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The Kids Are All Right Resource Guide

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The film is a moving account of a family with two moms, a son and a daughter. When the children make contact with their donor, the dynamics of the family are challenged.

Focus Features (2010)

The film is a moving account of a family with two moms, a son and a daughter. When the children make contact with their donor, the dynamics of the family are challenged.

The GLAAD Resource Guide for The Kids Are All Right includes talking points on the film, parenting and donor insemination; stories of LGBT families and their experiences with donor insemination; and the response to the film.

Talking Points

Terminology:

  • Use parents or gay and lesbian parents.
  • Use families or gay and lesbian families.
  • Please do not refer to donors as Dads.
  • Use the phrase donor insemination instead of artificial insemination. Children consider those who love them family. To label their conception artificial diminishes the reality of their lives.

About the Film

  • Different family configurations exist all over the country—Same-sex couples raising children live in 96% of all counties nationwide in the United States. (2000 U.S. Census analyses by the Urban Institute and Human Rights Campaign)
  • Just as with straight families, same-sex families experience a diverse range of experiences. The story presented in The Kids Are All Right is a reality faced by some families, but can’t be expected to represent all families. It is a poignant story of a family that is strengthened by their challenges and emerges intact.
  • People should get to know the real life stories of families who have experienced donor insemination so they can understand the diversity in same-sex parenting experiences.
  • From the onset of the film, the Jules character (played by Julianne Moore) and Nic (played by Annette Bening) are shown to be a loving long-term couple that have raised a strong, well-adjusted pair of siblings, Joni and Laser.
  • Joni and Laser wanted to meet their donor, however, many children of couples conceived through donor insemination never develop a desire to know their donors, The film represents the reality for this family and there are thousands of other families whose stories we’d like to see reflected in film.
  • Key quote from Julianne Moore: “What’s so interesting about this movie is that it really highlights how important a family is. What a long-term relationship is. What it means to stick it out with somebody; to forgive people’s mistakes; to punish people within your family; to guide them toward growing up and leaving after you’ve been so attached — all of these things. The film is a really interesting exploration of that.”

Donor Insemination:

  • The Kids Are All Right’s release coincides with the coming of age of a generation of people born to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people who chose to have children while being out about their sexuality.
  • Many donor-conceived people with LGBTQ parents have come to realize that their difference is their strength. Indeed, the many unique aspects to being conceived through donor insemination allow one to experience family in interesting and fun ways.
  • Often donor-conceived people born to LGBTQ parents do not see family as simply people who are genetically related to them, allowing them to have more expansive families.
  • Donor-conceived people with LGBTQ parents who are able to meet their donor express how they enjoy discovering which of their traits were given to them genetically and which were the result of how they were raised.
  • Many people with open identity donors embrace having the opportunity to obtain their donor’s contact information when they are 18.
  • An open identity donor is a donor who donates his sperm with the expectation that his identity and contact information will be released when children born with his sperm turn 18. Despite a sperm bank’s best efforts, it is not always possible to meet a donor. Most sperm banks do not guarantee a person can meet their donor, but will release his contact information to you.
  • For those people with open identity donors who have decided they definitely want to meet their donor, talking about this desire with parents can be challenging. Often donor-conceived youth may feel hesitant to meet their donor because they do not want to hurt their parents’ feelings. Having parental support can be important when going through the process of meeting a donor. Parents are going to have varying feelings about their child meeting his or her donor.

www.colage.org/programs/art

    (Source: COLAGE) Please visit to order a copy of the organization’s Donor Insemination Guide

Parenting

  • What challenges do kids of LGBT parents face?—Most "problems" that kids of LGBT parents face actually stem from the challenges of dealing with divorce and the homophobia and transphobia in society rather than the sexual orientation or gender identity of their parents.
  • Parenting is not about getting bogged down in the "how's" of how people become parents or logistics or biology.  Children define family as the people who love them and take care of them. Children don't frame family in terms of biology.
  • Parenting is about taking care of and providing for children and providing children with love and loving homes, stability and security.
  • Lesbian and gay parents, like straight parents, read bedtime stories, drive their children to soccer practice, help with homework and put band-aids on skinned knees.

