Building new families everday
By Hawwii Gudeta
You do not have to be a heterosexual person to become a parent and start a family. There is an overwhelming amount of support groups throughout the nation that help members of the LGBTQ community become parents. If you are questioning queer parenting there are several options you can look at before you take the next step in parenthood. Presently there are issues surrounding the LGBTQ community in regards to same-sex couples and families.
The LGBTQ Parenting Network and the Sherbourne Health Care Centre is located at 333 Sherbourne St. and has been advocating for gay rights since 2001.
“30 years ago if you were a lesbian that had children in a heterosexual context and you were getting a divorce by taking matters to court; 88 per cent of the time you would loose the custody battle for your children because lesbians were not considered fit parents,” Rachel Epstein said program leader at The LGBTQ Parenting Network.
According to Statistics Canada in 2006 21.2 per cent of Torontonians we reported to be same-sex couples. Approximately 45 per cent of the Canadian population believes that homosexuals should not be parenting children.
“In the courses that we run we look at how and LGBTQ people would be considered unfit parents; so we focus on issues like children being bullied at school because their parents are a same-sex couple or issues like confusion with sexual orientations amongst children of queer parents, we spend time looking at how we can fight back these problems that surround us and we look at positive ways to involve our families, the community, schools and institutions; we analyze ways in which we can self-advocate,” Epstein said.
The LGBTQ Parenting Network recognizes that fact that youth may experience situations where they might be harassed at school because of the sexual orientation of their parents. They do not want this one issue to negatively influence the decision making of parenting in the LGBTQ community.
“Our kids are in schools and growing up in school in can be difficult; there is definitely a vulnerability issue when it comes to being young but for the most part LGBTQ parents are often defended by their children when they experience ridicule or harassment by others because they are aware that having family members of the LGBTQ community does not make them different than other families,” Epstein said.
The LGBTQ Parenting Network has positively grown over the years into a community that actively involves themselves in human right advocacy in the greater Toronto area. The success with their practices has been recognized by the federal government and today their work is included nation-wide to assist with work on human reproduction. The 519 Church Street Community Centre is located near Yonge and Wellesley and also provides programs for members of the LGBTQ community interested in starting a family.
“We have a queer parenting program and a family resource program at our centre and I think it’s important to have programs like these because it allows individuals to sit in groups to talk about their stories and their experiences; the counseling which is a therapeutic process is extremely helpful because it helps individuals identify with their identity as queer individuals,” Howard Shulman said the program leader for counseling and anti-violence at The 519 Church Street Community Centre.