motherjones:

cognitivedissonance:

From Jezebel:

Back in August, during a Springfield City Council public hearing on amending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation and gender identity protections, Rev. Phil Snider of the Brentwood Christian Church lashed out at the council for “inviting the judgement of God upon our land” by making “special rights for gays and lesbians.”

He goes on to invoke the bible and morality and the end of days a few more times before suddenly appearing to lose his train of thought.

And then something pretty amazing happens.

You HAVE to watch until about the two-minute mark. Let me put this in picture form for you:

image

Seriously, watch the whole thing. Good payoff.

This entertaining video was really popular last year. Although seemingly clever, it draws on a problematic comparison between same-sex marriage discrimination in the present day and racial segregation laws that were firmly in place in the USA until the civil rights movement in the 1960s (as well as in South Africa, Australia and around the world). This comparison between gay marriage and racial segregation has become increasingly common amongst well-meaning activists in the USA, including in litigation cases before the courts.

The link between racial segregation and gay marriage has also been evoked elsewhere, such as in the UK, with activists and academics arguing that not allowing gay marriage is similar to racist policies of the 1960s. This race-sexual discrimination argument is usually made by White activists who aim to illuminate the similar struggles of inequality faced by all minority groups.

Racial segregation and gay marriage might be similarly categorised within the rubric of human rights issues that everyone should be invested in protecting. The problem with drawing a direct link between both issues is that this ignores the distinct historical relations that different minority groups have faced over time, and it also obliterates the legal intricacies of racial, sexual and gender discriminations. Equating racial segregation to gay marriage also ignores the complex interconnections of discrimination as they are lived by different subgroups.

Segregation can be imposed by governments through formal policies and institutional practices or it can be the outcome of of informal processes. Formal segregation is enshrined in exclusionary laws that force some groups to be socially and economically separate from the majority. It is also enforced by powerful socio-economic agents, such as banks that won’t give loans or credit to racial minorities or workplaces that exclusively hire people from dominant groups. Segregation can occur through everyday “unconscious” choices, such as by having close friendships with people from the same group at school and at work, or by living in neighbourhoods with people who are from the same socio-economic background. Racial segregation is one of the most pervasive forms of segregation, as its continued effects amongst Black people and other racial minority groups is pervasive.

The legal oppression of LGBTQI limits their legal rights explicitly in the realm of family life and through social processes that reproduce the otherness of LGBTQI people. I’ve written previously that the issue of gay marriage is a violation of human rights, but making an unqualified connection to racial segregation does no cause justice. Nevertheless, this comparison is worth exploring because it is becoming so commonplace.

Racial segregation laws excluded Black Americans from all spheres of public life by physically, economically and legally separating them from White people, including everything from drinking areas, official buildings, pools, and public transport. These laws prevented Blacks from attending certain schools and from holding particular jobs and from fully participating in civil life. In short, racial segregation made it legal to formally discriminate against Black people in every social institution.

The effects of racial segregation continue today. Urban areas where Black people are residentially concentrated are overpopulated, poorly serviced and high taxes are redistributed in socially dysfunctional ways. Social disadvantage impacts on violence experienced by Black Americans in a way that is not the case for White people. In short, state policies that discriminated against Black people have resulted in an underclass that is pervasively disadvantaged economically, socially and residentially. The social effects of racial segregation has resulted in higher welfare dependence by single-parent Black families, poor educational facilities in neighbourhoods with a high proportion of Black people  poor access to quality housing and higher rates of unemployment. Black people who lived through racial segregation face significant health problems.

In Australia, Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families, because the State saw that Indigenous women were sexual savages incapable of looking after children. These children were raised in isolated institutions, deprived of their cultural heritage and forced to forget their spirituality and convert to Christianity. Policies enforced racial segregation with the explicit aim of cultural genocide.

Gay marriage is one of the most visible issues that show how LGBTQI communities are excluded from the rest of society. LGBTQI people continue to face hatred, violence and social disadvantages that heterosexual people as a group do not have to worry about. Marriage is constructed as normal, biologically functional and “right” between heterosexual men and women; gay marriage is positioned as a threat to the institution of family and therefore the established social order.

