Children of gay parents doing just fine
When Maya Levine-Ritterman was a very small girl, she would tell almost anyone who'd listen about her two mommies. She would be sitting in the cart at the Stop & Shop and tell the cashier, "This is my Mommy Barb, but I have another mommy at home with my brother, who is taking a nap." That was when she was 3 years old. Now she is 8, and she has learned to be a bit choosier about whom she tells about her mothers, Barbara and Robin Levine-Ritterman, and her brother, Joshua. "I don't tell right away," says Maya, who has two thick, long braids, a hamster named Misty, and a love for Harry Potter. "I wait to see how we are getting along." Maya, who lives in a brick ranch house in a residential section of New Haven, Conn., has learned that while she loves her family and sees lots of advantages to
having two mommies, there are those who think it's not normal to have gay parents. There are children who will say--she mimics their mix of shock and tease--"Oh, you have two mommies?!" or "That's impossible; you can't have two moms," or "That's gross," or "You must have a dad."
While the debate rages over whether gay marriage should be legalized and whether gay families are healthy environments for children, children like Maya--estimates are that there are between 2 million and 7 million of them in the United States--are defining the territory. "I'm tired of the arguments over whether it's 'good' for children," said Jessica Horne, who was 16 when her mother, Peg, came out as a lesbian after a divorce. Her mother has been with the same partner, Maryann Otto, for almost nine years. "Family and love is about support, honesty, and trust," said Horne, who is 27 and lives in Unionville, Conn. "All those things are in my family."
Horne said that when her mother first came out as a lesbian, she was surprised and a bit overwhelmed. "I can't say the thought didn't cross my mind: What does that mean for me? You know: Does that mean I'm going to be a lesbian?" But after talking with her mother and reading materials, she knew, "No, you're not what your parents are. You learn from your parents.... You need to be open and honest with yourself, and I know I'm not a lesbian." Her brother, Patrick, who is 19, said the divorce was always a bigger issue for him than finding out that his mother was gay.
During the last 25 years, there have been many studies of children raised by gay or lesbian parents, and almost all of them have shown no significant differences between children raised in straight families and those raised in gay families, experts say. "The results of the research have been pretty reassuring overall," said Charlotte Patterson, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Virginia. Children--whether their parents are straight or gay--have very much the same levels of achievement, social adjustment, and mental health. Most studies also show--though the research is more scant--that children in gay families are no more likely to be gay than those from straight families.
However, Judith Stacey, a professor of sociology at New York University, reviewed the research available about children of gay or lesbian parents and did find some individual studies that point at what she calls "modest but interesting" differences. These studies, she said, are small and not conclusive but may suggest areas for future study. A few studies suggest that lesbian parents tend to be more egalitarian and gender-neutral in their child-raising techniques. These parents tend to share child care and work outside the home in a more equal way, according to this research. The boys in these families "were less aggressive, more tolerant," said Stacey. "The girls were more self-confident, with a wider sense of career perspectives."