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August 2, 2001
 
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HOMEPAGE 20/20 FEATURE
Gay Parents
Like many lesbian couples, Dana Naparsteck (top left), and Susan Silber (top right) made the controversial decision to start their own family. (ABCNEWS.com)
Coming Of Age
With Gay Parents
More And More Children Are Facing The World With Two Moms Or Two Dads
ABCNEWS.com

Danielle Silber says she has two mothers and two fathers. Sisters Emma and Camille Seitz-Cherner have two fathers, though right now, neither girl knows which of the two is her biological father.
Danielle, Emma, and Camille are part of the "gaybe boom," a generation of kids raised by gay parents. The children are now old enough to voice their feelings about having two parents of the same sex. On 20/20, Barbara Walters talks with these children and their parents about their relationships and their experience in a world not always accepting of them.

Twenty years ago, a wave of lesbian couples started reinventing the family by having children without dads, often through artificial insemination. Many gay men followed suit about a decade later starting families without mothers, usually through adoption.

There are many unanswered questions about the long-term impact, if any, of growing up with gay parents. No matter how loving parents are, it is impossible to completely shield children from a sometimes-intolerant society.

However, children who spoke with 20/20 seem to be just as well-adjusted and happy as any kids with mothers and fathers. And, there are some studies indicating that children of gays tend to be more tolerant of those often marginalized by society.

Two Moms With A Teen

Seventeen-year-old Danielle, of Takoma Park, Md., has two mothers, Susan and Dana. The couple fell in love more than 20 years ago and had Danielle through artificial insemination.

She has two dads as well: Jacques, who is her biological father and his former partner Art, who has known Danielle since she was born. Though the dads have always played an active role in Danielle's life, Dana and Susan are her primary parents.

In spite of her unusual family, Danielle has grown into a confident and popular teenager. She is even president of her senior class.

As a young child she was essentially oblivious to the fact that many would judge her and her family harshly. Even her two mothers had few worries. But things changed when she reached middle school.

"A lot of kids in my school would use gay slurs, such as 'faggot,' or, 'that's so gay,'" Danielle says, "I realized that having gay parents might not be acceptable to everybody. I had this fear kids would really hate me or start to hurt me because my parents were gay."

The Perils Of Middle School

Danielle slid into what she now calls her "paranoid period." She began to feel ashamed of her family and hid her lesbian moms from many of her classmates. "My parents were loving, they would do anything for me and I felt extremely guilty that I was acting ashamed of who they were," she says.

Two years ago, she had a breakthrough when she reluctantly participated in a gathering of families in which one or both of the parents were gay. Connecting with kids like herself gave Danielle the courage to return home and "come out" to everyone about her lesbian moms.

It was at that point that she was able to say to herself: "you know what? I need to stop, I need to stop being afraid. I need to stop worrying about ... how open other people are."

Though she is now comfortable with her family, many argue it is unfair for gay people to have children and subject them to the likely ridicule and scorn from the world around them. As Danielle found out, during the middle school years the teasing can be particularly ruthless. But for her, the love and support she receives from her family far outweighs the intolerance she sometimes has to endure.

She is dismayed by critics who say families like hers can be harmful. "My parents are extremely caring and supportive of me. I love my parents probably more than anything," she says.

As far as Danielle's own sexuality, she is straight but she says having gay parents did cause her to question her sexual preference. Her mother, Dana, says she does not care whether her daughter is gay or straight, she just wants a lot of grandchildren.

Daddies' Little Girls

Emma, 10, and her seven-year-old sister Camille's parents are both gay men. There's Daddy Joe and Papa Laurent who have been together for almost 20 years.

Joe and Laurent had their girls through a surrogate mother. Using a controversial approach to artificial insemination, they intentionally mixed their sperm together so they wouldn't know who the biological father would be. They did it to create family unity, and in spite of defying social convention, they do seem to be a close, happy family.

As Emma puts it, "we love our dads as much as our friends like their mom and dad."

Although they do not have a mom, Laurent says he plays the role of the stereotypical mom. He takes care of the house, does a lot of the cooking and usually is the one to help the girls get ready for school or to go out with their friends. One the neighbors even called him the best mother in the neighborhood.

Entering Womanhood Without A Woman

The two dads say they are not intimidated by the prospect of raising their daughters without a mom — not even by the sacred rights of passage into womanhood like buying the first bra or having their first period.

"We've talked to Emma a lot about her first period because Emma's really tall for her age and she'll probably mature quickly. And we're going to go out to dinner and have a little bit of a celebration," say Joe.

But like many gay parents, they've made sure that the girls have people of their own gender in their lives as well. A neighbor named Leanore acts as a female role model for the girls. Camille says, "She feels like our aunt because she's very close to us, and she comes up here practically every night."

Though Joe and Laurent have certainly created a cozy, loving environment for their daughters, the two fathers have less control over how the girls fare when they leave the safety of home.

While the girls do get exasperated trying to explain the complicated situation to their contemporaries, they say they've never been teased. This is perhaps because they live in a very liberal New York neighborhood and because they haven't reached middle school, where children can be especially cruel. Nevertheless, they have picked up on antigay prejudice.

"When my friend was holding her friend's hand, they said, 'ooh, you're gay,' and I said, 'well, what's bad about that?'" says Emma.

To those who say that girls will risk gender confusion and other setbacks by not having examples of a mother, Joe argues that lots of children don't have the benefit of a mother and a father. "Half of all marriages end in divorce, what kind of example of a mother and father do they have?" Joe asks.

 RELATED STORIES
A Chat With Danielle and Susan Silber
20/20: Young Men With Gay Moms

 REFERENCE






 WEB LINK

colage.org

 WEB LINK

Love Makes a Family

 
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