Aren’t all forms of discrimination equally negative? Isn’t it important to draw comparisons in solidarity of minority rights? Yes, of course, but not at the expense of recognising that the effects of different forms of discrimination have different outcomes for different groups. 

Racial segregation exemplifies a system of discrimination that legally marked Black Americans as second-class citizens. Exclusionary present-day marriage laws discriminate against LGBTQI by not recognising that non-heterosexual people have the same legal right to fully participate in marriage and family. Nevertheless anti-gay marriage laws do not prevent LGBTQI people from participating in all spheres of public life. discriminating against people because of their sexuality is now against the law. The law does, however, discriminate against LGBTQI people in marriage, adoption. Informal processes of sexual discrimination are pervasive and require social activism and further policy intervention, but the law has not formally enforced gay-only spaces that physically segregates their inclusion in public life. This is an important distinction to understand. There are other important distinctions to understand with the gay rights movement. 

The concept of intersectionality is used to highlight how racial, sexual and gender discrimination historically affect minorities in different ways.

The video above is clever in showing the similarities in the discourses used to justify racial and sexual inequalities; that is, how do patterns of speech normalise the balance of power to some groups over others? I see that it the video is even better when considered as a way to explore the concept of intersectionality and social activism.

In mid-July, David Karp appeared on The Colbert Report. If you live outside the USA, you won’t be able to see the link, so above, I’ve posted an older TechCrunch interview where Karp talks about how he developed Tumblr’s financing model.

I’m going to tease apart Karp’s brief appearance on the Colbert Report because it came after the announcement of Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr. The interview touches on issues of digital equality, the hijacking of “cool,” and privacy. Colbert is clever and hilarious as ever. His comedy is about making fun of his guests, so unsurprisingly, during the exchange, we see that Tumblr is dismissed as a frivolous waste of time, mostly because of its reputation as a site for porn. A sociological perspective sees that even the most trivial dismissals, even during in a short comedic exchange, carries social messages that need critical exploration.

Tumblr is a fun way to spend one’s time. Yet Tumblr stands for something more: it is a popular way for young people to interact online, particularly those between 18-29 years, and it is especially used by minorities. Data from America also shows that Tumblr is unique in its gender breakdown. Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, which are more popular among women, and Twitter which is slightly more popular among men, Tumblr has a near equal split between male and female users. There are no data on non-cis gender users, but Tumblr’s transgender and queer tags are popular, suggesting Tumblr is an important blogging platform for LGBTQI youth. Tumblr also draws a slightly higher proportion of urban and educated users.

Given its unique demographics, it’s useful to place Karp and Colbert’s discussion in a broader socio-economic context. Much of their jokes centre on porn use on Tumblr, but underneath, this is a conversation about digital privilege.

Access, equity & the myth of digital meritocracy

When asked jovially by Colbert about being a “high school drop out,” Karp speaks briefly on the need for young kids to take advantage of computer literacy skills while they are at school. He notes that there are many great computer education programs available today that weren’t around in his day, which is why he says he dropped out of school.

This opportunity is not as widely available as Karp seems to think. Not in the USA nor anywhere else in the world for that matter. The digital divide, which sociologists have been discussing for decades, continues to limit the opportunities that minorities and disadvantaged youth might otherwise reap from social media sites like Tumblr. 

Wonderful programs like Black Girls Code can provide access to coding skills for some disadvantaged youth in urban areas in the USA. These types of not-for-profit programs have limited scope as not enough funding and attention is paid to the issue of inequitable internet access.

In Australia, while 86% of households with kids under the age of 15 had a home computer, accessibility varies according to socio-economic factors. For example, almost all kids in affluent households have access to the internet (97% of high income families). Less than two-thirds of kids in low income households had internet access (61%). Of these, a higher proportion of wealthy kids have high speed internet connections (95%) compared to low income kids (84%). Children in rural and remote areas have even lower opportunities as the infrastructure does not support good computer or internet access.

Start up entrepreneurs like Karp, whose ingenuity I am grateful for given that I blog, do not talk enough about these issues. It would be wonderful if digital skills were more widely spread and supported via schools, but digital literacy needs to be put into context of access, resources and broader education.

