with having a gay parent?
Adam : “Well, there was very little to ‘deal’ with. I just had to remember that he’s the same person no matter what his orientation was. …Ultimately, he’s still my father. I loved him before, and with him being gay, wasn’t anything to stop loving him for.”

2. How does an adolescent relate to their peers who have straight parents?
Adam : “We relate by talking about how our parents are unreasonable tyrants who take control of our lives, and how we want freedom from it. And other than the whole guy thing of;
‘Hey, guess what I found in my dad’s room?’
‘His porn!’
…I could say that some kids who have straight parents, who raised them to be incredibly anti-gay, I wouldn’t be able to connect with, but that’s a very basic fact of human interaction.
“In fact, it became something that determined what friends I made. Within the first few days of meeting someone I would politely ask them what they thought about gay rights, etc. I would then tell them that I had a gay father, and that I respect you for what you believe, but if we are going to spend time together, you need to know this. The total end result has more or less me having many open minded friends such as me; people who I can connect with, who believe along the same morals that I do.
“Most of the time, I just don’t connect with them, but that’s because I don’t want to connect with them because of their general closed-mindedness, not just for the fact of that specific belief or discrimination.”

3. Do you, as an adolescent of a gay parent, face discrimination?
Adam : “Discrimination against me is few and far between. I’m obviously straight. Now, when people hear about my father, most of the time I’ll get an, ‘Oh, that’s cool!’ in a really genuine way. I don’t go around advertising the fact around people who I know would have a sort of discrimination against me for it. However, it is not something I make any attempt at hiding. I’m neither ashamed nor embarrassed nor upset by who my father is.”

4. How does an adolescent relate to peers, teachers and individuals in their community who are not accepting of the adolescent’s gay parent?
Adam : “If people don’t like me, it’s because of who I am, not who my parent is. …As far as my teachers go, I don’t ever really generate bonds with them, because they’re not supposed to express their personal beliefs to their class. But the one teacher who I do have a relationship of sorts with, I haven’t told just because the opportunity has never risen.”
(Adam, personal communication, Feb 11, 2008)

This opened my eyes to see the differences in not only the heterosexual community, who happen to raise their children up to be bigots, on occasion, but also to the LGBTQI community who happen to have families and raise them up to be more open-minded. Thanks to more and more individuals becoming more accepting of gay individuals and their families, I believe that critical thinking helps adjust an adolescents mind regarding these matters.
In an article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, Mackenzie Carpenter wrote that Dr. James Dobson, of Focus On the Family Ministries, criticized Vice-President Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, for not only being a lesbian, but also being a single mother. He also had cited research from Kyle Pruett at Yale University to state that children need fathers. Dr. Pruett, on the other hand, claimed that Dr. Dobson had misrepresented his findings to suggest that children of gay and lesbian parents would somehow suffer developmentally (Carpenter, 2007). John Gonsiorek states it best when he said, “A reasonably intelligent well-motivated bigot can distort science to support or condemn any position (apgl.asso.fr, 1992).
My second adolescent, Scott, currently lives in Chico with a friends’ family. After trying to get a hold of him for several weeks, I ran into him while on break from classes. I explained what the survey was about and Scott was more than willing to help. When I emailed Scott, I had to delve a little deeper to understand how he came to be adopted by his grandfather and how he viewed his sexual orientation. Below is the transcript that Scott provided for my survey.

1. How does an adolescent deal with having a gay parent?
Scott: “It is not hard, you just accept it. You don’t see the person any different than you did before. They are the same person, and it is interesting to hear about, especially when you are close with the parent.”

2. How does an adolescent relate to their peers who have straight parents?
Scott: “We relate no different. There aren’t many differences other than sexuality. My peers understand and think that it is pretty cool. Parents in general share the same ideas of how to raise a child.”

3. Do you, as an adolescent of a gay parent, face discrimination?
Scott: “No. I do not, although, it does bug me when people say, “Oh! That’s gay!” because it isn’t. The way a lot of people and teens these days use the term “gay” as a derogatory term, they use it as something being stupid and that bugs me.”

4. How does an adolescent relate to peers, teachers and individuals in their community who are not accepting of the adolescent’s gay parent?
Scott: “When people don’t accept the fact that ones parents are gay, there is not much you can do. Every one is open to their opinion. If that is the way you see it, it is a lot easier.”

