The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gay Adoption and Parentage?

The important question of child-raising came up. Because the issue of gay adoption is in the news and courts these days, I suppose that we should discuss such things publicly, with an eye to protection of children. My thoughts run like this:

1) Many fine people have been raised by single parents. Statistically, however, this isn't the way to bet.

2) There is probably a difference between children raised by widows and widowers, and those raised by divorcees. I have not done research, but I suspect it to be true, as divorce is the result of personal choices, while the death of a partner generally is not. Therefore, I'd be more concerned. Being a divorced father myself, believe me, I've agonized over this.

3) I think there is probably an even larger difference with unmarried mothers. Mother who either had unprotected sex and accidentally got pregnant (lack of judgement and foresight) or, far worse in my opinion, mothers who CHOSE to get pregnant without a man. These I have a real, genuine problem with. Rather than dealing with the personal issues that kept them from being able to form a partnership, they did an end-run and just got pregnant. I've seen some real disasters here (as well as some first-rate kids) and consider this a recipe for disaster, as irresponsible as a man walking away from his children.

4) Gay couples cannot biologically have children. I understand how people could extrapolate this out into assuming that homosexuals should not then be as capable of being parents at all. Add to this the moral judgements and (in my mind) HIGHLY selective reading of the Old Testament to condemn gayness, and it's clear to me where a lot of the suspicion comes from.

My attitude:

a) Homosexuality is natural. I've simply seen too much of such behavior among animals, and very young children, not to think that there is a genetic component. Not all Sociobiological behavior relates to the survival of individuals. Some relates to the survival of groups. In a society where the most powerful alpha males get most of the women, if the beta males can't relate to each other, they either resort to prostitution, or raiding other groups for women. I'm sure that in seraglio situations where dozens of women are held exclusively by a single potentate, the women's ability to be affectionate with each other would be a sanity-saver. Add to this the fact that human beings love and love to be loved, love to touch and hold, and I just don't see much reason to question that this behavior is a positive one.

b) It may be true that, all things being equal, it is better for a child to be raised by a male/female couple than a gay couple. BUT THINGS ARE NEVER EQUAL. No gay couple EVER "accidentally" has a kid. Every kid is wanted, desired, planned for, yearned for. That is a gigantic difference, and MAY even tip the scales toward "on average, gay couples make BETTER parents." Again, this is just a thought experiment. An interesting set of comparisons might be gay parents with, say, adoptive parents or inseminated parents. I really don't know what the numbers are.

c) I've never seen any difference, nor do I know any stats, suggesting that gays are more criminal, violent, or whatever than straights. I believe that gays might make a little more money on average...but it's been a long time since I went looking for those numbers. I do think gay males engage in riskier behaviors than the general population, but to me that's just because men are crazy for sex. Without the balancing energy of the feminine, they go a little nuts. I know of NO real equivilent to the gay bath-houses. People who open heterosexual bathhouses generally go broke. But that's not a problem with gays...that's an issue with men, who often revel in anonymous, instant sex. The balancing thing for women is expressed in one of the funniest jokes I ever heard (and it was a lesbian who told me): "what does a gay woman bring on the second date? A U-Haul."

That's men and women, all right. Just my POV. A child raised by any decent parent, male or female, gay or straight, is going to be better off than a child locked in the Foster Care system. My guess is that two parents, gay or straight, will ON AVERAGE be better off than those raised by single parents, if for no other reason than that raising a child is a hellacious expenditure of energy and resources. Jesus Christ, Jason is a handful!

So, absent some evidence that gays are, outside social judgements, lower in capacity or morality, the only conclusion I can come to is that they have the same right to adopt or have biological children (through insemination, surrogates or whatever) as straights. That the fact that they can't have children in the exact same way as straights is certainly a factor, but I'm not certain that that doesn't actually make them BETTER parents on average--nothing happens by accident. I just don't believe there's a problem here.


Christian M. Howell said...

I guess I'm more a nurture person vs. nature person. Parenting begs up the question; is sexuality responsible for the parenting urge or just humanity(sentient life)?

Reluctant Lawyer said...

Seems to me that those strongly opposed to gay adoption or adoption by people of different races, or adoption by single parents overlook one simple fact: there are not enough willing "perfect" couples to adopt all the children in the system who need parents. Any type of conditioning beyond basic ability to parent WILL result in a number of children never having a permanent loving person in their lives.