In a six minute segment on a comedy show this complex point may not go down too well. Yet within this same fleeting time frame, Colbert took the time to regale the fact that Karp is a drop out. Karp takes bait, perpetuating the myth that kids should just roll up their proverbial sleeves and get coding. This reflects a lack of awareness about social privilege.

Digital entrepreneurship & the invisibility of White male heterosexual privilege

Karp is a White male from a relatively privileged background. He is also in a heterosexual relationship (as chronicled on his Tumblr). All of these seemingly unimportant personal facts contribute to Karp’s success.

The interest on growing non-White digital entrepreneurship is negligible. At this year’s Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) only 40 participants turned out to hear a panel discussion on “Cultivating the New Minority Entrepreneur.” Similarly the number of high-profile queer identified entrepreneurs is disheartening. The myth of digital entrepreneurship in general is one that makes white, male heterosexual privilege invisible.

Karp grew up with access to technology and systems of support not available to most kids in low income areas. Minority youth have other social barriers, such as whether or not tech communities offer a safe and open space for communication and participation.

One of the things I really love about Tumblr is precisely the activism and critique of minority issues that I do not see on other blogging platforms. There is a big jump, however, between many minority youth owning a blog on Tumblr, writing or creating content that is well received (that invites constructive engagement rather than abuse), and then being able to make that writing/ art/ social critique translate into a viable entrepreneurship pathway or some other supplementary livelihood.

Karp’s maternal grandfather was an announcer on a local news station. His father was a music composer for TV and film. His mother has a degree in music and is now a science teacher at a private school in New York. This educated woman home-schooled Karp after he left school. She says: ”I know it sounds very sexy to say he’s a high school dropout… But he had an amazing high school education because he had amazing tutors" (emphasis added). Karp’s parents had great connections that opened up entrepreneurial opportunities that the talented young Karp used to further his learning and development. In sociology, we call this social capital: the ability to tap into social networks for social and material resources to further your economic standing.

Social capital & meritocracy

Studies show that kids from minority, migrant and poor backgrounds are not able to use their social connections to further their education, income and social status. This is because their personal networks do not have the elite resources needed to get ahead in life.

The myth of the intrepid entrepreneur who drops out of school/ university and makes a mint is a myth of meritocracy. Meritocracy is founded on false ideals that democracy more or less assures equal access of economic opportunities.

The story goes that if you work hard enough, you can be anything you want. This is supposedly the story of Silicon Valley: the world’s smartest kids leaving behind social convention. All you need is a plucky positive attitude and innovative ideas to help you find venture capitalists to fund  your new social media company. “Stay hungry, stay foolish!” says every social media meme in the world. This can work for you if you have the social capital to leverage off.

You can afford to drop out of school if you have a family who can continue to subsidise and contribute to your private learning. You can drop out and up-skill in tech if you had a strong educational and economic base to begin with, and if you have the social connections to keep growing.

Kids who drop out of schools from low income households do so because of economic pressures and family responsibilities. The education system expects little from them, as bell hooks points out. Dropping out is not really an option: it is a tough decision made under inequitable conditions.

Tumblr is used by more minority youth than White kids, and most of them do not yet have more than a high school education. Questions of access, use and opportunity are important. Tumblr in many ways represents the future possibilities and challenges of using social media as an agent of social change.

Karp is intelligent enough not feed into the meritocracy myth of social media. Yes it’s a great story: the kid who dropped out, built an empire and then sold it for $1.1 Billion. All before he turned 27. It does not diminish Karp’s accomplishments to note that he started from a position of privilege. It would be good to see Karp take up the chance to correct the myth, even on a brief TV appearance. If he is serious and passionate about growing technological innovation and nurturing young talent, start by acknowledging the material and social constraints and then work towards a solution. Using a slice of the $1.1 Billion to address digital inequality in entrepreneurship would be a good start.

A brief interlude on porn. Yawn

Back to the Colbert Report, Karp is asked about porn on Tumblr, one of the most over-hyped elements of blogging on Tumblr as discussed by people who don’t blog on Tumblr. Yes there’s porn. Some of it is interesting in so much as it tries to challenge stereotypes about desire, body size and race. Much of the porn on Tumblr is pretty standard fodder and certainly it’s not the best part of Tumblr. It would be useful to see some statistics on porn consumption on Tumblr versus other types of content.

