Gender roles within LGBTQ+ led families tend to model much more variation than the heteronormative structures largely represented within U.S. culture. A common myth about LGBTQ+ parenting includes the false narrative that children without distinct cisgender male and female parental role models will experience detriments to their development, particularly within gender identity and sexual orientation. Of course, this is far from the truth, as evidenced in several bodies of literature. A 2010 study examining differences in psychosocial development and gender identity between children in lesbian parent families compared to children in heterosexual parent families found no differences in psychosocial adjustment between the two child groups. Furthermore, they found that children with lesbian parents felt less parental pressure to conform to gender stereotypes and were less likely to view their own gender as superior than those with heterosexual parents . Additional evidence has shown no differences in knowledge of gender stereotypes or preference for current or future activities based on parental sexual orientation . It is suggested that divisions of labor have more influence on gender-based occupational aspirations of children than the gender roles or expressions of their parents. In a study examining these influences, children whose parents practiced equal divisions of labor within the household and had more liberal attitudes about gender were shown to be more flexible in their own career aspirations and gender stereotypes than children whose parents practiced unequal divisions of labor and conservative views of gender roles, regardless of parental sexual orientation .
These behavioral patterns appear to hold true regardless of same-sex parent family make up, as evidenced by a 2018 study which observed gender-typed behaviors related to toy preferences in preschool children. In this study, researchers found no significant differences in gender-typed behaviors between sons of lesbian mothers, daughters of lesbian mothers, sons of gay fathers, or daughters of gay fathers, and that, on average, self-reports and observations of gendered behavior in each of these groups were more likely to reflect gender conformity than gender nonconformity. This held true into and through middle childhood, as evidenced by similar observations in the same children five years following the initial assessment, suggesting that factors outside of parental sexual orientation, such as age and gender, have greater influence on gender development in children of homosexual parent couples . Although the studies mentioned above focus on effects of parental sexuality on gender development, there is also no evidence to suggest that having a transgender parent has an effect on a child’s gender identity, sexual orientation development, or any other developmental milestones . Clearly, children are more drawn to social representations and parental and societal attitudes about gender and gender roles as models for their own behavior than the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of their parents. Additionally, it appears that children with parents who identify outside of the hetero-cisgender space are actually less distressed about their gender because of the flexibility their parents have demonstrated in attitudes toward gender identity and roles. Thus, the literature surrounding the influence of having LGBTQ+ parents on a child’s gender identity development and understanding of gender roles suggests that there is much more involved in these processes than the simple reality of having a LGBTQ+ parent. We have compiled the following resources which explore navigating gender in LGBTQ+ led families in addition to suggesting strategies for discussing gender with your children.
Lesbian Moms - What do your kids call you?
Queer Kid Stuff - NO MORE GENDER ROLES!
Queer Kid Stuff - What do you call queer parents?
Queer Kid Stuff Just 4 Grown-Ups - How 3 queer parents handle kids and gender
New York Times - How same-sex couples divide chores, and what it reveals about modern parenting
Harpers Bazaar - I live with a woman – we’re not immune to emotional labor: How LGBTQ couples navigate gender roles at home
Parents.com - Explaining nonbinary: How to talk to kids about gender
Post Written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern