Perhaps, one of the gay community's least visible groups are those who have children. We sometimes forget that families can take on various forms, from being single-parent families to families that have two dads or two moms. These families can originate from previous heterosexual relationships or can be a result of artificial insemination, surrogacy or adoption. To a large extent, these 'rainbow' families and homes are challenging our very own perceptions of the gay lifestyle.
Despite widespread condemnation of gay and lesbian parents, studies are starting to show that children raised by gay and lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual.
If starting your own 'rainbow' family, it is important that you consider the following:
- It is easier to raise children in a stable two-parent home (if you prefer exhaustion, chronic lack of sleep, on-going irritability, lack of a social and sex life and many hours of nappies and burping, then single-parent adoption is the answer for you). Children need adult role-models and the more of them there are that are healthy, consistent and loving, the better it will be for the child.
- Financially, children are expensive to maintain. Consider things like school fees, clothing and food and other things that are essential to living, as well as things that add to quality of life such as toys, holidays and the like.
- Having a solid social support system is always helpful. Even if you are in a partnership, having parents and friends who can support you individually and support you as a family will make for a happier home in which to raise your child.
- Adopting someone else's child can be stressful; consider how you're going to deal with this issue when your child grows up;
- Cross-racial issues are a reality in South Africa and can still raise eyebrows; ask yourself how you will handle that and how you will find ways to protect your child from some of it.
Having children enriches a relationship and creates a bigger sense of family than being in a couple permits. It is increasingly becoming an option and a choice for many gay people.