Read any of the main sites covering Karp’s appearance on Colbert, and they have quite a giggle over the whole porn angle (for example see Mashable, but it’s handled a little better on TechCrunch). For his part, Karp had a laugh, but he steered the conversation back to content creation rather than languor over porn. 

Colbert then compared Tumblr to My Space as a way of laughing away Tumblr’s credibility. This is another exercise of privilege, once again by a white heterosexual male; this time an older man elevating his position as a television presenter on a more “traditional” entertainment medium.

Television has greater cultural prestige than blogging, especially amongst older people who feel beguiled by social media. This was not always the case. For many decades, television was ridiculed in much the same way as Tumblr and other forms of social media are today. It is not simply that Tumblr and blogging is new, relative to TV. It is that, like TV before it, Tumblr is used predominantly by younger groups of people. The activities of youth are stigmatised, reviled and dismissed by elite groups with more cultural power.

In this interview, and as he has done in many other interviews, Karp positions Tumblr as a medium of artistic expression. To people who don’t blog and who aren’t on Tumblr, this is not something to be taken seriously. The cultural privilege being exercised here is one of high art versus low art (see my parallel with street art). Interesting, since TV has long been positioned as a form of low art. In this context, Colbert’s age, education, and the medium he’s on (his own TV show), gives him greater privilege. Different forms of privilege expose multiple interlocking social hierarchies.

As Colbert’s jokes go, Tumblr, is “cool” because it’s used by young people, but what those people do on Tumblr is disposable for the same reason: it’s the stuff of young people, who are only interested in porn (as if this in itself is something disgraceful).

Tumblr as a Merchant of Cool 

Colbert asks Karp whether Yahoo acquired Tumblr to bask in its “cool” factor. Karp deflects, saying “I hope not.” This made me think about the great PBS documentary The Merchants of Cool. Although made over a decade a go, the issues covered remain relevant. The doco explores how media agencies search for the next big youth trend which they can then commercialise. In so doing, they dilute its coolness by producing a sanitised version. Thanks to marketing, a genuine form of expression becomes mainstream and less interesting due to over saturation. By manufacturing “cool,” media effectively strips the ingenuity of sub-cultures. 

The greatest apprehension that has followed Yahoo’s acquisition of Tumblr has been about how Yahoo’s advertising plan may hinder artistic expression on Tumblr.

Karp starts the interview by saying he is focusing on helping Tumblr become profitable. Art and commerce do not necessarily have to conflict. For centuries, art has required patrons to support creation. The difference of content creation on social media is that people give away their art for free. This is not expected of other professionals starting out their careers. Companies also sell users’ data for revenue to support the “free” platform which enables artistic expression.

In previous interviews, Karp has stressed that Tumblr would never follow the Facebook model of using private information to tailor advertising. Instead, he’s discussed a "native advertising" model where advertisers will be encouraged to create art that fans will want to reblog and interact with in other ways.

One of the most often cited retorts to concerns about advertising and privacy are from people who say, If you don’t like it, stop using this technology. The relationship between creators and social media platforms is not one way. It is, in fact, a collaboration. Users have every right to challenge how the platform they started creating on changes its mode of operation. 

Karp is asked whether Tumblr would comply with demands for information by the USA’s National Security Agency, which has been heavily criticised for making information requests from Facebook and other social media companies. Karp shifts and laughs uncomfortably, but he says Tumblr is committed to protecting the rights of users.

Sociology of Tumblr

Despite Colbert and Karp’s friendly and humorous exchange, entertainment, like all other forms of social exchange, is not benign. The sociology of humour is a sub-set of the sociology of the mundane. It shows us how comedic exchanges, even a one line joke, or a short interview like this one, carries with it a history of social relations. What we joke about, what our culture deems appropriate for us to laugh at, and the things that we leave unsaid - all of these moments matter. Even in fleeting minutes of frivolity, the stories we tell about ourselves and the world around us can open up new conversations about the world is. Comedic interactions can also close off alternative discourses about the way things ought to be and what we can do to achieve change.

