We know that many of you who are looking for support through our chat, phone line, groups, and consultations with a therapist, often ask yourselves whether it’s possible for LBGTI people to raise families in Bulgaria, to bring up children and provide them the best possible environment to grow up in.
This is the story of Elena, a mother, and partner in a same-sex family. Read how Elena and the group of parents, whom she organized, could be of help with the specific questions you have about LGBTI families.
My name is Elena.
I am a middle-aged woman. I go to work, do sports and have hobbies. I am someone’s daughter, sister, colleague, and neighbour. I am a woman like any others you encounter in your daily life.
I am writing this as a parent – the most important role in my life.
We have two kids, a 22-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy, who was brought to this world with tons of love and devotion. I am raising the kids with my partner. This is a huge challenge in Bulgaria.
Our same-sex family goes through its domesticities, highs and lows, like every other Bulgarian family. Sometimes we are unable to overcome the difficulties that arise because they are rooted in the lack of appropriate legislation in our country. Legal complications aside, our life carries on like that of any other family that raises children in Bulgaria. We are very socially engaged and we often create or participate in different campaigns. The people around us see us for our personal qualities, not the structure of our family. This is the reason we have many friends and we are well accepted in society.
Before we made the decision to have a second child, we discussed extensively the problems and difficulties it might have. Whether society will accept it like any other child or punish it for its family. We read plenty of materials from countries where there are official statistics on the life and health of children in same-sex families. We received the support of friends and family. That’s how we made the decision.
Our children have grown up to be socially aware, responsible, and, most importantly, happy. We do our best to raise them as individuals and full-fledged members of society.
A couple of years ago our son became aware of the differences between our family and his buddies’ families. He felt different. This was a concern to us and we took it upon ourselves to help him.
I began getting in touch with other LGBTI families. Soon I formed a group and we began to meet. Occasionally we would bring our children on playdates. This helped our son, who shortly after the first meeting became less troubled and more confident. The subject of his family’s make-up was no longer confusing for him, no matter what anyone said. When you make the decision to become a parent, you become responsible for a vulnerable human being. You need to provide the best care for his physical and mental wellbeing. When you make the decision to become a parent, you need to be filled with love to give to your child without reservation. Children cannot do without love.
People need help and support at every stage of their life. Having a child is a very serious step. For LGBTI people this single step often comes with many fears and complications.
The LGBTI families in the group came together in our desire to help everyone who wants to become a parent, but has lots of questions and fears and doesn’t know where to start. We want to give hope to LGBTI people who dream of having a child, and for them to understand that it is not only possible, but that they can have a calm, happy, and meaningful life.
Homosexuality is not a choice, it cannot be taught, instilled or changed. Sexuality is expressed during puberty. In the past, homosexual people resisted their nature and concealed their sexuality. They often lead a lonely life or they formed families in a socially accepted manner. In both cases, they were extremely unhappy. In recent decades more and more LGBTI people have publicly come out in search of a better life, one in which they don’t lie to themselves or those around them. Many countries have changed their legislature to accommodate for parents on the LGBTI spectrum.
Sexual orientation and parenting are two different things. You can be a biological parent, but never be a social one and raise a child. You can be heterosexual but unable to have children. You can become a parent for different reasons. Having a child in LGBTI families is possible through regular conception (in the case of trans people), through assisted reproduction, adoption or surrogacy (in countries where the practice is legal).
There are socially embedded stereotypes according to which the man has to be muscular, act tough, have a lower voice, behave and be occupied in particular ways in his day-to-day life. As for women, they need to be gentle, seductive and also be behave and occupy themselves in socially accepted ways.
These gender stereotypes are not connected to sexuality. There are heterosexual women that like short haircuts, do boxing, drive a motorbike and their movements aren’t elegant. There are heterosexual men that have slender figures, take care of their appearance, are more extravagant and graceful. These types of people can be in a heterosexual family, have children and be totally unaware that they don’t fall into society’s stereotypes. It is possible for the gentler man to have a wife that acts tougher and is dominant in the relationship. Sometimes women are better than men at household handiwork and men are better cooks than their wives.
The same thing applies to gay couples. There are both tougher and gentler LGBTI people. Some have skills that are seen as masculine, others – skills that are seen as feminine. There are no assigned roles between partners in both the intimate and day-to-day sphere.
If we take as an example a gay couple who is raising a child, both parents are dads. No-one plays the role of the mother.
Asking overly private questions to satisfy your curiosity is always in bad taste. No-one asks a heterosexual couple how they had their child. Sometimes the situation in LGBTI families is very complicated and prefer not to discuss it in details.
Sometimes children are brought up by a single parent. In Bulgaria most common are single mothers and very often the grandma is also involved in raising the child. This is a same-sex family structure. You need to have in mind that the child isn’t deprived of anything. It will find a role model in a relative, teacher or a friend of the family. This way the child doesn’t grow up deprived.
Same-sex families often consciously look for someone of the opposite gender, who the child can recognize as a role model.
The child can also be bullied for being overweight or because it wears glasses. Children’s behavior mimics their parents’ behavior. If adults were to show the acceptance of differences as something normal and teach their children so, there wouldn’t be any excessive aggression between children and harassment based on existing differences.
A child, conceived with the help of donor, has much lower chances of being ill or being affected by genetic diseases. Donors go through many detailed interviews and tests. All the information about their health condition, along with that of their family and relatives, is described in their file, to which you’re allowed access.
People with immoral and promiscuous behaviour can be heterosexual just as they can be homosexual. When thinking about ‘homosexuality’, heterosexual people associate this type of relations only with sex. LGBTI people build their system of values like heterosexual people – during childhood and in a family setting.
This advice will only harm the child. First, being taught to lie is harmful to its value system. Second, the contradiction “we’re family at home, but not outside” is confusing to the child. How come you’re its parent in one place, but not in another?
By hiding who you are from your child, you are voluntary going back in the closet, where people lived decades ago. The child loves its parents. The parent’s sexual orientation doesn’t affect the amount of love, acceptance, and respect.