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Every Reader Deserves an End to Dan Savage’s “Mother/Father” Posts

June 9th, 2011 No comments

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I was just forwarded a press release, indicating that Dan Savage is about to receive a special “Webby” award for his ground-breaking “It Gets Better” series. He should. It’s really broadened the dialogue about the complex challenges that face many of our LGBT (and, especially important in talking about teens, Q) youth. The entire nation — not “just” those of us in the LGBT community — owe him a huge thanks. As I write in this week’s 365gay column, the idea is so obviously good that it’s only surprising that no one thought of it sooner.

But in this same column, I go after Savage for his just juvenile “Every Child Deserves a Mother and a Father” posts. These exploitative, peep-show pieces portray heterosexual couples who have done awful things to their kids. Here’s a little snippet from the column, for which I’m expecting substantial blowback. But I still think I’m right about this:

[W]hat is Savage trying to say in this series? That some of the mothers and fathers out there are capable of doing terrible things to their kids? Everyone knows that. Sadly, everyone also knows that some same-sex parents have done equally terrible things.

And these are exactly the sorts of examples we might expect the most ignorant of our right-wing opponents to use against us. Stooping to their level, while it may gratify some visceral urge for revenge, is hardly contributing to the real debates and issues that surround the fight for equality and dignity for all families.

And we hope (or anyway, we need to hope) that most parents – whether single, or partnered with either a same- or opposite-sex person – are doing the best they can, given their circumstances. Every child deserves good parents, we might better say. Demonizing the majority to make a point about the ignorance of our worst-intentioned opponents is just irresponsible, especially for someone with as broad an audience as Savage enjoys (mostly deservedly).

[T]here’s a certain childishness to these posts; Savage is peeved at those who say, in the face of clear and contradictory evidence, that kids only thrive with opposite-sex parents.

So am I.

Like Savage, I’m a gay parent, and at times I feel a petty urge to compare my wonderful children to kids being poorly raised or served by their opposite-sex parents. But it IS a petty urge, and we shouldn’t give in to it, our justified frustration notwithstanding.

What to Make of the Long-Term Study of Lesbian Parenting?

June 9th, 2010 No comments

Here’s what Dan Savage has to say:

I’m happy to scrap the results of this study—this peer-reviewed, 25-year-study—on the condition that the haters stop citing the results of discredited, non-peer-reviewed studies funded by anti-gay advocacy groups, studies that are “designed to come out with” anti-gay outcomes, studies conducted by disgraced and discredited “scientists” like Dr. George Rekers.

No, Dan, no! There’s no reason to throw out the study, and you shouldn’t be conceding anything here.

The study to which he refers took a long view of the behavioral and social outcomes of the kids of lesbian parents, comparing the results to an often-used data set consisting of a normative sample of American youth. In the same post, he rightly argues that the comparison groups could have been better, because the women studied were motivated volunteers, who (just by virtue of having to take the steps to create and parent a child) might be expected to be more engaged and involved than the “normative sample” (read: average).

Having read the report of the study in the highly respected Pediatrics, I’d add my concern that much of the data came from reports from the mothers themselves about their children at various ages. In addition to the inherent bias in self-reporting that’s well-known to epidemiologists, this particular report seems particularly susceptible to such bias: these women likely have at least some interest (perhaps greater than parents in the “normative sample”) in seeing their kids as happy and well-adjusted.

But conceding these points doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and say: “Well, we need a better study so this one is worthless.” It isn’t. Peer-review is — as Savage seems to recognize but then is willing to overlook — the gold standard for scientific acceptability. Courts have even assessed witnesses’ credentials based upon whether their “scientific” testimony is grounded in peer-reviewed science. George Rekers and other “haters” are, by contrast, charlatans who live in what Andrew Sullivan and others have called their own epistemically closed world. Read: no serious scientist, or publication, gives them the time of day.

I want to make another, deeper point, though. Since the kids of gay and lesbian parents will always be the product of deliberative decision-making, why is it unfair to compare them to the broader population of the children of heterosexual parents? After all, that’s the comparison group that the anti-equality forces constantly refer to. “Kids do best when raised by their biological parents.” Maybe that’s wrong, and maybe this study is a major step towards using science — real, peer-reviewed science — to debunk that unsupported assertion.

If our kids do better than a “normative sample,” it’s fair to point that out. Our opponents haven’t hesitated to argue the contrary — even without evidence that applies to our families at all. The evidence they rely on compares kids being raised in stable, two-parent families with kids being raised by single parents, with stepparents, and so on. What if being raised by same-sex parents is the best situation for kids? Wouldn’t that be…I don’t know, funny?

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