COMMENTARY | My four-year-old daughter is one of the happiest children I know. She bounces when she walks. She giggles constantly about puns and fart-jokes. She wakes me up every morning by singing about sunshine and kissing me on the face. Every moment of her life is marked by a new wave of utter joy and contentment, and I expect her to have a very long, healthy, and successful life. The things that matter most to her are, by her own declaration, "ponies, sparkles, cars, 'fambly,' and my kitty." Conspicuously not on the list: my sexual orientation.
A recent study by the University of Texas at Austin concluded -- I believe erroneously -- that the children of gay and bisexual parents fare more poorly in adulthood than the children of straight parents. Adults who reported that they had a parent who had been in a gay or lesbian relationship tended to have higher rates of unemployment, depression, substance abuse, and social problems compared to adults whose parents had been in committed heterosexual marriages.
The automatic conclusion drawn by these results, one that was echoed by several newspapers throughout the world, was simple: Kids with gay or bisexual parents simply don't fare as well as kids with straight parents. The conclusion seemingly supports the notion that LGBT parenthood is inherently damaging to children -- a conclusion that has the capacity to further strip same-sex couples of their rights to marry and adopt.
However, the findings of this study are, I believe, invalid and unscientific. The authors of the study compared apples to oranges and drew inaccurate conclusions as a result. The adults surveyed who had gay or bisexual parents almost unanimously came from broken homes, and many had been abandoned by one of their biological parents. These people were primarily compared to the children of married heterosexual couples raising their own biological children, not to children of broken straight homes. The comparison, then, is unfair because it does not account for the known impact of divorce on a child's mental and emotional health.
Additionally, it applies parents' orientation as the primary causative factor in children's later health and happiness, rather than accounting for extrinsic factors that may be outside of the parents' control. While the authors of the study documented a link between having a gay or bisexual parent and experiencing bullying during childhood, it is unfair to indicate that this is a sign of poor parenting among queer moms and dads. It is, in fact, a sign of an intolerant society.
When I consider the things that my daughter finds troubling about my lifestyle and my mistakes, my orientation does not enter the picture. She pouts on the rare occasions when bad behavior lands her in time-out. She cries when she falls and skins her knee. She sniffles to me when kids on the playground ignore her. But she has never once voiced the slightest concern over the fact that I am openly bisexual.
After reviewing the study, I asked casually asked my daughter, "Do you think your life would be better if I were straight?" She paused, as if baffled by the question, and carefully explained, "No, Mama. My life is the best kind of life because you're my mama and we have lots of love!" She then wrapped her arms around me and rested her head against my chest. I have no regrets about who I am or how I raise my daughter, and I do not believe that my orientation has, or will have, any impact on her quality of life. I will not allow biased, unscientific studies to influence how I parent my daughter or how I perceive myself as a mother.
Juniper Russo is a freelance writer, health advocate, and dedicated mom living in Chattanooga, Tenn.
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