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One is too few. Two is fine

Studies demystify prejudices about families with homosexual parents

Montage on the picture JAMES PRINCE AND HIS SON by JOHN BREWSTERFamily: lunches, dines, lives together every day, never loses this mania. Simple, the definition given by the Titans is better than the complex belief in a “sacrosanct union that is established between family, nation, state, tradition and morals”, as Marilena Chaui observes in Sexual Repression. “It is considered that the axis that sustains western society is the monogamic-family heterosexual-children marriage, for you to get a notion of the oppression of those who depart from this standard”, observes Claudiene Santos, the author of the doctoral thesis in psychology “Parenthood in homosexual families with children”, under the supervision of Maria de Toledo Bruns and defended at USP’s Faculty of Philosophy, Literature and Sciences. “This Christian family, idealized on the pillars of indissoluble marriage and procreation, established the sacralized view of the family and the idea that woman completes herself in maternity and man in paternity, thus installing the prejudice against sterile and homosexual persons, due to the biological impossibility of their reproducing themselves.”

According to empirical researches, Claudiene claims that there are few differences between hetero and homosexual couples in raising the children. “The prejudice is only going to disappear when society manages to understand that the sexual orientation of the partners does not exclude the capability for being a good father or a good mother”, she warns. It will not be easy: a recent study made by the Fluminense Federal University showed that 89% of the Brazilians are against male homosexuality. And not just around here. “The union of a man and a woman in marriage is the most lasting and most important human institution. Changing this definition would upset the family structure”, prophesizes President George W. Bush, in whose country 27% of homosexual families have children. In Brazil, where the law does not permit the adoption of a child by two persons of the same sex (the request is made in the name of one of the two companions), there are no researches, merely misinformation. “Believing that sexual orientation is the preponderant factor for the exercise of parenthood just reinforces a reductionist view of the vast dimension that encompasses the family.”

“The generalized condemnation of homosexuality that persists in contemporary societies, still influenced by religious laws, is the main resistance to the visibility of these families, perceived as offensive to the sacred nature acquired by the family.  This sacralization makes any other family configuration unthinkable. But this ‘sacred family’ disregards the fact that it is merely a very recent historical construction”, reckons anthropologist Elizabeth Zambrano, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, in her article Unthinkable Parenthoods. The family, such as we conceive it, was only consolidated in the 19th century. Until the 16th century, it existed as a lineage, as a political institution, but not as a domestic space.

In ancient Rome, family means the “servidor”, the place where there was a chief, the pater, and all around him would obey him. Little by little, the term was restricted to descendents, and, in the Middle Ages, with the Church, the family became the union of two people by marriage. So the notions of conjugal life and of filiation were blended, and the biological and affective bonds that united the individuals were considered more and more important. The family becomes the “center of the structuring of society” in the 19th century, with moral outlines, a psychologized and affective look, with the monogamic and heterosexual nuclear model. “It was only at the end of the century that the nuclear family as we know it arose”, says Elizabeth. Not to mention other cultures. For Lévi-Strauss, the family is not a fixed entity in itself, but where standards of filiation and relationship are developed, a connecting link between individuals and society.

“Anthropology shows us that, setting off from a simple biological fact, the need for a man and a woman to conceive a child, different societies do not take from that the same consequences, nor do they postulate a natural match between father and genitor, mother and genetrix.” From these questionings, homoparenthood was born: a homosexual adult is, or intends to be, the father or mother of one or more children. The neologism, created in 1997 by the Association of Gay and Lesbian Parents and Future Parents, in Paris, is polemical for bringing together the paternal sexual orientation with the raising of children, but, the researcher observes, “by among a type of family hitherto without a name, it is allowed to acquire an existence, indispensable for indicating a reality, and making possible it problematization”. Hence, let it be understood: according to some, the lack of the presence of the two sexes makes the children grow up without masculine and feminine references. Psychotic and discriminated, in the end they would be transformed into homosexuals, putting civilization at risk.

Montage on the picture ELEONORA DE TOLEDO, by BRONZINOIn the primer The Right to Homoparenthood (, Elizabeth gives access to the international researches on the theme, bringing everything that you wanted to know but were prejudiced against asking. “The result of the empirical researches carried out by various authors indicates the inexistence of differences in relation to the ability for caring for children and parental capability of heterosexual and homosexual persons, as well as showing that there are no significant differences between the development of children raised by hetero families when compared with children of homosexual families.” There is one noteworthy fact: independently of the sexual orientation, it is better for the child to be raised by more than one person. “It is important to stress that the socialization of children in homoparental environments makes the children and adolescents move better amongst the different possibilities of affective-sexual relations, although the study by Michael Bailey reveals that 90% of the adult children of gay parents considered themselves heterosexual.” Hence, there are no empirical bases for preventing the custody of a child by gay fathers or lesbian mothers using as a justification the effects on the sexual orientation of the child.

The same is valid for the supposed danger of the children being abused: “No paper reviewed puts abuse as a characteristic of homoparental families. On the contrary, they stress that the risk of abuse is the same as in heterosexual families. The data evidences that, in these new configurations, just as in the traditional family, there is a moral separation between the spheres of the family and of sexuality”.  According to researchers, parenthood fosters a moralization of the social relations, in such a way that the homosexual parents come to select the persons with whom they relate, in order to protect the children. “The idea that the homoparental family could contribute towards the destruction of the family and of society is nonsense, since precisely what these families desire is their social and juridical recognition, so as to be a legitimate part of the society to which they belong. It not only does not run counter to the family, but it also tries to include itself in the concept, giving continuity to this institution through wanted children.” For her, psychologists and psychiatrists know what harms a child: the lack of care, of love, of tolerance, of limits, and depressed or violent parents.

Even the need for contact with the two sexes does not have to occur only inside the nuclear family. For this, say the Titans, there is “grandpa and grandma, aunt, niece, cat, dog and hen”. “There is no one specific type of family that can guarantee the happiness and good development of children. What we can affirm is that partners capable of establishing between themselves and their children good bonds of affection have more possibility of favoring a satisfactory psychic and social development. What is important, then, is the parental capability of the individuals, more than how they have decided to construct their family.” In the study, there are researches with different results, such as that of the Family Research Institute, by Paul Cameron, indicating losses for the children from living together in a homoparental family. Suffice it for this contradiction believe that “homosexuality is a disease of a contagious nature (associated with an inclination towards criminality), which would bring damage to the children”.

Our Civil Code does not provide for the complexity of alliances and filiations arising from homosexual co-parenthood. “Accordingly, the child cannot be guaranteed either stability or memory of its parental bonds, since by recognizing the legal existence of only a father or a mother, it leaves outside the protection of the State other participants of this new configuration, together with the rights and duties that are inherent to it”, in Elizabeth’s analysis. There is, however, a standard of choice: gays prefer to adopt, while lesbians prefer children that are the biological fruit of one of the partners. In the case of adoption, the Statute for the Child and the Adolescent brings no reservations about the sexual orientation of the adopter, although many gays complain that the requirements of psychologists and social assistants are greater with them. “People need to understand that standards change, they have a history, and their content varies in accordance with the time and the place. Not to recognize that is to reject researches, democratic standards and human rights.” Family has no gender. What really is difficult is to live together every day without losing this mania.