Gay fathers face questions and issues that their straight and even lesbian counterparts don't as they begin the adoption process and their transition to fatherhood, according to Abbie E. Goldberg.
Goldberg, an associate professor in the department of psychology at Clark University and a senior research fellow at the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, has been studying the gay and lesbian parenting community now for more than 10 years. Her first book, Lesbian and Gay Parents and Their Children: Research on the Family Life Cycle, examined and analyzed the research that existed on same-sex parenthood since the 1970s.
She hopes her most recent, Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood, will provide gay fathers, prospective gay fathers and others interested in the topic with information that until now hasn't existed.
Windy City Times: Tell me about your book Gay Dads: Transitions to Adoptive Fatherhood.
Abbie Goldberg: This is my second book. It's a book on gay dads and basically it charts the transition to the parenthood experience for 70 gay menall of whom I interviewed both before they were placed with a child, while they were waiting to adopt and then after they adopted. It starts out with a chapter looking at the kinds of experiences they had navigating the adoption process, discrimination in the adoption process and the legal process.
It then moves on to examine their initial adjustment experiences, how they struggled and balanced work and family. There is also a chapter looking at their relationships with families of origin and friends and how those relationships changed. Then there is a chapter looking at their interactions with their broader community, feeling more out when they became parents, particularly if they'd adopted transracially, and how that gave them new visibility in their neighborhoods and their community.
WCT: Why did you decide to write a book on gay dads?
AG: There are no full-length books on gay fathers, empirical research on gay dads. There are a few, very few, published papers on gay dads, but it's really an area that is pretty much uncharted territory. I wanted to provide a book that was readable, interesting and informative about the real life experiences of gay men. I wanted it to be something that a gay dad could pick up or a prospective gay dad, a researcher or a grad student, somebody who is just interested in the topic. I wanted to make it accessible to as broad a range of people as possible.
WCT: Why do you think the Gay Dads book is important?
AG: The research on lesbian parenting started a long time ago, in the 1970s. Really prompted by a couple of high profile court cases where women were denied custody of their children because of their sexual orientation.
Gay dads really didn't get on people's radar, until I would say about 2000. There are a few studies of gay fathers in the 1980s, but all of those focused on gay men who had their kids in straight relationships and then came out. Intentional gay dads, men that were having or adopting children in the context of same-sex relationships, that really hasn't been on people's radar or been visible in the media until about 10 years ago. That's why it's important; it's a timely topic. It's vastly understudied.
WCT: What kinds of trends or things did you find that you think are particularly interesting?
AG: I think that perhaps one of the things that is so striking in the book, and is a theme that continues to come up, is the incredible importance of geographic location in context for these men's experiences. The gay men who were adopting or raising children in San Francisco obviously had a very different experience than the gay men who are adopting in, say, the Amish country or rural South Carolina.
That, to me, is the most striking and, in some ways, the most interesting recurrent theme in the book. In many states gay men cannot co-adopt a child. One man has to adopt as the legal parent and then the other parent may or may not ever be able to get a second parent adoption. In many cases in the book, there are couples in which only one man is legally connected to the child. Of course, that has profound implications for men dealing with security and feeling that they are safe and their child is safe and their relationship is secure and recognized. If there is one thing to take away from the book, it's how important things like laws are in terms of affecting families.
WCT: Were there any outcomes that surprised you?
AG: Yes; there is a really fascinating pattern that emerged. As I said, I asked these men about their support from family and friends. One of the most fascinating findings was that a third of the men perceived their familiesparticularly their own parentsas becoming more supportive of them across the transition to parenthood. They attributed this to, "Everyone loves babies." So many of their family memberseven those who were very unsupportive, very homophobic, very concerned about "How can you raise a child? That is cruel. We don't support that"came around once there was an actual child in the home.
WCT: Is there anything you would like to add?
AG: Just the fact that the men's stories are what carry the book. It is filled with quotes and stories and highlights various couples across this journey. It's really written in a way to be engaging and to allow readers to immerse themselves in these stories. You really get to know these men in the book.