Tumblr is riotous fun, but how we blog, why we blog, who blogs and the social context in which our blogging platform develops all need ongoing critical reflection. After the laughter, of which there were many in this interview, important questions remain about the future of this blogging platform. What might happen to Tumblr under Yahoo over the long term and what might this change mean for those who create and interact under a new profit model? How will this billion dollar juggernaut address digital inequalities even as it profits from our collaboration and content? Will Tumblr help to elevate the art, discussion and activism of minority youth who dominate this medium, or will a hierarchy of privilege drown out the contribution of these innovative bloggers?

feministsociology:

gaywrites:

The Australian state of Tasmania is set to make history by specifically protecting intersex people from discrimination. 

The proposed changes to Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act will also benefit trans* people. Tasmania was the last Australian state to decriminalize homosexuality, but it is considered the first state in the world to specifically protect intersex people. 

Under existing laws if transgender and intersex people experience discrimination in Tasmania they can only take a case under the limited term ‘transsexuality’ which is labelled a ‘sexual orientation’ rather than a gender identity.

In the proposed amendments to the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act ‘transsexuality’ will be grouped with the new term ‘transgender’ as ‘gender identities’ while ‘intersex’ will become an entirely new grounds for discrimination.

Zam. Trans* and intersex followers, what say you? Is this a good model?

Just in time for Intersex Awareness Day!

(via tarantolata-deactivated20130908)

octopusrabies:

Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim and State Premier Lara Giddings embrace Gay Rights activists Rodney Croome and Matt Hastings after historic same-sex marriage laws passed the Lower House last night. 

Activist Rodney Croome said: ”This is a wonderful result, not just for same-sex couples and their families but also for Tasmania… Tasmania is now a beacon of hope to same-sex partners and their families across Australia and to all Australians who support equality and social inclusion.”

octopusrabies:

Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim and State Premier Lara Giddings embrace Gay Rights activists Rodney Croome and Matt Hastings after historic same-sex marriage laws passed the Lower House last night. 

Activist Rodney Croome said: ”This is a wonderful result, not just for same-sex couples and their families but also for Tasmania… Tasmania is now a beacon of hope to same-sex partners and their families across Australia and to all Australians who support equality and social inclusion.”

(via octopusrabies-deactivated201212)

 Heidi Lewis (The Colorado College), Representations of Black Gay Men on Television

I don’t wholly agree with this researcher’s argument that the gay male characters in The Wire and The Shield challenge stereotypes of gay Black men. Yes, as Lewis notes, these men are represented as being “hyper masculine”, which is the opposite of mainstream portrayals of gay men as “effeminate”. At the same time, these characters problematically play into other stereotypes of Black men as violent drug criminals, or as being “on the down low” (not publicly identifying as homosexual). Lewis includes some interesting clips from Noah’s Arc, essentially arguing that some presentations of gay black men is better than none, as they encourage Black communities to discuss and move past their fear of gay masculinity. This “micro lecture” is worth watching and debating.

Link via SocyCinema.

We’re not fucking animals!

A protester reacts to the news that civil unions between gay and lesbian Australians in the state of Queensland will now be known as “registered relationships” (via ABC AM). Moments before this protester’s outburst in the Parliament session, Queensland Minister Michael Crandon said: “The opportunity [has] now to come to a court and to register, if you like, their interest in one another…” [my emphasis]. The language is dehumanising - gay and lesbian Australians can “register their interest in one another” but the state will not recognise this “interest” as a full partnership worthy of the same legal rights and status as heterosexual couples.

The recently elected Liberal National Party Government is changing the law introduced last year by the former Labor government, which had finally allowed gay and lesbian relationships to be legally recognised as a civil union. This was seen as a positive step towards the legal recognition of marriages between homosexual and queer Australians. In a further legal blow to gay and lesbian citizens, their “registered partnerships” will not be allowed legal access to altruistic surrogacy (along with short-term de facto couples and single people). These are very dangerous times when Christian lobbying forces the Queensland government to withdraw the legal rights of Australians. To top it all off, it is still legal in Queensland to kill a gay or lesbian person and use the "gay panic" defence. That is, a murderer can argue that they reacted in violence because they were overwhelmed that a homosexual person flirted with them. Disgusting!

