Home » Posts tagged 'Sexual Orientation' (Page 2)
Tag Archives: Sexual Orientation
No, as the title might suggest, this is not a post about a party I had to celebrate the seventh anniversary of coming out of the closet, embracing and publicly announcing my (now) queer sexual identity. Though it has now been seven years since I first told another soul other than my own, I want to share the experience of another, yet equally important and memorable event.
A friend of mine recently came out to his family, to which he received a less than positive reaction. Given that I knew that I would be in town, I decided to check with my parents to see if they would be interested in having dinner with him and me. It might sound a little strange, but my intention was to give him living proof that parents who may initially not react favorably to their child coming out can, with time, arrive at near-total acceptance. My parents initially said yes, but with a touch of humor that made me wonder whether they were agreeing to do so only to appease me. I did not get much more from my father, which is not unusual for him (a man of few words on emotional matters), but my mother later sent me a reassuring email, complaining that she found it unfair that LGBT children continue to have to deal with negative reactions from parents.
We met for dinner last week, everyone except for me (because I was on spring break) still in work attire. The first twenty minutes or so were a tad awkward with obligatory questions about how my friend and I know each other, where everyone works, where everyone is from. But, then the elephant in the room was finally addressed – let’s talk about coming out and parents’ reactions. I was confident that my parents would have positive things to share with my friend, but I had no idea just how honest and positive their stories would be. Both my father and mother talked about what shifted them from an initial negative reaction (why did this happen? who is at fault? what could we have done differently?) to one of acceptance. The primary force responsible for this shift was their recognition that I was successful in my career (still in college at the time) and continue to be, and that I decided to accept and admit to them my sexual identity to be happy.
What came as the biggest surprise to me, they recounted things that have happened along the way over the last seven years that reflected back my own experience with those same events. For example, my mom noted the time she and my father sat in our family room (a room we hardly use) in the dark, with her consoling my crying father (who, at that point, had only cried twice in his adult life – the other time being when my grandmother died.) She highlighted how it appeared as though they were grieving my death. This is exactly how I recall the event, so it was quite surprising and validating to hear that she experienced the event in the same way. Finally, what I became aware of through their individual journeys to accepting me as I am is that it seemed that most of the work to reaching acceptance was within themselves. For all of the battles over choice of sexual orientation, what I am doing, who I am sleeping with, what groups I belong to, and what types of things I do on the internet (like blogging), the best thing I did to help them reach acceptance was to continue to be successful in all other areas of my life and be myself – the rest of the work fell on them to wrestle internally with their moral beliefs, religious upbringing, and parental love.
In the end, my parents were quite warm with my friend and did their best to reassure him that he need not feel ashamed of his sexual orientation and that his parents may eventually come around. My mom even offered to connect with his parents, but further down the road when they have had more time to digest the news. Seven years ago, my father reacted as though I had died and my mother had to deal with her worst nightmares as a parent come true (she said she knew since I was five that I was “different” than other boys). There were regular fights and silences that shrouded some topics. Today, my father regularly sends me emails about the debates over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and same-sex marriage and my mother has looked into getting involved with Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG).
From this event, I feel confident to say that, with time, families can become accepting of their LGBT family members. I should admit that I am not out to a lot of extended family, either because of their age or because we are not all that close. And, I see this as part of the reason why I do not see coming out as the end all, be all for everyone. I do not necessarily think that we should expect everyone to be publicly out, as the consequences for doing so are too great for some people. We as LGBT people are not a monolithic mass; some of us have to worry about the loss of our racial and ethnic communities, or being banished from our places of worship, or being disowned by our families. Although, in one of my ideal worlds we would not need to come out, at least not anymore than heterosexuals, another of my ideal worlds is not needing to have specific labels for people based upon their preferences, tastes, and likes. In the mean time, it is important and powerful for those who can afford to to come out given the impact contact with LGBT people has on supporting LGBT rights, but we also should be careful to avoid setting that standard for all LGBT people as our experiences and backgrounds vary.
There, for once I wrote a post that wasn’t all negative!
Note: this blog post was originally published on Kinsey Confidential.
Recent research on the impact of parents’ sexual orientation on their children has indicated that the children of same-sex couples are just as healthy and happy as the children of different-sex (heterosexual) couples. In fact, they might even have an advantage over the children of heterosexual couples.
Lesbian, Gay, And Bisexual Parents
Researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA have found that a substantial number of same-sex couples report having one or more children, a number that’s not far from the number of heterosexual couples that report having children.
A host of researchers in the social sciences have attempted to compare the parenting styles and effectiveness of same-sex and different-sex couples in an effort to replace myths about the impact of parents’ sexual orientation on children with documented findings.
Sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz conclude, in their review of these studies, that parents’ sexual orientation has little, if any, impact on children; in fact, parents’ gender actually has an impact that trumps the impact of sexual orientation.