The Children
(Source: COLAGE.org)

  • As of 1990, 6 million to 14 million children in the United States were living with a gay or lesbian parent. (National Adoption Information Clearinghouse, a service of the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.)
  • There is absolutely no evidence that children are psychologically or physically harmed in any way by having LGBT parents. There is, however, much evidence that shows that they are not.
  • People with LGBT parents have the same incidence of homosexuality as the general population, about 10%. No research has ever shown that LGBT parents have any affect on the sexuality of their children. (Patterson, Charlotte J. 1992)
  • Research claims that children with LGBT parents are exposed to more people of the opposite sex than many kids of straight parents. (Rofes, E.E., 1983, Herdt, 1989)
  • Studies have shown that people with LGBT parents are more open-minded about a wide variety of things than people with straight parents. (Harris and Turner, 1985/86)
  • Daughters of lesbians have higher self-esteem than daughters of straight women. Sons are more caring and less aggressive. (Hoeffer, 1981)
  • On measures of psychosocial well-being, school functioning, and romantic relationships and behaviors, teens with same-sex parents are as well adjusted as their peers with opposite-sex parents. A more important predictor of teens' psychological and social adjustment is the quality of the relationships they have with their parents. (National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, 2004)
  • Most "problems" that kids of LGBT parents face actually stem from the challenges of dealing with divorce and the homophobia and transphobia in society rather then the sexual orientation or gender identity of their parents.
  • Same-sex couples raising chidren live in 96% of all counties nationwide in the United States. (2000 U.S. Census analyses by the Urban Institute and Human Rights Campaign)
  • The highest percentages of same-sex couples raising children live in the South. (2000 U.S. Census analyses by the Urban Institute and Human Rights Campaign)

Talking to Children About Alternative Families
(Source: Family Equality Council)

  • Describe your family and the families your child comes in contact withAsk your child what family means to him/her, have the child describe his/her own family and compare and contrast with other families in his/her life, on television, in the movies, and in books.
  • Describe “family” and family rolesOne simple and inclusive definition of a family is the following: a family is two or more people who belong together and care for each other in many ways. Ask your child to describe the caring roles that the different people in your family play for each other. Encourage them to think of the roles they themselves play in your family configuration.
  • Get your child excited about differencesLet them know that difference is normal. Emphasize the similarities and differences between your family and others. Point out the diverse range of family configurations around you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are children with LGBT parents different from children with straight parents?

From the standpoint of child development, there have been several studies done attempting to compare children from straight families with children from LGBT families, especially lesbian-headed families.   Researchers have concluded that sexual orientation of a parent does not have a significant impact on the mental health, coping skills, peer relationships, or general maturation process.   For a detailed summary of the research findings, with bibliography, please consult the website of the American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org/pi/parent.html.

While the research has successfully proven that having a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender parent does not harm a child or prevent them from developing normally, this does not mean that the experience of having queer family is meaningless to who we are as people.   Many people feel that having one or more LGBT parents or guardians has affected some part of their lives: general outlook, relationship to family, attachment to tradition, gender expression and identity, political opinions, religious beliefs, etc.   Although our families are, in many ways, 'just like everyone else's', our unique experiences and perspectives are also a source of pride.  

Are the children of LGBT parents more likely to be LGBT?

About 10% of children with LGBT parents will themselves go on to identify as LGBT.   This is the same as for the general population.   In COLAGE, people who have LGBTQ parents and also identify as LGBTQ are called "2nd Gen," as in second generation.  

Whatever your age, if you are the child of an LGBTQ parent and you identify as LGBTQ, or are questioning our sexuality or gender identities, COLAGE has an email list for you.   Our 2nd Gen community is open to anyone looking for place for community, fun, wisdom, or friendship. 

Gay Parents

  • There are a myriad of reasons why straight couples have children and same-sex couples want children for many of these same reasons.
  • Studies show that children of lesbian and gay parents do just fine, do not experience any adverse effects and are just as healthy and well adjusted as other children.
  • Nearly every credible authority on child health and social services (including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Child Welfare League of America) has determined that a parent's sexual orientation has nothing to do with the ability to be a good parent.

Resources &  Organizations:

Related Issue: Adoption

  • For terminology, please use adoption, not "gay adoption."
  • What is most important is the best interest of the child(ren). Adoption provides forever homes/permanent homes to children.
  • While The Kids Are All Right takes place in California, where it is legal for lesbian & gay parents to adopt, loving same-sex parents in other states often encounter legal obstacles.
  • States, like Florida, for example, denies adoption by gay and lesbian parents.