If you are in Queensland, go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to end discrimination in surrogacy laws. Go here to sign the e-petition to urge the Queensland government to protect civil marriages and equal rights of gay and lesbian Australians.

fuckyeahrupaulsdragrace:

Drag Dad is an independent documentary project about a six year old boy named Jeremiah and his father, the drag queen superstar, Tyra Sanchez.
This documentary will help shed light on gay parenting and break prejudices against LGBT families! But it will not be possible without your help. Please offer you support by sharing this link, reblogging, and donating here
High-res

fuckyeahrupaulsdragrace:

Drag Dad is an independent documentary project about a six year old boy named Jeremiah and his father, the drag queen superstar, Tyra Sanchez.

This documentary will help shed light on gay parenting and break prejudices against LGBT families! But it will not be possible without your help. Please offer you support by sharing this link, reblogging, and donating here

(via tarantolata-deactivated20130908)

American media personalities Isis King and Janet Mock discuss the need for visible role models representing transgender women. Impressive is their focus on kindness and patience as being central role to their role as public educators, but equally important is their discussion of what it means to be a transgender woman of colour. Mock argues that there is more to the transitioning experience than physical changes. She wants to see public discourses to move on from superficial questions (“Transgender 101”) to in-depth conversations about the diverse social and political issues faced by transgender people.

…of course you have the right to self identify how you choose to self identify. I think that ‘transsexual’ to me makes it only about the body and the transition whereas transgender I feel speaks more to the entire essence of what, politically, what our bodies say.

Video link via Colorlines.

It seems to me that, rather than trying to answer questions when you don’t have the necessary data to do it, perhaps you should ask different questions. Certainly, we all do the best with the data we can get, but it is never alright to draw conclusions that your data don’t support—and Regenerus’ data simply cannot answer the question he set out to ask. And when your research questions the legitimacy of people’s families—my family—I demand higher research standards.

In Sociology Lens, an insightful blogger known only as Amanda critiques the new study by sociologist Mark Regenerus. Regenerus has published a paper arguing that children from heterosexual parents are better off than children raised by lesbian and gay parents. I recently posted that academic research actually shows that this is not true. Studies actually show that children of LGBTQI families are slightly better off than kids from heterosexual families with respect to aspiring to more progressive gender roles. In other respects they are similar, when you factor in class differences. 

Amanda notes that Regenerus’ research on gay and lesbian families has produced contradictory findings due to the study’s poorly conceived methodology. Simply put: Regenerus’ methods for data collection do not match his research questions (meaning the methods are invalid). Regenerus defines homosexuality according to anyone who has had a same-sex experience, without taking into account their subjective identities or family experiences. Regenerus has not controlled for the fact that some children from gay and lesbian families are being raised in single parent households. This generally puts any child at an economic disadvantage when compared to dual parent households. Amanda argues Regenerus’ findings are tinged with homophobia, possibly influenced by Regenerus’ ties to the Christian site that hosts his blog.

Sociologists are not above having their politics influence their research interests - including you, me and everyone else. We do not have to agree with one another; however we are trained to make our assumptions explicit and to have our methods match our research questions. I know many sociologists who conduct studies that go against my political and personal beliefs and yet I can engage in useful and challenging discussion because the data and methods warrant attention. Crappy science still warrants attention, but for all the wrong reasons. What a shame that Regenerus’ lax methodology will only fuel public fear and misunderstanding, rather than making a contribution to empirically-informed debate. 

Read Amanda’s excellent article at Sociology Lens.

This post first appeared in my blog, “The Other Sociologist.” 
 
imageOne of the most frustrating and circular arguments in the history of modern families rears its ugly head yet again in Australia.The Australian Senate has received a submission by 150 medical professionals. These medical doctors have misused scientific studies to argue that children raised in same-sex families are worse-off than kids who are raised by heterosexual parents. This argument has been refuted by robust empirical studies within sociology and other social sciences for the past couple of decades.

