Gay and Lesbian parents can now adopt, which is fantastic. However, we now need to stamp out the prejudice that makes many same sex couples wary when looking at adoption.
Playground bullying should not stand in the way of gay adoption: either from children or obnoxious homophobic groups
At long last, strides have been made in terms of allowing gay and lesbian couples to have the same basic rights to family life as that of a straight couple. The coolly named civil partnership status has been rightfully questioned and now same sex couples can finally define themselves as legally married. Since 2005 same sex couples have the right to adopt children. Cheeringly, many adoption agencies are now actively seeking to target gay and lesbian couples as potential parents through progressive advertising campaigns. However, one barrier that still remains is perception. According to a report by Stonewall, a staggering 74% of gay and lesbian couples consider the prospect of their child being bullied at school due to their non conventional family as a significant barrier to becoming parents.
There are numerous benefits to having same sex parents. Firstly, the conscious decision that made when having a child means that same sex couples are generally financially and emotionally prepared for the reality of parenthood. Unsurprisingly, there are very few unwanted children in gay families. It has been shown that children of same sex parents generally feel positive about the alternative structure of their family unit, reporting feelings of closeness that their diversity brings. Interestingly, some reports even show a higher educational attainment rate amongst children of same sex couples.
Sadly, although there is increased social acceptance, bullying of children of gay and lesbian parents is still an issue. Reports show that homophobic language within the classroom is still taken less seriously than racist language. The word “gay” is still used as a playground insult. Worryingly, this concern is latched onto by some anti-gay parenting groups who use the idea that children might get bullied because of the sexuality of their parents as a flimsy argument against same sex parenting. An unnamed journalist (a brave, brave man…) published an article on The Christian Institute website entitled “Hushed Report: gay adoption puts kids at risk of bullying”. Mr Pious Anonymous then goes on to explain how statistics regarding the bullying of children of same sex parents were suppressed in order to “appease the gay rights lobby”. The implication here is that the right for gay and lesbian couples to adopt has come at the price of the welfare of children. A similarly charming article published this week, also on The Christian Institute website, is entitled “Being Raised by two mothers ruined my life” and includes a stock image of a woman wailing hopelessly into a handkerchief. We cant let mindless bigots like this win. If gay parenting is indeed beneficial both to children’s welfare and to helping gay couples live equal and fulfilling lives then this is an issue that is of national interest.
I still remember the little toerag in primary school who asked me whether I was a heterosexual. I stared at them blank faced, not knowing what the word meant. I said no out of blind panic because the word had “sex” in it so I was naturally embarrassed. They immediately burst out laughing and said “well you must be a homosexual then!” Fantastic
stuff. I was mortified, and for reasons that I did not understand apart from the fact that I had in that moment been set apart as different. I spoke to Kate, a bright and enthusiastic Year 1 Teacher who has been taught throughout her training to never assume anything about a pupils home life. Things have changed dramatically since my own primary school days. A new programme called “British Values” has been implemented which teaches children diversity in Britain and includes learning about same sex parents. Furthermore, when a pupil uses the term “gay” as an derogatory insult this is generally taken much more seriously than in the past and can result in a phone call home. However, Kate can still see room for improvement. For example, she points to the issue of some teachers feeling a little unsure of how to discuss certain personal issues with a young child. This may need to be addressed in how this can done in a manner in which both teacher and child feel comfortable. Also, schools vary greatly in their inclusive policies. Kate can recall an incident at a school where she used to teach where a child was scolded for using the term lesbian, and was told that this was a rude word. She believes that this was a missed educational opportunity to normalise the term.
Kate believes that rather than have separate lessons that focus on teaching children about same sex marriages, issues such as a this should be seamlessly incorporated within the curriculum. For example, rather than make a big deal about getting a class to sit down on the carpet to listen to a reading from a book that deals specifically with having same sex parents, such books should simply be readily available alongside books about “normal” families. Kate also believes that it is key to get children to understand about same sex parents long before they receive sex education (at around year 5) rather than combining the two.
Of course, you can’t stop the bile from certain dreadful parents seeping into the playground through their offspring however you can seek to broaden areas of mainstream culture that can make or break opinions. Mainstream television has become much more inclusive when representing gay parents in recent years. Particularly worth a mention in the American sitcom Modern Family for its portrayal of two loving dads bringing up their adopted daughter. However, more could be done. Coronation Street, a show that has been exemplary in its depiction of LGBT characters, has yet to run a storyline where a committed gay couple adopt a child (after a disastrous Corrie style wedding of course!). It would be nice to see long suffering Sophie Webster and girlfriend Maddie pushing a pram up the cobbles some day.
Making small yet inclusive changes such as this will create a more welcoming school environment for gay and lesbian parents and their children. As s result, this will help to lay the foundation for a more open minded and free thinking next generation, which can only have positive implications for society.