“I used to tell this to my kids when they were younger, ‘Our family is like Noah’s ark. The outside world may sometimes feel chaotic or harsh or overwhelming, like a flood. In our family, we want to create an ark for each other — where we’re safe and protected and feel a sense of belonging, loved, cared about, taken care of and protected.’ They got it and that’s the world our family is.”
– Naomi Mark, LCSW
The dynamic of what it means to be a family has changed drastically. It does not consist of the traditional mother and father with a daughter and/or a son; this is not an accurate depiction of the average American home. The Movement Advancement Project, an advocacy and research group, assembled data from a 2018 analysis and published estimates of how many same-sex couples in each state were raising children.
The definition of what makes a family is continuously debated and it has been argued that the idea of a family is a social construct as much as it is a biological one. In addition to LGBT families, there has been wider acceptance among cohabitation, non-martial fertility, and interracial relationships. Since the 2015 ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, long-term stable relationships amongst LGBT couples have become more prominent in everyday life. In 2010, there were about 594,000 same-sex partner households. This counted for 1% of homes across the United States. Within these homes, 19% reported having children.
Two million children are currently being raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parents. LGBT families are also more racially and ethnically diverse than families headed by married heterosexual couples. Black and Latino same-sex couples are more likely to raise children than white heterosexual couples. They are also significantly more likely to become foster parents.
Many people don’t understand what it means to be transgender or gender diverse, so some parents or family members struggle when their child comes out as transgender or gender diverse. Families of choice have become a big part of an LGBT person’s life. These families are made up by individuals whose biological families were not accepting of them coming out. Younger LGBT members, however, have a higher chance of being accepted by their biological family. These families of choice serve as a source of support. This is especially true because these adults tend to live alone, be single, and not have any children. These families of choice are vital once the LGBT member ages and needs to be given formal or informal methods of care.
It is natural for parents to have questions but it is important that parents gain a deeper understanding and learn how to best support their child in ways that can help them succeed and thrive. Parents and family members should find practical steps for advancing acceptance; Your child’s well-being depends on it. Extensive research shows that transgender youth with supportive parents “report higher life satisfaction, higher self-esteem, [and] better mental health including less depression and fewer suicide attempts” than those without strong parental support.
Contact East Coast Mental Wellness today at (401) 227-0372 if you have any questions or concerns about parental support in LGBT families. Experience therapy in a whole new way.