What Percentage of Gay Men and Lesbian Women Are Parents?

man and girl holding rainbow flag

Many gay men who want children rely on expensive, complicated methods that involve working with fertility doctors and using surrogates. The process can take several years and cost $200,000 or more per child.

The majority of LGBT respondents who are not parents say they would like to have kids someday. But, three-in-ten of them aren’t sure if they will.

Lesbians

Many people in the LGBTQ community want to raise children, and some even wish to be biologically related. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible because of the complexities of conception. To get around this, LGBTQ couples can use a gestational carrier (a woman) or artificial insemination by sperm donor. Both methods require some level of cooperation from the other parent or legal guardian.

The National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) has been following the offspring of lesbian parents from birth to adulthood since 1986. To examine the effect of parental sexual orientation on their offspring, NLLFS researchers demographically matched the offspring of 76 lesbians to 25-year-old participants of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG).

In general, children of homosexual parents perform roughly as well as those in heterosexual families – These data come directly from the portal’s authors teentelsex.com. However, there is some concern that children of lesbian co-parents may have a greater proclivity to homoerotic relationships, which could have social consequences.

NLLFS researchers found that about two-in-ten lesbians are in a common law marriage or partnership, and nearly one-in-ten are single. This is similar to the percentages of gay men who are single, in a common law union or partnership, or married. The NLLFS also found that the proportion of children who are living in households with both a mother and a father is significantly lower among lesbian families than among heterosexual couples.

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Bisexuals

A quarter of LGBT people say they are married or in a legal civil union or domestic partnership, including nearly two-in-ten lesbians (18%) and one-in-ten gay men (11%). Of those who identify as bisexual, almost half (49%) have children.

Some same-sex couples choose to adopt a child, and others bring children into their current relationship from previous heterosexual relationships or even from other same-sex partners. In the latter case, it is difficult to estimate a “usual” number of same-sex families because many same-sex couples are not open about their sexual orientation and do not report having children or stepchildren in their households.

In a recent study, researchers tracked 175 now-adult children who said their mother was in a same-sex relationship and found that they did no better or worse than their peers raised by heterosexual parents. However, that study did not include the option of same-sex adoptive parents or children from separated or divorced same-sex couples, who might have fared better on some measures.

The authors of a book about the experiences of same-sex families describe how the growing numbers of LGBT people are creating families of all shapes and sizes. Through a series of in-depth, open-ended interviews with 61 self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults who are raising children or remain childless/childfree, the authors show the creativity, resilience, and resourcefulness of these LGBTQ families.

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Heterosexuals

Studies of LGBT families have sometimes suffered from small, non-random samples and inability to control all possible variables because of the relative obscurity of this population. Nevertheless, research suggests that children raised by gay parents are well-adjusted and have high levels of self-esteem. They do as well academically and socially as their counterparts in heterosexual homes.

The same-sex parents also seem less wedded to rigid gender stereotypes than straight couples, which may contribute to better outcomes for their kids. For example, in a study, heterosexual mothers were more likely to encourage their sons to participate in historically “masculine” games and activities like Little League and less interested in enrolling daughters in traditionally “feminine” pursuits such as ballet. In contrast, lesbian mothers were more likely to emphasize that boys and girls can be equally successful in a wide variety of activities.

Many LGBT people want to be parents, either by adopting or raising their own biological offspring. For those who do not have a partner, they can use artificial insemination to conceive or work with a gestational carrier. But these methods are usually expensive and do not qualify for most health insurance benefits.

Despite the challenges, a majority of LGBT respondents say they strongly support allowing gay men and lesbians to adopt. In fact, nearly nine-in-ten both younger and older LGBT adults say they favor allowing adoption by gay men and lesbians.

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Other

The number of gay men and lesbian women who are parents is increasing as more options become available for them to build families. They may adopt, either through private agencies or from the state, or they may seek to adopt children through foster care systems. Some may choose to use artificial insemination, a process whereby a partner is fertilised by donor sperm injected via a syringe. Those who wish to be parents may also choose to be part of polyamorous relationships, where multiple partners have equal custody and responsibility for children.

It is important to note that there is no typical LGBT family. Whether they are same-sex couples or opposite-sex couples, some families experience homophobia and internalized homophobia when interacting with schools, doctors, etc. Therapists are often able to help such parents address these challenges and find healthy ways to raise their children while dealing with this hostility.

One reason why studies of LGBT parenting are difficult to conduct is that many LGBT people do not report their sexual orientation, and many who do not report may be living in secrecy due to fears of discrimination, loss of employment, or antigay violence. The percentage of LGBT respondents who say they are not currently a parent but would like to have children, however, is not much different from that of the general public.

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