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VIEWS Lessons from a modern family

by Dr. Carmen Cruz
2014-06-11

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I was ready to be walked down the aisle by my traditional Cuban father to marry my beautiful blonde Jewish wife.

Our "Jewban" lesbian wedding we've dreamt of with our modern familia with two kids was solidified by this loving family ceremony and party in 2012. The ceremony followed our legal marriage in New York City in September 2011.

As we shared vows of commitment and laughs with our guests during the ceremony, I was reminded of the blessing I felt that my kids were witnessing this event from a loving perspective, with full support of all family members.

America watched Mitchell and Cam marry during the two-part season finale of ABC's Modern Family and the positive ripple of effects on children is paramount.

Some of the most important things a parent can provide a child is to love, teach, soothe and guide them.

Does sexual orientation impact this? How does it?

Some people struggle with lesbian, gay and bisexual ( LGB ) people raising children. Common fears and stereotypes are that the children will be gay themselves, will be promiscuous, need a mother and a father, will not succeed in life, and overall will not be as well-adjusted as children raised in heterosexual homes.

But there is consistent research and lived experiences that support the concept that children of LGB parents are as well-adjusted as their counterparts. The American Psychological Association's summary of four decades of research on LGB parents declares that "common stereotypes are not supported by the data." This means that LGB parents are not unfit and do not have a negative effect on children.

In fact, the results of some studies suggest that lesbian mothers' and gay fathers' parenting skills may be superior to those of matched heterosexual couples.

A 2013 groundbreaking report from Australia, the largest study of children ( 500 ) from LGB homes, suggests that children raised by same-sex parents are doing well and even better than their peers in indicators such as self-esteem, emotional behavior and the amount of time spent with parents.

Why are LGB people good parents?

Two of the primary factors are that LGB couples cannot have children unintentionally and they have more egalitarian relationships, research shows.

First, there is no 'oops, we're pregnant.' LGB couples cannot conceive, and they have to intentionally desire a child, devote time to the process, research it, and invest, at times, thousands of dollars. Similar to infertile heterosexual couples, children of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals are not going to be unplanned or even unwanted. This level of intentionality is potent.

LGB couples tend to be more fluid and flexible when it comes to gender roles. This is mostly due to not having to adhere to the same culturally driven male-female gender roles that most heterosexual couples do.

Who takes out the garbage? Who cooks dinner? Who bathes the kids? Who pays?

The division of labor and tasks is a common conversation from the get go, with no road map, compared to the map heterosexual couples have.

Along with the movement toward greater acceptance, there are still many LGB individuals, couples and families that do not have the support of their family and friends.

The majority of Americans are moving toward affirming same-sex marriage and accepting same-sex families as part of the family spectrum in the U.S. However, about 42 percent of people in the U.S. do not support the idea.

Additionally, outside of family, LGB couples with children are more likely to face stigma and discrimination in court proceedings, within schools, with medical providers and with the general public.

This is an important area to consider as the effects of not having support for one's identity and or relationship can cause great distress, which causes a greater stress on the children. If loved ones do not accept the family, then those children grow up with less family love and support.

The more people can face their acquired homophobia and be open to learning from one another, the further we will grow. And the happier all kids will be.

This is not to say that we need to identify as 'gay parents' and 'straight parents.' But it sure seems we have a lot to learn from one another. Let's all be open to that.

I bet Lily, Mitch and Cam's daughter in Modern Family, will feel the love and union of her parents—not her gay parents.

Dr. Carmen Cruz is a licensed psychologist and diversity training consultant as well as director of training at Texas Woman's University ( TWU ) Counseling Center. She is a public voices fellow with The OpEd Project at TWU and founder of Cruz Consulting ( www.drcarmencruz.com ). She is on Twitter @drcruz32, or Facebook at CRUZ Consulting.


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