Science, myths and same-sex parenting

What is best for the children? The legal battles over marriage frequently revolve around this very question. Gay activists argue that many same-sex couples already have children, and these children need the protections afforded by legal recognition of their relationship. To support this line of argument, they present the courts with numerous studies claiming to prove that children raised by persons with same-sex attractions (SSA) are just as happy, healthy, and academically successful as children raised by their married biological parents.

In her book Children as Trophies? European sociologist Patricia Morgan reviews 144 published studies on same-sex parenting and concludes that it fosters homosexual behaviour, confused gender roles, and increased likelihood of serious psychological problems later in life. A French parliamentary report on the rights of children decried the "flagrant lack of objectivity" in much of the pro-gay research in this area, and concluded with the warning that "we do not yet know all the effects on the construction of the adopted child's psychological identity. As long as there is uncertainty, however small, is it not in the best interest of the child to apply the precautionary principle, as is done in other domains?"(1)

When spouses "fall in love" with their children, it doesn't diminish their love for the other spouse, but enriches it. Same-sex couples may seek children hoping they will provide this same effect, but will more often find them an obstacle to and a competitor for affection.

Even a recent meta-analysis by two gay activists failed to support the "just like other children" myth. In 2004, Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz,(2) both supporters of gay parenting, published a study entitled, "(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?" In it they re-examined twenty studies of same-sex parenting that had supposedly shown no difference, and charged their authors with ignoring the differences they had indeed found. There were differences: children raised by parents with SSA showed empathy for "social diversity", were less confined by gender stereotypes, more likely to have confusion about gender identity, more likely to engage in sexual experimentation and promiscuity, and more likely to explore homosexual behaviour. Stacey and Biblarz characterized these as positive differences, suggesting that same-sex parenting may in fact be superior.

Paula Ettlebrick of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce admitted that Stacey and Biblarz had "burst the bubble of one of the best-kept secrets" of the gay community - namely, that the studies it had been using did not actually support the claims it was making. Not all gay activists saw this as a problem. Kate Kendall, head of the San Francisco-based National Center for Lesbian Rights, who raises two children with her partner, took the Stacey/Biblarz article as good news:

There's only one response to a study that children raised by lesbian and gay parents may be somewhat more likely to reject notions of rigid sexual orientation -- that response has to be elation.

Gay activists have tried to put the best spin possible on the study, but they also know there are political consequences to admitting that there are real differences. Comments such as Kendall's above, though meant to be supportive, throw into relief the ongoing dissonance between the public face of gay rights activism, which pleads for acceptance into the "heteronormative" world, and the majority of its committed ideologues, who want to unmake it.

Boys in woman space

Any same-sex parenting scenario will be "different" from ordinary families, with consequent effects on children, but as evidence suggests, none more so than two women raising boys.

Many women with SSA have extremely negative attitudes toward men. Some are still very angry with their fathers, and that antagonism carries over to males in general. Some extend their hostility to masculinity itself, and frown on traditional boyish pursuits. It's common for same-sex parents to discourage play with gender-typing toys and games, but women seem to do it more thoroughly than men.(4) Some women with SSA go so far as to advocate "lesbian separatism," which Ruthann Robson defines as

an ethical forward/moral/political/social/theoretical lifestyle in which lesbians devote their considerable energies, insofar as it is possible, exclusively to other lesbians or, in some cases, exclusively to other women.(5)

Needless to say, a fatherless boy living among women who are deeply hostile to masculinity itself will find it difficult to develop a healthy masculine identity.(6) The book Lesbians Raising Sons - a collection of essays by lesbian mothers of boys -- reveals numerous cases of boys who, by their mother's admission, exhibit symptoms of gender identity disorder. One mother defends her adopted son's cross-gender behaviour and castigates society for not accommodating him. She herself is pleased with it:

He has watched the college girls who student-teach, the video mermaids, the female heroines of the silver screen. He knows how to toss his head just so, to tuck a lock behind his ear, to suck on a strand that reaches the mouth.(7)