The Australian Psychological Association has refuted the claims made in the Senate submission, arguing that the most comprehensive, longitudinal data show that children raised in same-sex families are not disadvantaged due to their parents’ sexual orientation. In some cases, the data show the opposite - and it all goes back to the economic and social resources available to parents. This includes emotional support from supportive networks. The biggest disadvantage to children raised in lesbian, gay, transsexual, queer and intersex (LGBTQI) families relates to how societies or communities fail to accept and integrate the diverse reality of modern families.

Much the same as the tired old argument on kids raised in single-parent families, it is not the type of family that children belong to that affects their life chances, but rather the socio-economic conditions and stigma to which families and children are exposed. Another important distinction on the outcomes of children is how parents interact with one another and with their children.

imageAmerican sociologist Judith Stacy, has devoted a large part of her career on the topic of LGBTQI families. Her research in the past decade suggests that children raised by same-gender parents sometimes exhibit different behavioural attributes than children in heterosexual households. This again is not specifically due to the parents’ sexuality. Instead it is more due to whether or not parents adhere to traditional gender roles. Stacy notes:

A difference is not necessarily a deficit.

Children raised in LGBTQI households are less likely to stick to traditional gender scripts, with daughters more likely to express a desire to enter professional fields traditionally dominated by men, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and astronauts. Sons are less likely to be aggressive. While heterosexual parents are more likely to reinforce stereotypical feminine and masculine activities for their children, gay and lesbian parents are more likely to allow their children to play in gender-neutral ways. Stacy’s colleague Timothy Biblarz notes: ‘Lesbian and gay parent families offer a unique opportunity to examine ways in which gender differences affect parenting practices and outcomes’. Despite some differences in their gendered behaviour, experiences of psychological and social distress are similar amongst kids who come from queer families and kids raised in two-parent heterosexual households. Biblarz observes:

While all children probably get teased for one thing or another, children with gay parents may experience a higher degree of teasing and ridicule. It is impressive then that their psychological well-being and social adjustment does not significantly differ, on average, from that of children in comparable heterosexual-parent families. Exploring how lesbian and gay parent families help children cope with stigma could prove helpful to all kinds of families.

Today’s story about the Australian Senate submission represents a nasty example of scientists misusing their social authority. Medical professionals have misrepresented data to suit their narrow conception of what constitutes a “good” family environment. Misquoting statistics to incite a moral panic is nothing new. This tactic has been used over and over, but there is simply no empirical scientific evidence to back up this tired, antiquated view of families. This argument that LGBTQI families were somehow morally corrupt was around when I first studied sociology in the early 1990s, but it seemed almost passé when I was teaching the sociology of the family a decade later.

Scaremongering must be cyclical, particularly as “gay marriage” is an on-again-off-again political topic in Australia and elsewhere. The evidence is overwhelming - there are no social disadvantages to children of LGBTQI families, except those societies create for them.

Images credit: Top image by Drab Makyo. Via Flickr. Second image via USC.

 

The radical disparities of wealth and power in America are widening at a devastating rate…A president cannot meaningfully honor certain token artists while the people at large are so dishonoured.

Adrienne Rich explains to then-American President Clinton (in writing) why she refused to accept the USA National Medal for the Arts in 1997.

Rich has died - RIP to this amazing and pioneering feminist. By problematising the notion that heterosexuality is natural, she left a lasting impact on science.

Image and quote via the L.A. Times.

Monica Novoa from Colorlines explores some important questions about the Occupy movement: Are people of colour adequately represented and involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement? Does racial diversity lead to a shift in focus for the Occupy movement? The people interviewed here identify how some of the ways in which the Occupy movement communicates its ideas actually shuts out non-English speakers. Other interviewees identify that the Occupy movement has the potential to connect with various disempowered groups, including women, ethnic, racial and LGBTQ communities, who have suffered human rights abuses under capitalist systems. One speaker in particular points out that the current social and economic injustices are not the outcome of modern society, but rather they are borne out of historical systems of stratification that require stronger activism.

Australian father Roger Crouch became an anti-bullying advocate after his son Dominic committed suicide six months a go. Dominic had been facing intense homophobic bullying at school which became unbearable. Dominic was unable to discuss his ordeal with his loved ones, choosing instead to take his life. In this video, Crouch argues that schools need be more proactive in addressing bullying, ‘especially bullying that is motivated by difference or perceived difference’.