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Families Of Value
     

Families Of Value

5.0 1
by Jane Drucker, Johanna Drucker
 

This collection contains stories from gay and lesbian parents from all walks of life, told in their own words, about the joys and particular struggles of parenthood. It is an inspiring and uplifting celebration of diversity, as well as an important contribution to the ongoing debate over "family values" that continues to rage in this country and around the world.

Overview

This collection contains stories from gay and lesbian parents from all walks of life, told in their own words, about the joys and particular struggles of parenthood. It is an inspiring and uplifting celebration of diversity, as well as an important contribution to the ongoing debate over "family values" that continues to rage in this country and around the world.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Drawing upon stories by and about nearly two dozen families in which gay fathers and lesbian mothers are raising children in a wide variety of settings and styles, the author defines the meaning of family and discusses concerns such as interpersonal relationships, sexual and psychological development, coming out, facing prejudice, and finding a spiritual foundation, the lesson being that children thrive in an environment of love regardless of the number, gender, or sexual orientation of the adults who provide it. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306458637
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
01/28/1998
Pages:
284
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.26(h) x 1.02(d)
Lexile:
1140L (what's this?)

Read an Excerpt

"Minds are like parachutes...they only function when open"
Seen on a bumper sticker

An unholy roar funneled its way through the house, and I was catapulted from a deep sleep. I grasped the sides of my bed so tightly that my hands ached as I listened to the wrenching creaks of my bedroom walls. The room lurched from side to side and then forward and back. A final upward jolt ended the mayhem. The bedside clock flashed 4:31 a.m. Los Angeles had just experienced an earthquake.

I was not pleased to be awakened so violently and unexpectedly. I was disoriented and had difficulty recalling where I could find such basic necessities as shoes and a flashlight. In the hours and days to come, my neighbors and I would realize increasing layers of confusion on both a personal and community level.

There was work to do. In a matter of minutes I had arrived with a carload of injured neighbors at our local emergency room. Three hundred strangers and a filled neonatal intensive care unit were waiting ahead of us. It would take the hospital staff nearly eight hours just to triage the wounded and begin to treat the more severe injuries. Much of the community was in the dark, both literally, as even emergency generators failed, and figuratively, as we furtively sought the as-yet-nonexistent news reports that we hoped would tell us what had just happened.

Time passed. The injured were treated and released. The death toll was mercifully low. Repairs to structures and psyches were begun, and ever so slowly life returned to its normal routine. With the passing of a few years, "the big one" of '94 is seldom mentioned any longer in conversation.

America is in many ways in the midst of the early hours of a social earthquake.

Recent events in American politics and American jurisprudence have focused the nation's attention on the "Lifestyles of the Gay and Lesbian." The 1992 passage of Colorado's Amendment Two sought to restrict the civil rights of gays and lesbians. It was ultimately overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. That same year, President Clinton signed the "Defense of Marriage Act," which essentially defines marriage exclusively as a contract between one man and one woman. Also in 1996, Judge Kevin Chang issued a decision in the case of Baehr v. Miike, the well-publicized legal battle regarding marriage between same-gender partners in Hawaii. All of these actions have undeniably raised eyebrows, questions, and expectations regarding the etiology and social/ethical implications of homosexuality in America.

The shaking up is reaching into our homes and schools as well. Children are reading books such as Heather Has Two Mommies, schools are using the videos Both of My Moms' Names are Judy1 and It's Elementary,2 and a fair share of homes have in recent TV seasons tuned into "My Two Dads" and "Ellen" as part of their TV fare. A spotlight has begun to illuminate many formerly hidden lives of individuals, couples, and families. I offer Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out into that light.

Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out is comprised of two interwoven aspects. The first is its theoretical conception. The second element is the actual compilation of the material that emanates from my questions into a physical body of information to be made available for others to use for their own learning and growth.

I have gathered background information wherever I could find it. Facts, figures, and ideas appeared to me via journals, newspaper and magazine articles, books, and television and radio programs, and in conversations with gay and straight friends and their children. I had other conversations with the director of a gay-friendly sperm bank, adoption facilitators, lawyers, psychotherapists, and members of the clergy. Other ideas and information came from my own musings, feelings, and self-exploration, and from meetings I attended with several support groups for gay and lesbian parents in my own corner of the community.

My primary desire, however, was to hear from the children who are growing up with gay fathers and lesbian mothers, because after all it is their lives that have come to intrigue me. Simply reading and talking about them was not sufficient to answer my questions or to do justice to their unique experiences. I needed to work directly with the people who were the subjects of my interest.

I personally know a growing number of gay and lesbian families, but I never wanted this to be a project about my friends. My vision was always to create a larger, more representative picture of the gay and lesbian parenting community. I also ardently believed that privacy for my participants would be a critical factor in gathering the information that would make my work most compelling, so I found myself contemplating means by which to collect candid input from anonymous contributors.

At first, I wanted to hear only from the children of gay fathers and lesbian mothers, because I had the idea that the young people's words would be most powerful if they could stand on their own and not be contrasted to their parents' experiences. It soon became clear, however, that parents felt that their children's safety might be compromised by participation in the study. Their concern was too deep to trust that their children's identities could be adequately protected. Many of the parents, however, expressed an enthusiastic interest in the concept of the project and were clearly willing to participate themselves.

Once I opened my mind to collecting input about whole families, my efforts became more productive. I talked to parents about various formats for gathering the responses that I would need. I considered a wide range of possibilities, including video- or audiotaped interviews with individual families, an open-ended call for family anecdotes, creation of a local support group that would also evolve into an opportunity for data collection, and visiting existing support groups for children and/or parents.