When he is asked if he is a girl or a boy, she encourages him to say "Well it doesn't matter to me what you think… whatever you decide." (8) The school also accommodates his problem. The kindergarten class was asked to line up,

boys on one side, girls to the other, for races. My son stood in the middle a little dumfounded that such a request was being made, then slid himself to the girls' side. Afterwards a confused Mr. M. went to the teachers for clarification. They recommended he no longer divide the children by gender and that was that. (9)

A sad scene like that is made possible not just by lesbian hostility towards men, but also by the constructionist ideology, which denies that there are essential differences between the sexes. No matter how strong the evidence for such differences, radical feminists will not relinquish their vision of world where we can choose our gender. Every little victory ("and that was that") for their side shows once again how the rest of society can't avoid being caught up in the battle.

Lesbians raising boys think they can fully compensate for the absence of a father -- that fatherlessness is not a problem unless an oppressive society makes it one. But the children do not see it that way:

Parents reported a number of instances where children age four and older would ask about their father. Children would ask someone to be their daddy, ask where their father was, or express the wish to have a father. They would make up their own answers, such as their father was dead, or someone was in fact their father.(10)

Can the "second mommy" compensate for the absence of a father? There is substantial evidence that children benefit from having a second sex represented in the home -- not just a second person. Developmental psychologist Norma Radin and her colleagues studied the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren born to adolescent unwed mothers living with their parents. The young children who had positively involved grandfathers displayed more competence than those with an absent or uninvolved grandfather. The presence of the grandmother, on the other hand, did not have a clear-cut impact, suggesting a redundancy between the two forms of maternal influence.(11) Children, especially boys with involved grandfathers, showed less fear, anger, and distress.(12)

Even gay-affirming therapists are noting the problem. In an article entitled, "A Boy and Two Mothers", Toni Heineman reports that in spite of the pretence that two "mothers" were the same as a mother and father, families had to cope with the reality of an absent father.(13)

Men and women grow up with certain natural expectations about what it means to be a man or a woman. Although activists may claim that these feelings are mere social constructions which they can overcome, in practice nature will always have its way.

Parenting strains same-sex relationships

Apart from the additional risks and stresses borne by a child raised by same-sex parents, having a baby can strain and even destroy a same-sex relationship. Sometimes the strain begins even before the baby is conceived: in some cases both women want to bear a child and have to "negotiate" who gets to go first. In cases where a female couple is deeply enmeshed, the child can threaten to drive a wedge between them. If one or both of the women entered the relationship hoping to have her deep need for mothering met, a baby can destabilize it.

In some instances the woman's needs are so completely met by the baby that she no longer is interested in meeting her partner's needs. One woman explained:

What can I say? I loved our baby and didn't know how to love two people at the same time. I fell in love with the baby and my lover felt neglected, rejected, and understandably totally abandoned.(14)

Often compounding the stresses is the fact that most persons with SSA come from dysfunctional families. The addition of a child often serves to resurrect old traumas:

My parents fought all the time when we were growing up. I didn't have any idea that would happen to us. But it did. We were totally unprepared for the way being parents brought up all those old issues from the past.(15)

Of course, having a baby can also cause problems for a husband/wife couple, particularly if either spouse came to the marriage with deep, unresolved problems. The difference is that solving those problems will strengthen their relationship, with the child's presence deepening the bond between them. When spouses "fall in love" with their children, it doesn't diminish their love for the other spouse, but enriches it. Same-sex couples may seek children hoping they will provide this same effect, but will more often find them an obstacle to and a competitor for affection. And when persons with SSA do succeed in solving their deep problems and meeting their unmet needs, it tends to diminish the attractions that form the very basis of their relationship, and likewise undoes it.

Doesn't everyone have a right to children?

Persons with SSA are human beings. It is natural for them to want to experience the joy of having children: to love, to nurture, to leave a legacy. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to become pregnant and bear a child, or a man wanted to experience the joy of seeing his son grow into manhood or his daughter develop into a beautiful woman.

