Fatherhood has been exhilarating for Weston Clark, who put aside a teaching career to be a stay-at-home dad for a 4-year-old son and 17-month-old daughter adopted by him and his husband.
Yet Clark acknowledged some unease as he looks ahead to late August, when his son starts kindergarten in Salt Lake City.
“How is that going to play out for him, the fact that he has two dads?” Clark wondered.
“The fact that his parents made a decision that already makes him stand out makes me nervous – that wasn’t his choice,” Clark said. “We will fight in every way we can to make sure he’s OK.”
The mix of pride, joy and apprehension conveyed by Clark is familiar to many parents – including many in America’s growing ranks of gay dads.
More so than heterosexual couples or lesbians, who can bear their own children, gay men face high hurdles en route to parenthood. The two main avenues open to them – adoption or surrogacy – can be costly and complicated.
“They have to go out of their way to become fathers,” said Nancy Mezey, a sociology professor at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, New Jersey, who has studied gay parents.
By the tens of thousands, gay men are choosing to do just that. And as they celebrate Father’s Day this year, they can anticipate that their ranks will continue to swell if the U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling due later this month, legalizes same-sex marriage nationwide.
A decade ago, it was far more common for lesbians to be raising children than for gay men. The gap remains but is closing.
Gary Gates, an expert on gay and lesbian demography with the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute, estimates that there are about 40,000 gay male couples in the U.S. who are raising children, and roughly three times as many lesbian couples who are doing so.
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Among the handful of scholars who’ve broached the subject is Abbie Goldberg, a psychology professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
On the one hand, she believes children of gay dads and lesbian moms will be less susceptible to gender stereotypes than children raised by straight parents. However, Goldberg says it’s possible that future research will reflect the challenges faced by the many gay dads who have adopted their children. On average, adopted children have higher rates of health and behavioral problems than other children, according to the research group Child Trends.