Pagan Topologist said...

This post is the best commentary I have seen on this subject, Steve. Thank you for it.

I would argue, also, however, that having more than two parents or parent-like people in a child's world makes for a kind of security that children could have had a century or more ago when there were more relatives nearby, at least for many families. This is, to me, one of the powerful appeals of the poly lifestyle, but the extra parent figures need not be in love/sex relationships with the biological parents, nor need they be blood relatives.

In my own experience, having other adults close to my own biological child and being close to the children of close friends have both been profoundly helpful, in my opinion.

Pagan Topologist said...

With regard to women choosing to be single parents, I have known several who have done so. If a woman wants a child but believes that she will never have a healthy relationship with a man, this seems to me to be a better choice than marrying a loser or abuser for the sake of having two parents for her child. Most of the women I know who have done this have made the choice in their late thirties, when there was not a lot of time left for them to have a biological child.

Josh Jasper said...

Christian, sexuality has little I can see to do with the urge to be parents. Gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals all want to be parents at about the same rate that straight people do.

Christian M. Howell said...

Read before commenting please. The statement was "IT BRINGS UP THE QUESTION." That means I'm not mking a statement but asking a question.

I'm assuming you believe that sexuality doesn't cause the parenting urge.

I don't believe either. But I do believe that homosexuality is a nurtured response, not natural instinct.

I don't think you're ready to talk to me about homosexuality so I'll leave it at that.

Josh Jasper said...

Christian -

I was trying to offer an answer to your question. I know quite a few same sex couples (probably more than everyone else here) and they seem to want to raise kids just as often as straight couples do.

Ashe Hunt said...

I suggest watching the film, The Birdcage, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane. Absolutely wonderful film dealing with this exact scenario in a very realistic way from several angles. But most of this speculation is really irrelevant. I have to agree with one of the comments from the last post and state that healthy people are more likely to raise healthy children, period.

Steven Barnes said...

In my mind, the better choice for a woman who can't find a healthy relationship is adoption. If she is unwilling or incapable of healing herself enough to create a relationship with another human being, male or female, I fear for her relationship with that child. That is my position if she DECIDES to get pregnant. If she accidentally gets pregnant and decides to keep it, that's different...sort of. I'm suspicious of the pregnancy "accident". Strikes me as being unconscious demons at work.

I think society can reinforce parenting, but some of it, I suspect, is genetic. I mean, even if it's learned, who the #$# did you learn it from, and who did they learn it from, and so forth all the way back. Denying that humans have a bit of innate programming is separating them from the rest of the animal kingdom. Doesn't make sense to me.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I'm suspicious of the pregnancy "accident". Strikes me as being unconscious demons at work.

Sometimes. But birth control methods have failure rates with even perfect use, and, actually, perfect use for your entire life whenever you don't want kids is humanly difficult (few people with a daily prescription of any kind manage to avoid ever missing pills). So I tend to give accidents the benefit of the doubt, while also thinking that people who really need not to get pregnant need to work on reliability with birth control (doubling up and using both pills and condoms can be a good idea here).

Brother OMi said...

I don't have the numbers but most gay people I know are either making just as much as I am or make substantially less. There is a sizable gay population that is poor (like any demographic -- most are poor)...

I never thought about the wanted part. It makes sense, if you adopt its not by accident. thanks for that

in the end, these children need love. I am sure they will take it any way they can.

Brother OMi said...

BTW --- I think gay folks are just like other folks, they have the same desires and wants. Some want to get married, some don't, some want lasting relationships, some just want a fling, etc.

i think the problem we have is that we generalize. we see one gay couple in federal court trying to adopt and we think the entire homosexual community wants to. they are people just like everyone else.

mjholt said...

GWBush never won a presidential election.

Bobby said...

Very interesting post. There are many blogs out there by gay couples who already are parents or are trying to become parents, and for a look at this issue from their perspective they are good reading. Well one if them is mine, so I guess that's some shameless promotion, but too many times the "thought experiments" of gay parenting or marriage and the impacts on society are done by heterosexuals with sidebar comments by the gay community.

Your blog is very interesting by the way, nice job.