Like Father, Like Son: Homosexuality, Parenthood, and the Gender of Homophobia
Yale Journal of Law & Feminism, Vol. 20, p. 257, 2009
99 Pages Posted: 12 May 2009 Last revised: 5 Feb 2013
Date Written: May 11, 2009
This Article argues that gender influences the expression of homophobic and heterosexist stereotypes about gay and lesbian parents. By conducting a comparative analysis of reported family law opinions, it shows that gay and lesbian parents are subjected to gender-influenced stereotypes in custody and visitation cases - stereotypes that are influenced by the parent’s gender, the child’s gender, and the judge’s gender. First, gay fathers are subjected to two stereotypes that are influenced by the parent’s gender. They are stereotyped as HIV agents and child molesters - men who infect children with HIV and sexually abuse children, especially boys. Lesbian mothers are not stereotyped as HIV agents, and they are rarely stereotyped as child molesters.
Next, both gay fathers and lesbian mothers are subjected to two stereotypes that are influenced by the child’s gender. They are stereotyped as recruiters and role models - people who encourage children to become homosexual. Although recruiting and role modeling stereotypes are applied to both gay and lesbian parents, they are applied more often to the parents of sons than the parents of daughters, and they are rarely applied to the fathers of daughters. This pattern betrays patriarchal concerns about the importance of fathers in the production of masculine, heterosexual boys. Finally, all of these stereotypes are influenced by the judge’s gender. Male judges are more likely than female judges to accept gender-influenced stereotypes about gay and lesbian parents. This pattern reflects the observed tendencies of heterosexual men to accept homophobic and heterosexist stereotypes more often than heterosexual women and apply such stereotypes to gay men more often than to lesbians.
In the legal academy’s responses to stereotypes about gay and lesbian parents, scholars have been blind to the influence of gender. By ignoring the influence of the parent’s gender, we have introduced unnecessary omissions and weaknesses into our responses to HIV and child molestation stereotypes. By ignoring the influence of the child’s gender, we have failed to notice the reciprocal relationship between homophobia and gender, and we have imposed arbitrary limits on our responses to recruiting and role modeling stereotypes. By taking account of the relationship between homophobia and gender, we can develop a more rigorous and inclusive case on behalf of gay and lesbian families - a case that vindicates not only the parental interests of gay men and lesbians but the developmental interests of children who may grow up to be gay men and lesbians, too.
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