LGBTQ Parenting: Unlikely Sources of Support (You May Not Have Thought Of)

Research over the last decade or so has given us a glimpse into who in the LGBTQ community is having kids, how we’re building our families, where we live, how many kids we have on average, and other some-such demographic data. If you’re an LGBTQ family nerd like myself, you’ll spend a Sunday morning reading these studies. Feast your eyes

Yet, when most of us type “LGBTQ parenting” into the search bar, we’re not looking for demographic data, we're looking for support. Validation. Reassurance. Answers to questions unique to our families. Shared experiences. Wisdom from other lesbian, gay, queer, trans, or nonbinary families. We’re not looking for demographic data. Am I right?

So here I’m going to share with you my three favorite, untapped sources of support, wisdom, validation, collaboration, and connection for LGBTQ families. Places and sources you likely haven’t thought about, or maybe did and discounted. Not every idea is for everybody. That’s ok. Take what resonates and leave the rest.

 

Let The Research Speak: How To Use Scientific Research To Support (not undercut) Your Parenting

As a Queer parent in a same-sex partnership, I worry (what parent doesn’t?). But some of the things I worry about are unique to being who I am. Things like, “Is our family structure going to create any long-lasting challenges for our children?” or “How can I practically counteract homophobic messages our kid is exposed to?” or “What are the effects of homophobic stigmatization on my child and what can I do NOW to prevent them?”

When I have big questions like this, I turn towards researchers who are doing cutting-edge work to explore these questions. People who are dedicating their lives to offering thoughtful answers (and sometimes even solutions) to these concerns. I particularly like the work of Dr. Nicola Carone, an Italian Ph.D. whose work focuses on, “parenting, attachment, and child development in diverse family forms, including LGBTQ+ parent families, families formed through assisted reproduction, and single parent families.” Here are a few findings of Carone’s findings that I find particularly helpful:

  1. The (mental) health of transgender parents: “After controlling for age, education, and relationship status, there were no significant differences between trans- and cisgender parents and their nonparent counterparts on any mental health or health dimensions.” 
  2. Parent-child attachment outcomes (ages 6-12 years) for gay and lesbian parents vs. hetero parents: “...children of gay fathers perceived high attachment security and their scores did not differ from those of children with lesbian mothers or from normative scores of children with heterosexual parents.”
  3. Long-term impact of homophobic stigmatization on adolescents with lesbian parents: the psychological effects of homophobia do persist into adulthood and school counseling and diversity appreciation programs need to include LGBTQ families

Another parenting researcher that I turn to, several times a week, is Dr. Emily Oster. Despite the fact that she is straight and does use gender binary language (though not exclusively), I find her analyses to be extremely helpful. As an economist and a mom, her work is not only data-driven, but also uncompromisingly specific, non-judgmental, and respectful of the diversity of choices one could make when presented with the data. She has a weekly newsletter (subscribe!) and several books that cover pregnancy, early childhood, and the early school years.

 

“LGBTQ Midwives or Doulas Near Me”

When we welcomed our baby, we lived in an area with very few (visibly, at least) LGBTQ families. It was hard to make connections, especially with a new baby. We tried to network through the thin Queer community that we had, but it seemed that everyone had moved out of the city to escape sky-high rents. What to do?

We found that our midwife and doula were wonderful sources of connection to LGBTQ (or LGBTQ-affirming) families who also had babies. Though we didn’t do a ton of socializing (cause right when we felt more ready, the pandemic hit…), it was at least comforting to know that there were other families like us, out there, who were also trying to figure out napping and feeding… Try searching for “LGBTQ midwives or doulas near me” and see what you find. A few emails could go a long way to finding connection. Or ask your local LGBT Center if they have a family coordinator.

 

Finding A Pediatric Care Provider Who Is LGBTQ-Affirming 

By necessity, many of us tolerate the (not-so) subtle stares, invasive questions, and general discomfort of visiting a provider who hasn’t bothered to learn how to work with our families. You CAN limit your and your children’s exposure to this environment by seeking out providers who are LGBTQ competent who you can meet you virtually. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s shown that we can access competent providers who aren’t necessarily within physical reach.

What a load-off! What would it be like to go in (or Zoom-in) for a check-up and not have to think about anything other than your kid? That sounds great, doesn’t it?

Finding a therapist, herbalist, naturopath, or pediatric health coach who you can meet with virtually, can be very helpful, supportive, and affirming and provide a surprising amount of relief. Especially for general wellness (preventive care), colds, stomach issues, sleep problems, and other common childhood ailments, these modalities are safe, effective, and much easier to find a virtual, LGBTQ-competent practitioner. For more on finding a specifically trans-competent provider, see here.

 

References:

Carone, Nicola, Henny M. W. Bos, et al. Frontiers in Psychology, 18 February 2021 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.643647

Carone, N., Rothblum, E. D., Bos, H. M. W., Gartrell, N. K., & Herman, J. L. (2021). Demographics and health outcomes in a U.S. probability sample of transgender parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 35(1), 57–68. https://doi.org/10.1037/fam0000776

Carone, Nicola & Baiocco, Roberto & Lingiardi, Vittorio & Kerns, Kathryn. (2020). Child attachment security in gay father surrogacy families: Parents as safe havens and secure bases during middle childhood. Attachment & Human Development. 20. 269-289. 10.1080/14616734.2019.1588906. 

Bos, H., Carone, N., Rothblum, E.D. et al. Long-Term Effects of Homophobic Stigmatization During Adolescence on Problem Behavior in Emerging Adult Offspring of Lesbian Parents. J Youth Adolescence 50, 1114–1125 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01364-1

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