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Same Sex Couples With Children: Surprisingly Poor, Surprisingly Diverse

Many have a mental picture of LGBT couples with children being predominately white and affluent. A study of 26,000 gay and lesbian couples across California, raising an estimated 70,000 children, reveals that’s just not the case. The San Francisco Chronicle reported:

A study released Tuesday by a group of Bay Area organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families found that same-sex couples raising children in California are more likely to be people of colorCalifornia Same Sex Couple Average Incomes and that their median household income is 17 percent lower than the income of married couples with children.

“There is an idea of LGBT families, when people think about it at all, there’s this perception that it’s affluent white folks, and the data show that’s based on our own misperceptions,” said Judy Appel, director of the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco. “We’re in every neighborhood, every race, ethnicity and economic group. Our kids are playing in the playgrounds and parks with all other kids.”

Some interesting findings:

The Our Family Coalition – along with the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center and Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere – produced the report to paint a more accurate picture of gay and lesbian parents and their children. They drew on data from the U.S. census of 2000, the first year in which the government asked people to report whether they were living with a same-sex partner, as well as on several other studies, including two by the Williams Project at the UCLA School of Law.

Bay Area Same Sex Couple EthnicityThe Williams Project found 1,400 same-sex couples raising children in Alameda County and close to 700 in San Francisco. The Our Families report notes that the numbers are probably on the low side because the census tracked only same-gender couples raising children, not gay and lesbian individuals with children.

…In Alameda and San Francisco counties, the report found, a large proportion of gay and lesbian couples raising children were nonwhite. In addition, 69 percent of same-sex parents were women. Those two factors could help explain why same-sex families have lower incomes, [Judy Appel, director of the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco] said, because women and people of color earn less on average.

The full report is located here.

That the LGBT community needs to be thinking in more diverse terms when thinking about ourselves, our families, and our socioeconomic situations goes without saying.

But, what we also need to be thinking about is what our spokespeople on issues look like — in other words, when I’ve seen same sex families highlighted on television, or when I’ve seen written and photographic profiles of same sex families, I don’t recall having seen families that weren’t white and at least middle class.

Those of us who have media members contact us about profiling LGBT people in general, and families in particular, need to remember what our LGBT families’ demographics actually are.  And then, we need to work to ensure that our whole community is represented and visible.

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