Ultimately logistics prevailed. I am a writer, not a video producer, so I chose to go with my strength and focus on a written project. My desire to include families from around the country clearly negated the idea of creating or attending support groups just in my own city. I still liked the idea of collecting family anecdotes, but I came to think that leaving the requests too unstructured would be likely to result in material that was less focused than I wanted for this particular work. I question now whether or not that was a wise conclusion to draw, for I may have missed some wonderful material, but it is the assumption from which I worked.

My final response to the data-gathering challenge was to formulate a set of questions that would become a vehicle through which families could give a narrative about their experiences. I developed three separate surveys. Parents, young children, and teenage/adult children were each provided with a lengthy questionnaire of open-ended inquiries that fell into six major categories of information. Each category was to become a separate chapter in the book.

Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out became a psychological and sociological examination of the phenomenon of parenting by homosexuals and the effects on their children of growing up in nontraditional families. Each of its six chapters consists of two parts. The first segment in each is a conceptual discussion based on a review of relevant literature and other appropriate media and community resources in a specific topic area. The second section in each chapter is a series of vignettes contributed by each of twenty-two gay- or lesbian-headed families.

In Chapter 1, What Is a Family? Defining Ourselves, the word 'family' is defined and discussed. Among the questions addressed are the following: Who comprises a family? How are families, specifically gay and lesbian families, formed? How are family rights protected or denied? Case law and common social trends are cited, and pros and cons of alternative insemination, adoption, foster parenting, and surrogate parenting are discussed.

Chapter 2, It's All "Relatives": Creating Family Ties, addresses issues related to family relationships. Gay- and lesbian-headed families are viewed as minority families, and their structures as well as the nature of interactions among family members are examined. Questions and common concerns that are addressed include: "Won't a child raised by gay parents grow up to be gay him/herself?" "How can a child succeed if there is no father/mother in the home?" "Will my child be teased for being different because I am gay?" And "Are gays and lesbians emotionally capable of nurturing a child?" These issues are addressed from the perspective of decades of psychological research on child development, homosexuality, and parenting. The primary focus is on the emotional and physical well-being of the children.

In the third chapter, Parents and Children Together: A Unique Bond, the focus sharpens to a discussion of this special relationship. What are the roles, rights, responsibilities, and sacrifices of parenthood, and how does a parent's sexual orientation affect his or her children? Several myths are introduced and refuted based on prior psychological research and on the contributions of the families who participated in the creation of Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out. The myths include: "Gay men and lesbians don't like or want children." "The children of lesbians and gay men will be sexually abused." "Lesbians and gay men are inherently unfit to be parents." "The children of gays and lesbians will be encouraged to become homosexual." "Lesbians cannot provide proper homes for boys." "Gay men cannot provide proper homes for girls." "Children should not grow up in a single-parent home." And "Children are confused by having two same-gender parents." Additional issues that are discussed include whether or not children should know that their parents are homosexual, what to have children call their multiple moms and multiple dads, and possible effects of legalized civil same-gender marriage on these families.

Community relations is the core topic of Chapter 4, Out and About in the Community: When and How Do We Reveal Ourselves? Here is an examination of the pros, cons, and intricacies of 'coming out' to the larger community of neighbors, friends, extended family, schools, doctors, religious institutions, work associates, and strangers. How do parents' interests and children's interests differ? When and where should families come out, and when and where should they keep information about parental sexual orientation private? How might coming out help or hinder a child and a family? What are the best ways and the healthiest times to come out?

Chapter 5, To Be or Not to Be? Sexual Orientation Is Not a Choice, examines sexual orientation and psychological identity. Four aspects of human sexuality (sexual orientation, biological sex, gender identity, and social gender roles) are defined and discussed. Further discussion is offered from the perspectives of historical and cultural influences, the effects of parenting styles, and the role of psychosocial development in determining an individual's sexual orientation.

In Chapter 6, God and Goddess: Religion and Spirituality in Gay and Lesbian Families, the focus turns to spirituality and the interplay of deity, religion, and sexual orientation in the spiritual lives of gay- and lesbian-headed families. Historical background is presented and recent developments in various religious denominations and their institutions are explored. This chapter offers a look at the challenges that face gay and lesbian parents in providing a religious or spiritual foundation for their children.

The concluding chapter poses questions for further research in the future, and the appendices that follow offer community and media resources that relate to the needs and interests of gay fathers, lesbian mothers, their children, extended family, and friends.

Although I originally entered into this study with the bias that I would find typical families that happen to be headed by lesbian or gay parents, I often wondered what the real story would be. It turned out to be even more intriguing than I had imagined. The twenty-two families who have contributed their stories to Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out are to be highly commended for their openness and their generosity in sharing so many personal experiences and insights with complete strangers.

More lesbians than gay men responded to my request for participants. I believe that this is due to the reality that more women are currently parenting than men,3 although it has long been known that the proportion of gay men has been increasing in the gay and lesbian parenting community.4

I have chosen not to dissect, analyze, or interpret the stories of my contributing families, but I present them as a collection of anecdotes that have been shared with me by the courageous men, women, and children who are living ordinary lives in an extraordinary way. My hope is that individual voices telling their own life experiences should blend together into a shimmering rendition of gay and lesbian family life.

I see in the lesbian and gay parenting community a need for contact, mutual support, and information. If Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out can fill some piece of the vacuum that appears to exist, I will feel that I have created something worthwhile. I wish for this book to become an avenue by which our families can be seen as vibrant and healthy by themselves, by their extended family and friends, and by strangers who may or may not even realize that they know people who are living in gay- or lesbian-headed families.

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Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and Their Children Speak Out 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Families of Value: Gay and Lesbian Parents and their Children Speak Out' is a most important work, that takes into account some alternative family structures from firsthand experiences that include parents and children. It also points to many preconceived prejudices in a sensitive, well researched and easy to read form. A must to any study in this genre.