Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Study Reveals That Gay Men Experience Higher Self-Esteem Once They Become Parents

July 1, 2010

[Ontario, Canada] On the day that Ronan was born, Paul and Rob, who have been married for 11 years, were both in the delivery room. “It was like a live one-hour National Geographic show,” Paul says of witnessing the “awesome” birth of their first child through gestational surrogacy. Since that heady event 20 months ago, the family has settled into a comfortable way of life in Port Credit, Ont. It’s a family unit that is becoming increasingly common as more homosexual men in committed, long-term relationships pursue fatherhood. “You used to hear about the lesbian baby boom,” says Rachel Epstein, coordinator of the LGBTQ parenting network at the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto. “Now they’re talking about the ‘gay-by boom.’ ”

A quick online search turns up countless postings by prolific gay daddy bloggers eager to document their daily trials: “She’s gone from sucking down eight ounces to last night she ate three.”  If none of this sounds uniquely gay, that’s because “parenting is parenting,” says Epstein, and “worrying about money, school, sleeping, traditional labour and discipline” is universal.

A groundbreaking paper recently published in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies interviewed 40 gay men—mostly white and affluent with a median age of 40.8—to find out what changes had occurred in their career, lifestyle, relationships and self-worth since having a child via gestational surrogacy. The findings reveal a fascinating portrait of these new gay dads. After having a baby, they experienced higher self-esteem, and more closeness to their extended families. They began to identify more with heterosexual couples who are parents than single gay men or childless gay couples. Paul and Rob fit most of the study’s findings. Since becoming parents, they have more in common with their straight friends, although Paul believes that’s partly because parenthood is still “atypical” in the gay community. While a nanny cares for Ronan during the day (typical of the gay dads studied, given their higher socio-economic standing), “we’re both home each night for supper and story time,” says Paul, and when it comes to child rearing and housework, “It’s very much 50-50.”

And yet, the prevailing problem most gay dads say they encounter is the perception that they are second-rate parents. Many gay dads also question their “entitlement” to be parents, adds Chris Veldhoven, coordinator of queer parenting programs at the 519 Church Street Community Centre in Toronto, often internalizing messages about homosexuals being unfit fathers. They wonder, “do I have a right to want to be a dad?” explains Epstein. Yet the long, complicated and expensive route to parenthood via gestational surrogacy—it can cost $80,000 in Canada, take years, and require lawyers, social workers, and medical professionals—is a testament to these fathers’ commitment to their children.

Read more at Macleans