Thursday, April 22, 2010
I feel very fortunate to live where we live, in Denver, Colorado. We live in the actual city, not the suburbs, and have found our neighborhood, community, and city to be very accepting of LGBT parents and their children. According to American Community Survey, Denver ranks number 17 in the nation for percentage of gay residents at 8.8%. Not exactly San Francisco, but not bad either. It’s a liberal-leaning city with an active gay community. Although there is a “gay ghetto” in Denver, we don’t live in it. But our neighborhood, I would estimate, is well over 10% gay-owned homes. It’s also a great place to raise kids, and the majority of our neighbors have young children. We’re fortunate enough to be within 15 minutes of everything the city has to offer (restaurants, shopping, museums, parks, all sports venues, etc.) and have great public schools. Most of our neighbors with children are heterosexual couples, but they’re very accepting of us. I don’t remember the specific conversation I had with a neighbor’s six-year-old boy last year, but I do remember his response. “Uh… I know Dylan and Reid have two dads!”, as if he were insulted that I thought he didn’t understand our situation. Sometimes I can forget I’m gay living here since I’m in the same parenting boat as most of our neighbors, and they’re so accepting. For all these reasons, I love where we live. And since we have no family nearby, I’ve found it to be important to have such great neighbors, many of whom feel like family. In the absence of family or grandparent support, it can be very important for LGBT-headed families to build their own support groups. Trust me, the time will come when you need it!
I read “Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is” by Abigail Garner a couple years ago, a book I highly recommend to any gay or lesbian couples considering becoming parents. In her book, Garner showed how important community can be for gay couples raising children. Children who grew up in gay accepting communities had few, if any problems related to having gay parents, whereas children who grew up in more rural, conservative, non-accepting areas had the most issues with other children and other children’s parents. But as I recall, some of the kids she interviewed grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I’m curious if this is still much of an issue in 2010, as society has grown more accepting of the LGBT community in general.
We moved to Denver four years ago from a very conservative area of Southern California. We only knew two gay couples in our neighborhood, and although our neighbors were generally nice to us, no one ever asked us if we were a couple, or seemed comfortable discussing the fact that we were gay. A couple neighbors even made little comments that made me quite aware that they were anti-gay. When a few students at our local high school tried to create a “Gay/Straight Alliance”, it was met by outrage, protests, and negative media coverage. For this reason, among others, I didn’t want to raise children there. I’m sure there were gay parents raising children somewhere nearby, but it certainly wasn’t common. In our current neighborhood, we know many lesbian couples with children as well as a few gay couples with children. We had a gay couple nearby who went through the surrogacy process help us when we started the process, and now we’re doing the same for another couple. We even have an online gay parents group for our neighborhood.
Obviously many gay couples live in conservative areas, but it’s just not as big of a deal when it’s just the two of you. As a couple, you can pretty much keep to yourselves, and I think even in conservative areas, people tend to have a “live and let live” attitude. But once you have children, you can’t live in isolation. Your kids will eventually interact with neighbor kids, and you have to deal with the attitudes of your local schools and other parents.
So here’s my question to other gay and lesbian parents who are reading this.
-What type of community do you live in? Have you found the type of community you live in to be important for your family?
-Have you had issues with the schools and/or neighbors?
-And if you’ve had issues, how have you dealt with them?
I’m wondering if it’s just my perception that it would be bad for my children if we lived in conservative suburbs, or that we have it better living in a more accepting area. After all, it’s 2010 and times are changing. Obviously not all gay and lesbian parents are liberal, or want to live in a more urban environment. I’ve corresponded with a gay parent who was raising children in a very rural environment because that’s where he was comfortable living. And then it seems that most liberal, urban, gay-accepting communities tend to be expensive to live in, another drawback for families. If I had the time to research this subject, I think I’d find that gay couples are happily raising children in all types of communities across the U.S.
Posted by GayDad at 10:44 AM