Sunday, February 28, 2016

Think of the children

Frequently when groups oppose LGTB rights, they invoke the children as an argument. This is something we have seen in the US, where organizations like NOM (National Organization for Marriage), and something which could be seen during last year's referendum on same sex marriage in Ireland.

There are generally two types of arguments:

  1. That children that doesn't grow up in wholesome classic heterosexual families, will suffer one way or the other.
  2. That by granting rights to LGTBs, it teaches the children that it is alright to be LGTB.
The first argument is usually the most common, since many people since to have a idealized view of married heterosexual couples - especially in the US, where there still seems to be a taboo around the concept of unmarried people getting children. Elsewhere, like in my native Denmark, there isn't the same taboo about getting children without getting children, and I know many people who has lived together for many years, raising their children, without getting married.

Unsurprisingly, to anyone who has been paying attention, there is no evidence that children raised by a heterosexual married couple are any better of than children raised by a homosexual couple (see e.g. Children of same-sex couples are happier and healthier than peers, research shows) or even single parents. Rather it depends on how stable the household is, and other socio-economic factors.  

For a nice overview of the state of research on the area, including the flaws of the few studies that anti-LGTB groups tend to reference, I can recommend What does the scholarly research say about the wellbeing of children with gay or lesbian parents? on Columbia Law School's public policy research portal What We Know.

The second argument, that being accepting of LGTB means that children learn it is alright to be LGTB, is not often stated explicitly, as the groups opposed to LGTBs generally realize that this sounds bigoted. Of course, this only holds for groups that are trying to pretend that they aren't so - religious groups which uses religion as a foundation for their bigotry, doesn't seem to have the same resistance to demonstrate it.

I think it hardly goes without saying that such an attitude can be harmful towards children who fall within the LGTB spectrum. 

Acceptance of LGTB, both in general and in the specific case of a child being LGTB, is a much more healthy environment for LGTB youth to grow up in.

This has been demonstrated again and again, and latest through a study of the well-being of openly transgendered children: Study: Transgender children allowed to live openly fare well

The study looks into the well-being of children who are transgender, and whose parents have accepted them. The result is that these children fare about equally to other children.

There are some flaws in the study, which the researchers also acknowledge in the article, but it shows the benefits of parents accepting their children as they are, and that the psychological well-being of transgendered children can be as good as other children, which is not something that is part of the common discourse when it comes to these issues. As the article states:

The findings are “truly stunning,” given previous studies showing high rates of mental health problems including suicidal behavior in transgender children, Dr. Ilana Sherer, a Dublin, Calif., pediatrician, wrote in a Pediatrics editorial. Most previous research is in children who haven’t come out, Olson said.
So, when bigots try to use the well-being of children as their arguments, they are not only using an argument that has been shown to be untrue, they are also using an argument which has been shown to be harmful to children.

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