But children are not trophies, or a way to meet one's personal needs, or props to help forward an ideology. People are not a means to an end; they are meant to be loved for their own sake. Therefore no one has a "right" to a child. It is children who have the rights. When circumstances separate a child from one or both biological parents, adults should try to create a situation for him that is as normal as possible. No matter how honourable the intention, no one has the right to compound the tragedy of separation from biological parents by subjecting a child to another sub-optimal situation.

Activists may claim that couples with SSA are "rescuing" children by adopting them out of poverty or other hard circumstances. Although laudable, this intent does not negate the real problems caused by same-sex parenting: problems deeper and longer-lasting than material deprivation. This argument also loses force when you consider the many roadblocks to adoption faced by stable, well-to-do married couples. Same-sex adoption doesn't provide more homes for needy children -- it just keeps those children away from married couples who would otherwise adopt them.

Of course, when AID and surrogacy are used to create babies for same-sex couples, these children not being "rescued" from anything. Instead they are being intentionally conceived to be placed in suboptimal situations. This is child abuse.

As more persons with SSA acquire children, society will increasingly be pressured to ignore the problems caused by same-sex parenting -- just as it ignores the problems caused by divorce -- and join in the pretence that that having two mommies is just the same as having a mommy and a daddy. But no matter how many people praise "family diversity," children being raised by parents with SSA will always know that it's not the same, and someday they will resent how their needs have been sacrificed for the sake of a social experiment. In a sad irony, the more that cultural elites insist that there is nothing wrong with their situation, the more these children will feel guilty about resenting it, and this guilt will lead them to conclude that there must be something wrong with them.

This is an extract from One Man, One Woman by Dale O'Leary, published by Sophia Institute Press and reproduced here with permission. Dale O'Leary is an award-winning American journalist with a special interest in marriage and gender issues.


1. Parliamentary Report on the Family and the Rights of Children, French National Assembly, Paris, January 25, 2006,
2. Judith Stacey, Timothy J. Biblarz "(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter," American Sociological Review, April 2004.
3. David Crary, "Professors Take Issue With Gay Parenting Research" and "Report: Kids of gays more empathetic," AP/Los Angeles Times, April 27, 2001
4. P. H. Turner, Scadden, Harris, "Parenting in gay and Lesbian families." Journal of Gay and Lesbian Psychotherapy, 1(3) p. 55-66.
5. Albert Mohler Jr., "Lesbians raising sons; got a problem with that?" Baptist Press, December 30, 2004
6. Since relatively few male couples have raised girls from birth without a female caregiver, the effects of such arrangements on a girl's development have not been fully studied. Although girls raised by male couples still do not have a female model, men with SSA are not generally as openly hostile to femininity as women with SSA are to masculinity.
7. Sara Asch, "On the way to the water," Lesbian Raising Sons, L.A.: Alyon Books, 1997, p. 4.
8. ibid., p. 4
9. ibid., p. 6
10. Barbara McCandlish, "Against all odds: Lesbian mother family dynamics (in Fredrick Bozett, Gay and Lesbian Parents, NY: Praeger, 1987). p. 30.
11. Radin, N., Oyserman, D., Benn, R., "Grandfathers, teen mothers, and children under two," in P.K. Smith (ed) The psychology of grandparenthood: An international perspective, London: Routledge,1991, pp. 85-89.
12. Comments on Radin, in Biller, H., Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport CT: Auburn House, 1993
13. Toni Heineman, "A Boy and Two Mothers: New Variations on an Old Theme or a New Story of Triangulation? Beginning Thoughts on the Psychosexual Development of Children in Nontraditional Families," Psychoanalytic Psychology, 2004, 21, 1, pp. 99-115.
14. Cheri Pies, "Lesbians and the Choice to Parent," Homosexuality and Family Relations, New York: Harrington Park Press, 1990 p. 150
15. ibid.


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