Gay parenting more common in the South.

There is an interesting article in the New York Times today that in “the South” there have sprung up communities of gay parents of very diverse backgrounds.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.

“We’re starting to see that the gay community is very diverse,” said Bob Witeck, chief executive of Witeck-Combs Communications, which helped market the census to gay people. “We’re not all rich white guys.”

Black or Latino gay couples are twice as likely as whites to be raising children, according to Mr. Gates, who used data from a Census Bureau sampling known as the American Community Survey. They are also more likely than their white counterparts to be struggling economically.

I’m not really a fan of suggesting that “even in the backwards South!!” gay parenting is becoming more common. I think it is unfair to always assume if something progressive is happening in the South we should all be in shock and awe. But, hey, I’m not from the South. I think part of the reason certain Southern locales may be more conducive to gay parenting is because it is cheaper to raise children in those places, so there is probably a chance that gay parenting in those places is proportionate to the reality that parenting in those places is more common. Furthermore, the assumption that only “rich gay men” adopt is false, something you probably already know but now has statistical evidence to back it up. But I do wonder, is a culture of adopting children, raising “other people’s” kids in general or having non-normative household structures more common in working class communities of color anyway, making it more common for working class gay people of color more likely to adopt or have it be normal to have alternative family structures?

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  • nazza

    It could be lots of things. Being a native Southerner, I can attest to the fact that there’s a more traditional attitude towards parenting. For example, in a heterosexual context, it’s more likely for people to get married earlier and have children.

    The question you raised is a good one. I never interacted much with working class LGBTs. This article focuses on a medium-sized city, not on those who live in rural settings. There was a saying for a long time that LGBTs lived in cities for a reason, that being the intolerance and omnipresent threat of violence. I’m sure that Southern, working class queers probably have to be closeted or very quietly out.

    My mother told me a story recently about the doctor in the small Southern town where she grew up. He was well-known for the quality of care he provided, but he harbored a secret. For whatever reason, he was deliberately outed, probably for blackmail purposes. I’m not exactly sure how, but I think he received an anonymous threatening letter.

    As the story goes, he contacted his secretary late at night, asking her to come immediately to the office. She arrived, whereupon the two of them destroyed all documentation and records, and he fled under cover of darkness, never to return. This was at least forty years ago, but I think there’s a certain amount of that culture of intolerance and fear still present.

  • Emmett J Doyle

    This story is great! It not only shows progress for the GLBT community, but for breaking down the stereotypes about rural, southern America.

    Here’s a directory of Southern LGBT groups:

    And an op-ed piece on rurality and LGBT issues.

  • Whitters

    I was born, raised, and spent the majority of my life in the South. I fully agree that “it is unfair to always assume if something progressive is happening in the South we should all be in shock and awe.”

    I am not so sure that the lower cost of living is a reason why gay parenting is more common in the South, though it is a good theory and may very well be true. It is not uncommon for people to be quite tolerant of their friends, neighbors and acquaintances yet not be tolerant of it as a removed idea. That is, people may preach one thing, but practice another.

    Perhaps it’s also that in the South, the “alternative” communities have stronger bonds with other “alternative” folks. Having lived in other places and belonged to their “alternative” communities, there was a lot more infighting that was aimed and taken personally. Is there more solidarity here?

    Just some thoughts. Thanks for the post.

  • pdxhopeful

    I would be interested to know too how many of the children raised by same-sex couples in the South are the offspring of prior heterosexual relationships versus the number being born to or adopted by same-sex couples, as compared to the same statistics in other areas. If there is a difference, it would suggest differences in the typical life course of gay people in different locales/subcultures.

  • Matt

    I believe parenting in “the South” is more common among all couples than it is elsewhere in the country. It should not be all that surprising that same-sex couples also show that same tendency, even if adopting is a little more difficult on average than elsewhere.