That being said, then, it may come as no surprise that the latest study in this line of research has found some evidence that lesbians make better parents than heterosexuals: their children are less likely to trapped in rigid, traditional gender roles and are more likely to pursue prestigious male-dominated careers regardless of their gender.
Same-Sex Couples As Role Models For New Parents
Adding to this research is the awareness that same-sex couples, in general, tend to be more intentional and thoughtful in their journey to parenthood.
That is, unlike the ease at which heterosexuals may become pregnant, same-sex couples tend to pursue means that are not likely to occur by accident: adoption, egg/sperm donation, surrogate parents.
So, when same-sex couples do become parents, they have likely spent a great deal of time planning and strategizing, and have decided that they’re ready and willing to be parents. In addition to producing kids that are more likely to reject rigid gender roles and traditional gendered careers (e.g., women as nurses, men as doctors), same-sex couple parents can serve as a role model for others to be very careful and intentional in their sexual behaviors and family decision-making.
Open communication between partners and the use of safe sex practices (e.g., the pill, condoms, regular sexual health check-ups and sexually transmitted infection testing) can reduce the number of unexpected (and, in some cases, unintended) pregnancies, like that in the recent hit movie, Knocked Up.
Note: this was originally published on Kinsey Confidential.
In early October, OKCupid, an online dating website, released an analysis of racial and ethnic differences in response rates. It seems love isn’t so color-blind after all.
The Study: Over One Million People
The OKCupid study assessed the responses of over one million site users. They found that two individuals of any race can be compatible just to squash any doubts that the racial and ethnic differences found in responses is due to lack of compatibility between partners of different backgrounds.
Though any two people could be compatible, the study found some remarkable racial and ethnic dynamics:
- Black heterosexual women respond the most to messages they receive on OKCupid, but heterosexual men of all races and ethnicities respond to messages from Black women the least.
- White heterosexual men’s messages are responded to the most by heterosexual women of all races and ethnicities, yet they reply the least to any messages.
- White heterosexual women prefer white men to the exclusion of men of color, yet Asian and Hispanic heterosexual women prefer white men even more exclusively.
- There is little variance among heterosexuals in support for interracial marriages, with nearly all saying such relationships are not bad, but white heterosexuals prefer white partners much more than non-white heterosexuals prefer non-white partners. The gap in same-race /ethnicity partner preference is larger between white and non-white heterosexual women.
What About Lesbian, Bisexual, and Gay OKCupid Members?
In a later post, OKCupid released findings from an analysis of their members who are lesbian, bisexual, or gay.
It seems that some of the same patterns emerged among LGB people, but they were less prevalent. For example, Black women were still responded to the least among all bisexual and lesbian women, but the difference was smaller than that among heterosexuals.
LGB people are much more in favor of interracial marriage, but the same gap in preference for same-race partners exists, though it is smaller. That is, even white LGB people report a higher degree of preference for same-race partners than non-white LGB people.
In another post, I mentioned a survey of young adults’ relationship values, which found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were more open to dating people of different races and ethnicities than were heterosexuals.
Are There Any Implications?
Certainly, as I argued in an earlier post, these findings suggest that we should continue to recognize how race and ethnicity, as well as other social factors, play into our sexualities.
Some groups, particularly people of color, have access to smaller dating pools. This can translate into a number of things, including greater difficulty finding romantic sexual partners and possibly “lowering” one’s standards for potential partners.
In that earlier post, I referenced a study on gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), who do not identify as gay/bisexual. The study found that, because Black men were ranked as the least preferable partner relative to white, Latino, and Asian men, their dating pool was smaller, which increased their risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
Is It Racism?
The OKCupid blog post suggests that these patterns of response rates by race and ethnicity reflect the continued existence of racism in the United States. Some social scientists who have studied racial attitudes have included questions about one’s willingness to date someone of a different race or ethnicity.
But, I hesitate to suggest that a preference for one’s own race and ethnicity, or certain races and ethnicities over others, is a sign of racism. Instead, I would argue that our dating and sexual preferences are shaped by social factors, including racism.
We can see that white (Anglo) standards of beauty are still the dominant standard in the US and that people of color are pressured to meet those standards by altering their hair, skin color, even facial features through cosmetic surgery.
And, sadly, as the National Health and Social Life Survey found in the mid-1990s, partners that come from different backgrounds (e.g., education, race, religion) break up at a higher rate than partners of similar backgrounds, largely because they are not as well integrated into each others lives (e.g., friendship circles, family).
Because of family and community pressures to partner with someone of the same background, people may be less likely to even attempt to start a relationship with someone of a background different than their own.
But, it is great to see that an overwhelming majority of people were in favor of interracial marriage in the OKCupid survey – a remarkable change over the last few decades in race relations.
And, as sociologist Michael J. Rosenfeld has found in his research on marriage patterns, the number of interracial and same-sex couples in the US have increased dramatically since the 1960s, primarily because adult children have become more independent from their families and home communities.