Washington Blade Profiles Gay Parenting

The Washington Blade has published a special section in its October 12 issue on gay parenting. Topics cover portrayals of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) characters in television media; historic milestones in gay parenting; a profile of author Michael Shelton’s new book Family Pride, which highlights some of the diversity that we often find missing from discussions about LGBT parents; and the benefits a birth Doula can provide with education for expecting LGBT parents. Excerpts of the articles are below with links to the full text.

”Normal’ families?’

“It’s very exciting to see more LGBT family life and these kinds of characters and programming on TV,” [Justin Connor, a gay dad raising 4-month-old daughter Noura with husband Mohamad Olabi] says “We’ve certainly watched ‘Modern Family’ since it came out and we love that show. It’s very well done and it’s fun to kind of recognize ourselves a little bit in the lives of those characters. It’s good TV, it’s well done and people can relate and connect to it.”

Not everyone is feeling the warm fuzzies though. Alexandra Khalaf, who’s raising 9-month-old daughter Camille with her spouse of three years, Amy, says Hollywood’s fascination with gay men is disappointing.

“Of course I DVR’d ‘The New Normal’ hoping that any new gay show would be helpful for our cause,” she says. “But I find myself really frustrated watching the show. First, it’s always gay men on these shows, minus ‘The L Word,’ which was all straight women and horribly done. Second, the show of course portrays the very wealthy gay men living in a beautiful home in California, a stereotype for all gay men — good looking, fit, rich. Then he has a black ‘helper’ — again, stereotype. It’s not realistic at all.”

‘Milestones in LGBT parenting history’

1976: Washington, D.C. becomes first jurisdiction in the country to prohibit judges from making custody decisions based solely on sexual orientation.

1977: Lawyers Donna Hitchens and Roberta Achtenberg in San Francisco form the Lesbian Rights Project (LRP), which evolves into the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), still helping LGBT parents (and others) today.

1978: The Washington Supreme Court issues the country’s first custody ruling in favor of a lesbian couple (Sandy Schuster and Madeleine Isaacson of the 1973 film above).

1978: New York becomes the first state to say it will not reject adoption applicants solely because of “homosexuality.”

‘Beyond urban, wealthy stereotypes’

Perhaps most staggering of all is the abundance of closeted LGBT parents. Shelton discussed the idea of “parental shame” in relation to their sexuality, which may or may not be carried on to their children. He describes two cases in particular of LGBT parents keeping their sexual identity a secret.

The first involves a gay man in Kentucky, Chris, who is gay and raising a child with his heterosexual wife. She is unaware of her husband’s sexuality. As a teenager, Chris believed it would be impossible to live his life openly and decided to marry and keep his secret to himself.

Shelton also describes a lesbian couple in the Ozarks raising a 14-year-old son from one of their previous marriages. Their community believes they are friends living together to help support each other. Their son identifies as gay and is comfortable with his sexuality. His mothers discourage him from coming out in fear of having their own relationship questioned and causing speculation that they “made him gay.”

‘Parents reap benefits from working with a doula’

A doula is a valuable member of the birth team for any family, but LGBT parents-to-be can reap special benefits from working with a doula. Your doula will get to know you over the course of your pregnancy and is there to become educated to your wishes, concerns and preferences — the doula is there to learn what is important and unique about each pregnant/expecting parents.

A relationship will develop that will help put you at ease in the birthing environment where you may be dealing with many attendants, such as hospital staff, for the very first time. Your doula, at this point, will be familiar with you and your family and will work closely with those health care professionals supporting your birth — freeing your mind, body and spirit to focus on your most important task of birthing your baby.

An experienced doula can assist with breastfeeding education and support for lesbian couples (for example, who may both want to breastfeed) and transgender couples. The doula can assist gay men with a surrogate birthing their baby to better understand and support their surrogate in pregnancy, birth and with the transfer of parenting responsibilities (for example skin–to-skin) from the biological mother to the new parents.

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