Rainbow families

For many GLBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex) individuals, family is more about close ties and community than about expected social groupings.

Some people have experienced the pain of being cut off from their families of origin due to homophobia and lack of acceptance. Some have experienced incredibly close bonds created by shared meaningful experiences, such as a group of people supporting a friend dying from AIDS or breast cancer. Many within the GLBTI community also maintain bonds with ex-partners who continue to feel like part of the family even post-separation.

GLBTI families have always existed, but it is becoming more common now for same sex couples to decide to have children together. Interesting choices are emerging about how these “rainbow” families might look and function, and about what arrangements might be best for kids. Some gays and lesbians are creating families with multiple parents, not just through step-parenting and blended families, but also through co-parenting arrangements eg. between lesbians and gay men. Many of these family forms change over time in response to relationships between the adult members.

Psychological research to date has found that children raised by parents in same sex relationships are doing fine. They do not differ from their peers in their intelligence, psychological or social adjustment, popularity, development of social sex role identity or development of sexual orientation. One study suggested that lesbian co-parents were particularly good at sharing household and parenting responsibilities, therefore devoting even more time and better care to their children than other parents.

It seems that family process (such as the quality of parenting, well-being of the parents, and the level of cooperation and harmony between them) determines children’s wellbeing rather than the structure of the family (ie the number, gender, sexuality or co-habitation of the parents).

Because lesbians and gay men make very active choices to become parents and because they may not necessarily follow the hetero-normative family structures, there is a lot to think about and many decisions to  be made.

Sometimes in creating a new type of family (especially one with more than two parents or with parents who do not have much of a prior relationship), there can be complex boundary issues and at times conflict and misunderstandings despite the best intentions of all concerned. The legal system often provides little certainty for lesbian and gay families due to a lack of precedents, so it is in the interests of all concerned to develop good communication early on, to create clear written agreements before commencing arrangements, and to include plans about how to resolve issues should they occur. Relationship counselling can be invaluable in all stages, helping to prevent problems, explore important issues, support good will and resolve disagreements, as well as supporting the individuals involved.

If you would like group, couple or family counselling to manage relationship issues in your life, no matter what your family structure is like, feel free to book an appointment with one of our team today.