When Kelly and I first became fathers, LGBTQ+ parents – especially dads – were a rare breed. Even in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles, major urban centers we lived in, our family stood out. There were no playgroups or activity weekends for kids with two dads or moms.
We weren’t alone. Mike Stommel, the founder of Lucky Break PR in Los Angeles, told me, “My husband and I missed out on the gay family playdates when we adopted our daughter 13 years ago. There just weren’t a lot of gay 30-year-olds with kids at the time. So many of our friends have young kids now.’”
We seem to be experiencing a bit of a baby boom among LGBTQ+ people. Although I can’t point to any empirical data to prove it, anecdotally, I know three different couples in Salt Lake who have become parents in the past six months.
I was curious, what’s changed in the past 15 years or so.
Dr. Dana McNeil, PsyD, LMFT at the Relationship Place Marriage and Family Therapy in San Diego, told me, “A lot has happened legally and socially since the 2015 Supreme Court ruling. My LGBTQ clients feel emotionally safer, both legally and socially, to make their decisions about parenting without stigma. There is now more of a sense of freedom to base decisions about parenting solely on what resonates for the couples, without the added strains of having to weigh their desires against a veil of contemplating how they will navigate difficulties and additional social burdens.”
I agree with her assessment, but I also think that visibility normalizes gay parenting not just for our straight peers but also within our own community. Tammy Shaklee, the founder of H4M, an LGBTQ matchmaking company, says, “Each year we see more and more representation of families in the LGBTQ community, and it’s inspiring and comforting for those I talk to. Whether partnered or married couples, or even singles who feel confident in pursuing parenting on their own, barriers are being lifted.”
It would seem that just as being open and out helps to “normalize” LGBTQ+ people to straight family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors, knowing and interacting with gay parents helps do the same for others within our community.
Shaklee added, “In interviewing thousands of LGBTQ singles for nearly nine years, their attitudes have changed. Years ago, when we talked about whether they liked children, and if they hope to have them in their future, there would be a lot of answers, ‘Maybe, I’m not sure.’ Whereas today, I hear more and more singles say, ‘I definitely want kids.’” She also mentioned how seeing Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper become dads a bit later in life may inspire older singles to realize their own dreams of parenthood.
As I see all these happy new parents, I wondered if there may be a backlash against gay parents from others in the community. I remember being accused of assimilating to straight norms for wanting marriage equality. Surely, being a gay parent is equally as offensive.
“It makes sense that many in the queer community worry about the pitfalls of giving into main-stream heteronormative concepts,” Dr. McNeil said. “However, the decision to become parents is not as much about owning who you are and your truth, as it is about wanting to have an opportunity to participate in a life ritual that adds an additional layer of depth, joining, and love that isn’t contained or comparable to any other experience in life regardless of individual expression.”
So, if you’ve been considering becoming a parent, my advice is to jump in with both feet and join the gayby boom!