• October 1, 2014

Son of a Lesbian Mother Backs Regnerus Study

To the Editor:

With sadness I read "Controversial Gay-Parenting Study Is Severely Flawed, Journal's Audit Finds" (The Chronicle, July 26). The article gave extensive attention to the opinions of Darren E. Sherkat.

Professor Sherkat's critiques imply that any parenting study that includes bisexual parents needs to be immediately disqualified. As an openly bisexual father and son of a lesbian, I am appalled at Professor Sherkat's dismissiveness. The entire rationale for using "LGBT" or "queer" as terms has rested on including bisexuals like me. The same goes for lesbians like my mother, who had children through a marriage that ended in divorce. If we are unsuitable for a sociological data set, then stop claiming our numbers and retire the acronym already. Inexcusable was Professor Sherkat's contemptuous attitude toward the 248 individuals, identified in Mark Regnerus's study, who were raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents. Whether or not these respondents' life stories are favorable to the agenda set by organizations such as the Human Rights Coalition, people like me who were raised by same-sex couples and now have the maturity and independence to tell our story should not be silenced. The fact that a Catholic sociologist funded by right-wing foundations was the first scholar to show genuine interest in our life challenges, letting us speak as adults, reveals the deficiencies of gay activists and scholars. The latter have thrust far too many minors from LGBT households into the spotlight to advance gay-rights rhetoric, knowing that children are not at liberty or even developed enough to speak sincerely and effectively about what it is like growing up with an LGBT parent.

I was not interviewed in Mark Regnerus's study. He did contact me personally, however, in late July, after coming across some comments I had left on Web sites relating to my experience. My mother and her female partner were my primary guardian figures between 1973 and 1990, when my mother died. I came out as bisexual in 1989 at Yale University. By 1990 I began writing about my rare experience as the son of a lesbian, but nobody wanted to go near my story because it didn't glorify the gay-parenting agenda. In 23 years, though debate about gay issues has raged all around me, nobody—not one person, least of all anyone interested in gay issues—asked me to speak truthfully about my childhood in a gay household. Mark Regnerus was the first person who gave me a chance to speak honestly about how hard it was and how ambivalent I felt about placing other children in such a situation. His tone was respectful, his curiosity well intended, and his courage commendable. Of course it is hard to be raised in a household that is unusual and unlike the homes of one's peers. Just like kids raised in orthodox religious households, kids who are home-schooled, foster kids, or kids who are so wealthy that they are reared by paid nannies, the children of homosexuals have atypical household environments and face challenges in understanding their peers and getting their peers to understand them. Their challenges may result in difficulty adjusting socially, which is what Professor Regnerus discovered in his study. Far from seeing his research as insulting, I see it as affirming. For the first time in my 41 years of life, someone finally acknowledged that the way I grew up was hard and it wasn't my fault.

It is tragic that the moment of affirmation and the chance to speak honestly about my childhood came when Mark Regnerus contacted me, as opposed to one of the many scholars devoted to advocating for LGBT's. But that is how it happened.

Robert O. Lopez

Assistant Professor of English

California State University

Northridge, Calif.

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