Half of gay and lesbian parents asked ‘invasive questions’ about family life, leading to anxiety about not fitting in according to new study

Their children are also subject to negative remarks

Two mums kissing and playing with their baby
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A new study finds gay and lesbian parents are asked invasive questions about their family choices, and find themselves left out of social events organised through school. 

Parents might one day need to talk to their kids about coming out, and there's plenty of support available if you think your child might be LGBTQ+. There's even an LGBTQ+ moment in the kids show Bluey, allowing parents the opportunity to open up conversations about diversity and inclusion with children from a young age.

However, it appears some parents aren't sharing these important messages with their children, and are still prejudiced themselves. For School Diversity Week running between June 24 - 28, LGBTQ+ young people's charity Just Like Us surveyed 1,012 LGBTQ+ parents across the UK about their experience of school and family life, with their final report containing some worrying findings. 

Adding context to the findings, the report opens by saying "There are 217,000 same-sex couple families in the UK as of 2022 (up 1256% from 16,000 in 1996). Roughly, that equates to six children from LGBT+ families in every nursery/school.

At the same time, the UK has fallen behind on progress to equality, dropping 17 places in the ILGA rankings since 2014. As more children grow up in LGBT+ families, discrimination and hate crime are on the rise again." ILGA is International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, responsible for ranking the countries in Europe on their LGBTI equality laws and policies.

The report found over half (56%) of lesbian and gay parents face negative comments about their families, with 42 per cent of their children experiencing remarks about having LGBT+ parents. In particular, lesbian mums face invasive questions about how their family came to be, and 39 per cent have been asked invasive questions such as ‘strangers asking about their child’s sperm donor.’

"Lesbian mums face invasive questions about how their family came to be, and 39 per cent have been asked invasive questions such as strangers asking about their child’s 'sperm donor.'"

When it comes to schools, school bullying is both a huge worry  and reality for LGBT+ parents. Half of lesbian and gay parents (48%) worry their child will be bullied because they have LGBT+ parents, while a quarter (23%) of lesbian and gay parents say their children have felt ‘upset or hurt by negative comments at school about LGBT+ people’. 

Sadly, a quarter (24%) of those surveyed say their children have been ‘left out of social arrangements' because they are from a LGBT+ family, and the consensus appears to be that schools aren't doing enough to promote inclusion - 15 per cent say they have been treated differently by their child’s school because of their LGBT+ identity and one in 10 LGBT+ parents (10%) report feeling ‘let down by my child’s school not being LGBT+ inclusive’. 

Mum-of-one Rachel, identifies with some of the findings. She shares "My job is more flexible than my wife's, so I took on the school runs when our daughter started school. I was wary about sharing our family circumstances because of anxiety over how other parents would react. Most people were lovely when I told them my 'partner' was my wife, and we haven't found that we as a couple, or our daughter have been left out of events.

But, I really identify with being asked inappropriate questions. It's like all social norms and filters drop, and people don't hesitate before asking 'how?' about my wife getting pregnant. This is certainly not a question you'd ask heterosexual couples, and I have to bury my anger every time I politely explain that's a question we shouldn't have to answer."

Speaking about the report, Just Like Us CEO Laura Mackay, said "Just Like Us works with more than 7,000 schools, supporting them in their journey to becoming fully inclusive to both pupils who identify as LGBT+ and/or come from an LGBT+ family. 

Our work with primary schools focuses on celebrating diverse families, introducing LGBT+ inclusive children’s stories, and helping young people understand allyship. This important report sheds light on the vital challenges that remain for helping all educational settings become more inclusive to LGBT+ families and young people." 

For more on diversity and inclusion, trans children are thought to be 'let down' by the NHS amid the gender identity debate, and we share thoughts on Conservative plans for teaching gender identity in schools. TikTok duo and gay parent Stuart and Francis share insight into life as same-sex parents and their surrogacy journey. 

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and moms.com. In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.