Stonewall today publishes groundbreaking research examining the experiences of children with gay parents. ‘Different Families’ is based on interviews conducted by the University of Cambridge with over 80 children and young people from the age of four, all of whom have lesbian and gay parents. The research also provides shocking insights into the prevalence of homophobia in Britain’s schools, including primary schools. The children who experience this, although not gay themselves, identify that many schools still don’t address it.
‘We still do things together, and we’re still a big family and we’re still happy ... and we still care for each other and we’re still there when someone needs someone.’ Jasmin, 8
‘I just feel there’s some difference between the other families and us. The way we all work together ... We all link up like a puzzle.’ Eleanor, 8
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive said; ‘For the children of lesbian and gay parents their families look remarkably like everyone else’s. This research highlights how it’s the prejudices of others which often causes them far more distress than their own personal or family characteristics – and is further evidence of the urgent need to tackle homophobia in our schools.’
Among the report’s recommendations, some of which were made by the children interviewed, are for schools to respond robustly to homophobic language and bullying. YouGov polling commissioned last year by Stonewall showed that anti-gay bullying is almost endemic in Britain’s schools. Nine in ten secondary schools teachers reported that children – regardless of their sexual orientation – currently experience homophobic bullying in their schools. This affects children of gay parents too:
‘Sometimes they say … everybody’s got a dad, he must be dead, or something. I say no, he’s not dead, I’ve got a donor dad … sometimes I get teased by them calling my dad a donut dad … They say … I know what gay means, it’s two naked men dancing around on a boat.’ Mark, 8
‘In school I don’t like it how people make fun of gay people. Like when they say “that’s so gay”. Most people say it as a joke, and it’s not funny at all.’ Maheen, 13
‘She said, ‘well your mum’s gay, so why aren’t you?’ … and then it turned to really nasty comments about my mum. Oh your mum’s an effing dyke and all this stuff and I just thought that’s not on … I just ignored it, but it just got worse.’ Meg, 16
‘Normally people just say like ... “gay dad” ... and stuff like that. Normally I try and say something back because it like makes me feel better. Or I just try and ignore it. That’s harder obviously … The teachers tell them off but … secretly they always carry on.’ William, 15
Click here to download a copy of Different Families
It's definitely something that we need to tackle at school as unfortunately it's sometimes lacking on the home front. One of my sisters as well as one of my brother's in law are both in same sex relationships/marriages and their children are secure, tolerant, confident, socially responsible children who have mature heads on their shoulders and who have benefitted from being in what might be termed an "alternative" family.
Karen, 09 June 2010
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