One of the things that infuriate me most as a member of the LGBT community, is the ill-informed argument from zealots that ‘homosexuality’ is unnatural. So, it was positive to read that staff at Wingham Wildlife Park, in the UK, recently reported how Jumbs and Kermit — a Gay penguin couple (yes, I know! How cute!) — are turning out to be perfect parents.
Okay, for some that may be a lot of information to consume in one go… Gay Penguins? Parents? But stay with me.
It all happened when staff at the wildlife sanctuary had to step in after penguin mother, Isobel, was forced to leave her egg because the father, Hurricane, refused to help her incubate it. The two male Humboldt penguins, Jumbs and Kermit, were given the egg, which hatched a month ago.
Park owner Tony Binskin said: “These two have so far proven to be two of the best penguin parents we have had yet.“
Jumbs and Kermit became a pair in 2012. Mr Binskin said that while it was lovely to see two of their birds pair up, it also meant that they were left with not two but four birds unable to reproduce.
The Humboldt penguin specie is declining in numbers, and the park brought in two new males for breeding. But each time Isobel lays an egg, her partner Hurricane refuses to sit on it.
Mr Binskin’s wife Jackie said Hurricane was a “very inconsiderate partner who is happy to get Isobel pregnant”, then “seems to think that his job is done.“
An egg from the pair was given to Jumbs and Kermit last year, but failed to hatch. When Isobel laid another egg in March, and again was forced to leave because Hurricane was not stepping up to fulfil his responsibilities, the second abandoned egg was given to Jumbs and Kermit. It hatched on 12 April.
There have been previous reports of exclusive male-to-male pairings among penguins, and some have reared chicks. Mr Binskin said: “Whilst pair bonding often results in no result other than eliminating those two animals from the breeding population of that species, in captivity it can have greatly positive effects.
We are still very much starting our breeding efforts with this species, and this is only our second year of breeding, but having such good surrogate parents available should we need them is a huge bonus for us.”
So much for homosexuality being ‘unnatural’… or posing a threat to so-called traditional ‘family values’. If anything, Hurricane should take a page from the parenting book of Jumbs and Kermit: It’s all about love and commitment… That’s the clue that sticks a family together, right?
The truth is, research shows that LGBT parents might just be better at raising children than their heterosexual counterparts. Abbie Goldberg, a psychologist who researches Gay and Lesbian parenting, recently said that because Gays and Lesbians rarely become parents by accident (compared with an almost 50 per cent accidental pregnancy rate among heterosexuals), they tend to tend to be more motivated and more committed than heterosexual parents on average, because they chose to be parents. Golberg added: “That translates to greater commitment on average and more involvement.“
Research also indicates that children of gay parents show few differences in achievement, mental health, social functioning and other measures. However, children of gay parents have one advantage over those children who are raised by heterosexual parents: they show a greater degree of open-mindedness, tolerance and role modelling unbiased relationships. Not only are that, studies have shown that Gay and Lesbian parents are more open to providing homes for difficult-to-place children in the foster system.
In a study, published in 2007 in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 46 adults who had at least one gay parent. Twenty-eight of them spontaneously offered that they felt more open-minded and empathetic than people not raised in their situation.
The researchers wrote: “These individuals feel like their perspectives on family, on gender, on sexuality have largely been enhanced by growing up with gay parents.“
One 33-year-old man with a lesbian mother said: “I feel I’m a more open, well-rounded person for having been raised in a non-traditional family, and I think those that know me would agree. My mum opened me up to the positive impact of differences in people.”
Brian Powell, a sociologist at Indiana University and author of Counted Out: Same-Sex Relations and Americans’ Definitions of Family says that if same-sex marriage has any disadvantage for children in any way, it has nothing to do with their parent’s gender and everything to do with society’s reaction toward the families. He added: “Imagine being a child living in a state with two parents in which, legally, only one parent is allowed to be their parent. In that situation, the family is not seen as authentic or real by others. That would be the disadvantage.“
In her research, Abbie Goldberg has found that many children of Gay and Lesbian parents say that more acceptance of gay and lesbian families, not less, would help solve this problem.
In another study, published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Goldberg interviewed a group of 49 teenagers and young adults with gay parents and found that not one of them rejected the right of Gays and Lesbians to marry. Most cited legal benefits as well as social acceptance.
One of the study’s subjects, a 23-year-old man raised by a lesbian couple, said: “I was just talking about this with a couple of friends and just was in tears thinking about how different my childhood might have been had same-sex marriage been legalized 25 years ago. The cultural, legal status of same-sex couples impacts the family narratives of same-sex families — how we see ourselves in relation to the larger culture, whether we see ourselves as accepted or outsiders.“