Manual TypewriterEssays, Reviews, and Commentaries

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

Queer Family Statistics

Posted By on June 30, 2009

Queer Family Statistics

By Arlene (Ari) Istar Lev

I was just asked to speak in a university class by two different students in the same class, each unaware that the other had asked. One wanted me to speak on being a "lesbian adoptive mom"; the other wanted me to speak on being a "a trans-racially adoptive mom." How do I split up these identities as if they do not all belong to me?

Although queer families and trans-racial families are perceived of as "different" in fundamental ways from other families, the truth is that the American family has changed dramatically in the past few decades and our families just reflect that diversity. For instance, only 25% of American households are nuclear families (married couples with children under 18), and only about 50% of children are being raised in traditional nuclear families.

About 25% of children are being raised in single parent homes and this includes both parents never married, and those who have divorced. Approximately one in every 20 births is a mixed-race child, with over 2 million biracial children currently living in the U.S. There are over one million mixed-race marriages (i.e. legal, heterosexual unions).

The family in contemporary Western culture is dramatically different as we enter the 21st century, and in many ways our same-sex, and mixed race families are increasingly "common" as the traditional home of "Father Knows Best" recedes in memory. In reality, “Father Knows Best” was never the norm for most Americans (suburban homes with white picket fences), and I suspect most of us have figured out by now that father simply did not always know best.

I always wonder where queer families fall into (or out of) the statistics. Are we listed under single parent families because our partner’s are invisible? Are we listed under never-married parents because our partnerships are unrecognized? Are those of us whose children are being raised in a nuclear family, relegated to single parent status because we are not legally allowed to marry? Many of us suspect that interracial marriages are even more common among LGBT people — information that disappears in census reports.

The truth is that for our children there is nothing unusual about our families — like all of us, their families are the center of their universe, and the marker by which the outside world is judged "queer." As young children, until homophobia and racism come creeping closer to their doors — which it inevitably will — the solid base of love within their families is all they know. .