5. Because of the circumstances of your parents and the adoption, can you explain in a little detail of how you became Jim’s adopted son/grandson?
Scott: “Well my parents were and still are drug addicts and have been for quite some time now. I wanted to go to Mt. Whitney with all of my old friends, so what I did was asked Jim if he would adopt me. He agreed, so I spoke with my parents about it and they didn’t like it at first, but after a while of thinking, they felt that it would be the best for me. I needed a way out of a household like that, so I was willing to give that up as well as they were.
(Scott, personal communication, March 6, 2008)
This was definitely the aspect of what I was looking for: to find out how adolescents are thinking and how they relate with others around them. This has become a totally different aspect in the valley than it was in the 1990’s.
While researching articles, I was able to come across a lawsuit that happened in 2001, in the Eastern District of California’s United State District Court. In the lawsuit, the Gay Straight Alliance Network and George Loomis vs. the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD), et al, several students mentioned in the lawsuit were filing charges of discrimination and harassment against the VUSD for refusing to stop harassment and discrimination not only by fellow students, but also by faculty and staff of the schools that were involved at the time of the incidents.
In the incident of Sexual Orientation discrimination and harassment of George Loomis, there were numerous times that “students would yell out the words “faggot,” “homo,” and “joto” (which is Spanish for “faggot”) (gsanetwork.org, 2008).” This is an issue that many adolescents have had to deal with not only as a LGBTQI, nevertheless from some of the research I found, also as the child of a parent who identifies as LGBTQI. Since this incident has occurred, it has become more know that “in California, AB-537 makes it illegal for students, teachers, or staff in California schools to be harassed verbally, physically, or emotionally due to reasons of actual or perceived sexual orientation. AB 537, the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, changed California’s Education Code by adding actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing nondiscrimination policy (collage.org, 2008).”
In the book, “How it Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent,” children of LGBTQI parents talk of there experiences growing up and what they dealt with at school and in the home. One of the adolescents, Nathan, age 16, says, “All through elementary school I got into fights because I defended my dad. I was offended when they’d accuse me of being gay. Boys made more bad comments than girls did (2004).” His sister, Rachel, age 18, had some similar experience. She says, “I don’t tell people that my dad’s gay, but I don’t hide it either. But it has caused a lot of trouble in my life and sometimes I’m afraid for my dad and Christopher (2004).” Although this is not covered as a topic in John Santrock’s “Adolescence,” I find that peer’s and teachers can also be a vital role in why adolescents do not seem to share much about their gay or lesbian parents. The worst part I found out regarding this issue is that “in many states it is still legal to discriminate against LGBT people in education, employment, housing, marriage, as well as foster care and adoption agencies (collage.org, 2008).”
As I was choosing my thoughts and ideas for this research, I also was able to come across all the myths placed on lesbian and gay parents, not only by the heterosexual community, but also by our judicial system. “All too often, gay fathers and lesbian mothers are told by society and the legal system that they are “unfit” to be parents (apgl.asso.fr, 1992).”
Some of these myths include:
Won’t a child raised by gay parents grow up to be gay him/herself? Or, the children of
gays and lesbians will be encouraged to become homosexual.
How can a child succeed if there is no father/mother in the home? Children should not
grow up in a single-parent home.
The children of lesbians and gay men will be sexually abused.
Are gays and lesbians emotionally capable of nurturing a child?
Lesbians cannot provide proper homes for boys and gay men cannot provide proper
homes for girls.
Children are confused by having two same-gender parents.

The fact is that all of these myths are false. “Most studies have found that outcomes for children of gay and lesbian parents are not better – and no worse – than for other children, whether the measures involve peer group relations, self-esteem, behavioral difficulties, academic achievement, or warmth and quality of family relationships (Carpenter, 2008).”
The most disturbing myth is that children of gay/lesbian parents will become homosexual. There are very few individuals that are actually gay or lesbian in our society and even fewer second generation homosexual individuals. The average percentage of gays or lesbians in the population is roughly ten percent. This is also the rough estimate of “second generation” gay or lesbian individuals, these are individuals who happen to have a gay or lesbian parent and are gay or lesbian themselves.
Recently I attended a fund raiser in San Jose for the Imperial Royal Lion Monarchy, Inc of San Jose and Santa Clara County. While there, I had the opportunity to find out that of all in attendance for the Sunday brunch, which were roughly 65 people, there was one particular lesbian couple who had their son with them, who happens to also be gay. To my knowledge, this is the only instance in the International Court System, the drag court, that I am aware of this occurrence. I was also very fortunate to come across an article that had a gay son talking about how he grew up with a gay father (Carpenter, 2008). Terrance McGeorge said in his interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “I have always known I was that way (gay), since I was three or four years old, when I started getting crushes on other boys. My father didn’t come out until I was six.”
There are also the myths regarding the unfitness of lesbians and gays being parents due to the so called lack of being able to nurture the child or to be able to provide a so-called “proper home” for a child of the opposite sex. Not only are these myths false, they are only being applied to the LGBTQI community when several homes around the United States have only a single parent home. “If the parents really love a child and think about the child’s issues rather than their own, there is no reason to shy away from it,” said T. Berry Brazelton, a professor of pediatrics at Harvard University, who is to this generation of parents and children what Dr. Benjamin Spock was to the last (Gross, 1991).” However, it is my opinion that the worst myths are, a.) the children will be sexually abused and b.) that they will be confused by having two mothers or fathers. Let’s get real. I never got confused as to who my Grandpa Bolin and my Grandpa Riddle were. Then there’s the fact that all children living in a gay or lesbian household will be sexually abused? Please! Most children, approximately 68 percent, that are sexually abused, are abused by a non-relative. “In 1995 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse; of these, 75% were girls. Nearly 30% of child victims were between the ages of 4 & 7, (womenofsubstance.org, 2008).”
Many of the gays and lesbians that are parents have had children through artificial insemination or through a previous marriage. However, most gays and lesbians are adopting also. Unfortunately, two states prevent this from happening, Florida and New Hampshire (Gross, 1991). The Arkansas Supreme Court, in 2006, struck down the state’s prohibition of gay foster parents. Comparing Arkansas to New York; New York’s court of last resort decided that “intuition and experience” justifies a state legislature’s conclusion – in the face of contrary empirical evidence – that kids are better served by straight couples. Once again the myths of gay parenting were brought up by the Department of Human Services in Arkansas as they were in New York, bringing the idea once again that gay people are dangerous. “Now is where the New York court would say ‘facts be darned, our intuition and experience says that gay people are dangerous.’ The Arkansas court, in contrast said: there was no rational relationship between the regulation’s blanket exclusion and the health, safety, and welfare of the foster children. Thus, they struck it down, (unknown, 2006).”
In Charlotte J. Patterson’s research on “Lesbian and Gay Parenting,” Miss Patterson says that there is no empirical foundation regarding these myths, (Patterson, 2005). The research that Miss Patterson has completed at this time shows evidence regarding lesbian mothers moreover than any other group in LGBTQI community. Part of this reasoning is, many gay men did not have children or did not want to participate at the time of the research. The data on children of parents identifying as bisexual was still not available at the time, and children of non-White lesbian or gay parents is hard to find.
I find that John Santrock covered a wide array of disciplines that youth face on a daily basis, from their own sexual identity to their gender-role classification. As these adolescents deal with their everyday changes from the onset of puberty to figuring out their gender roles, to finding out if they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, they have to identify not only who they are by their own moral standards, but also by what their peers, teachers and parents think about them as a person.
Although this is a time that many adolescents choose to ignore who their parents are and try and be more like their friends, it is amazing to see that all the adolescents that I researched, all had one thing in common; that their parents were gay or lesbian.
Earlier I had mentioned that I also found a few adolescents in the book “How it Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent,” and that I would show comparisons with the young men that I had interviewed.
Sophia is a 13 year old girl who lives with her two moms. She says that, “At school, everyone’s cool with my two moms; it’s not an issue (2004).” Erin is a 14 year old female who has a gay dad. She says, “Everybody at my school knew my dad was gay. The kids at school made fun of my brother and me, and they’d call us names and say, ‘Oh my God, your dad’s gay – I’m so sorry (2004).’” These two young girls were on opposite ends of the peer spectrum, Sophia, where her peers had no problem with her having a gay parent and Erin’s peers who felt sorry for her. Fortunately, both Scott and Adam get mostly positive feedback from their friends.
Brian, who is 18, and has a gay dad, described as well as Adam did in his survey response; “I … think that people should know what it’s really like; I mean, get rid of this big mass ignorance about being gay and having a gay parent. I think people need to be true to themselves (2004).”
In Abigail Garner’s book ‘Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is,’ “One adolescent She says that when she was in high school said that when they had she had asked their her dad and his partner to ‘graciously please put away the gay books and art evidence,’ they she then realized, “Seeing Dad and Russ go into the closet for me while catering to a known homophobe was too much. I began to understand for myself that if people could not accept my family, I probably did not want to be friends with them (2004).” Although I was able to interview only two young men who both happen to have a gay parent, and was also able to find out more on other adolescents who have not only gay dads but lesbian mothers also, I found out of all my research there were only two instances where the child happened to be a “second generation” LGBTQI individual.
It is my personal belief that any adolescent, or for that matter, any child of an LGBTQI parent should seek out the support of organizations that can help them identify with others who go through the same feelings everyday, who like themselves are children of a lesbian or gay parent. Every person that I now meet that has a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender parent, thanks to this research and understanding of how it feels to have a gay or lesbian parent, I will refer them to talk to a group based out of San Francisco called COLAGE, Children Of Lesbians, Gays, and Transgenders Everywhere.
In conclusion, although there is much more to this research than I can write in this paper, I am amazed at the changes that our society is making to allow my partner and I to be able to adopt a child when we are financially able to do so. As time goes on and laws are changed for the betterment of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals everywhere, we are looking forward to our society becoming more accepting not only of us as an LGBTQI community, but also of our children.