What Makes a Family? by Shannon Keeler, MS
What makes a family is love not genetics. What defines a family has changed dramatically over the past 50 years and transformed our definition of the meaning of family for many Americans, and for people across the globe. This new definition of family in applies to single parents choosing to start a family alone, as well as to gay couples and singles raising children. The idea of a family may have changed from the concept of a mother, a father, and two children, to a more complex family composition, but there is one unwavering similarity in every family, and that is love.
The gay family illustrates a shift from the past model of a family, but it has done quite a bit more than that. This new structure has evolved to a continually expanding number of same-sex couples raising children in the United States. In 2010, there were 650,000 same-sex couple households in the United States, and over 111,000 same-sex couples were raising children under the age of 18. These rising numbers are leading to greater awareness, legal rights, and an abundance of easily accessible information on how to start a family through alternative means.
Not only has this shift changed how American families look and define what a family is, but it has also given rise to a variety of avenues through which to start a family in the first place. For example, less than 15 years ago, same-sex couples often had no idea how to go about trying to conceive. There was little, if any information for gay and lesbian couples, leaving people feeling isolated and unaware of potential legal issues involved in egg donation, surrogacy, or adoption processes. Today, there are magazines, websites, blogs, and books created by gay and lesbian parents who have already been through the family creation process, to assist others in achieving their dreams of having a family. Gay couples using surrogacy, egg donation, and adoption are now commonplace, and there are many organizations to help them along the way.
To date, twelve states have legalized gay marriage, and many gay couples have achieved equal parenting rights whether through adoption or raising biological or stepchildren. As a country, people are realizing there is no difference between good heterosexual parents and good same-sex parents. Parenting is all about the quality of the relationship between the parents and the children, regardless of sexuality.