Dating Someone With Children

A growing number of single gays and lesbians face the complexities of dating someone with children.

By Randy B. Hecht

s parenthood out?

As more gay and lesbian couples and singles opt to have children, a growing number of single, childless gays and lesbians are dealing with the complexities that a partner's children add to romantic life. Unlike most straight people, you likely did not grow
So much of what drives us is about the core issues of love.
up pre-programmed with the assumption that you would have children one day — and now it's a real possibility. You may embrace the idea of parenthood; you may live a child-free life by choice; or you may feel completely unprepared for a development that you simply never expected to face.

"I think it would be natural for any individual to have a period of learning and adjustment to this kind of new situation, certainly in part because it is not in the lexicon of experience for a community as we know it," says David Tseng, national executive director of Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbian & Gays (PFLAG). "And yet the breakthroughs are powerful. The notion that two men can raise kids, or two women, can nurture a family together, goes to the essence of humanity. So some of this is an adjustment, and some of it is understanding that we're proud members of the human race.

"When you have two lesbians who care about carpooling to soccer games or band practice, attending PTA meetings, introducing their children to their girlfriend, they have the same hopes and fears that straight women have. Will my kids like my girlfriend? Will she get along with them? So much of what drives us is about the core issues of love."

It's also a matter of knowing who you are and what you do and don't want. Parenthood isn't for everyone, gay or straight, and each of us needs to recognize our own desires and limitations. In New York City, that recognition can already be seen in gay personal ads that run in The Village Voice, where the phrases "no kids" and "kids OK" are becoming more commonplace. "It is a negotiating point in dating life now that it wasn't before," says Terry Boggis, the director of the center kids
Relationships need to be developed at a slower, more careful pace.
family program of Manhattan's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center.

She notes that "for young gay people, you're seeing a presumption of parenthood" that was not commonplace in previous generations. At the same time, she cautions that once children are involved, relationships need to be developed at a slower, more careful pace. "A lot of gay people don't know what their comfort level is around children. If you haven't had a lot of experience, take it slow," she advises.

"I think it's like any new experience as a human being... Each of these steps, whether public or personal, is about exploring and breaking through new ground for understanding and acceptance," Tseng says. "When single gay men and lesbians date parents, it is a reflection of the larger fabric of American society, that we should be open with our minds and our hearts about love, romance and the aspiration of building a family with someone about whom we care."

And ultimately, new choices and opportunities offer everyone the chance to live the lives they want to live, Boggis notes. "There's room for everybody now in a way that didn't used to be the case."

Randy B. Hecht is a freelance writer.
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