Stories of Families and Donor Insemination

Articles

Real Life Stories

High Profile Stories

Donor Insemination in Scripted Television Programming

  • The L Word – Tina, played by Laurel Holloman, is impregnated via donor insemination. The story covers how emotional this experience can be as she and her partner Bette, played by Jennifer Beals, wait to see if Tina’s insemination is successful. 
  • A known donor, a good friend from college, inseminates Queer as Folk’s Lindsay. Later, another good friend inseminates Lindsay’s partner Melanie.  Both of the men who are donors are gay. The story represents how the women expanded the view of family. 
  • Brothers & Sisters features gay couple Kevin and Scotty who became fathers via a surrogate mother and donor insemination.
  • Desperate Housewives features Bob and Lee, also a gay couple, who have a baby via donor insemination with a surrogate.
  • Will & Grace’s Jack (Sean Hayes) has a son, Elliot, who he discovers in season three is his biological child, whom he fathered after depositing at a sperm bank several years before.
  • On HBO’s The Wire, African-America couple, Detective Shakima Greggs (played by Sonja Sohn) and her partner conceive via donor insemination.
  • ER featured Dr. Weaver, a lesbian who meets a firefighter on the show. The couple decides to get pregnant via donor insemination, but later when Dr. Weaver’s partner dies, a custody dispute ensues between Dr. Weaver and her partner’s family.
  • The Lifetime movie What Makes a Family features lesbian couple Janine (Brooke Shields) and Sandy (out actress Cherry Jones) decide to have a baby. Sandy gets inseminated and the two have a baby. Later, Sandy dies and Janine has to battle for custody of their child, a reality for many non-biological LGBT parents.

Documentaries

  • Raising Teens from the Viacom owned Logo follows several LGBT parents. One of the couples conceived their child via donor insemination. Similar to the story in The Kids Are All Right, the teenage son Connor has just turned 18 and wants to meet his biological father.
  • Making Grace follows lesbian couple Ann and Leslie in their journey towards becoming parents. Ann gets pregnant from an anonymous sperm donor: http://www.aubinpictures.com/mg/index.html
  • A Family is a Family is a Family: A Rosie O’Donnell Celebration follows several same-sex parents as well as Rosie’s own children, one of which was conceived via donor insemination. HBO official page: http://www.hbo.com/documentaries/a-family-is-a-family-is-a-family-a-rosi...
  • All Aboard! Rosie’s Family Cruise features Rosie O’Donnell and her whole family, and they discuss Vivienne, their daughter conceived via donor insemination. Also features discussions on surrogacy and a lesbian couple looking to start a family: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0421270/
  • Queer Spawn is an award-winning documentary that follows several teens of LGBT parents from across the US. Also documents Family Week in Provincetown, the oldest annual meeting of LGBT families. http://www.amazon.com/Queer-Spawn/dp/B001TO577M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=digital-video&qid=1277933749&sr=8-2

Books

 

Response to the Film

Film was featured at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, opened the Los Angeles Film Festival, Sydney Festival and won the Best Feature Film “Teddy” Award at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival

Village Voice:  “The Kids Are All Right presses lightly on some key chattering-class pressure points…it says something about the mainstreaming of gay culture when a man is turned away from the front door of a lesbian home not because he's straight or because he's a man, but because his heedlessness has threatened the integrity of a family, and a marriage.”
http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-06-29/film/lisa-cholodenko-s-traditional-lesbian-domestic-comedy-the-kids-are-all-right/

NY Times: "The larger point, perhaps, is that it is not a contradiction for a film to be both out-and-proud and pro-family. And besides, for a pro-family film, the definition of family that emerges is more matter-of-fact and less sentimental than one might imagine. ‘It’s about how much time you’ve spent together,’ Ms. Moore said. ‘That’s what makes a family, not biology, not sexual or political persuasion. It’s just that: time.’ ”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/02/movies/02kids.html

LA Times: “And when the film's couples go at it (either in fighting or in lovemaking), they do so with a frankness that you rarely witness…”
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/la-et-kids-20100617,0,6594994.story

Hollywood Reporter: “An otherwise conventional romantic comedy centering on the mid-life parenting issues of a long-time lesbian couple, this love letter to gay-marriage supporters is respectably entertaining filmmaking…”
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film-reviews/the-kids-are-all-right-film-review-1004062351.story

Variety: “Cholodenko's uncharacteristic degree of comedy (in combination with her unusually high budget) can be understood and to a fair extent applauded as a principled bid to sell alt-family values to the mainstream.”
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117941989.html?categoryid=31&cs=1

Entertainment Weekly: “I don't know what's more delightful — that The Kids Are All Right stars Bening, Moore, and Ruffalo at the top of their games in an irresistible story of lesbian marriage, sperm-donor fatherhood, sex, red wine, and teen angst. Or that this warm, funny, sexy, smart movie erases the boundaries between specialized ''gay content'' and universal ''family content'' with such sneaky authority.”
http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20398294,00.html

Bay Windows, New England: “The film’s only agenda is to have no agenda whatsoever. It doesn’t preach or force liberal propaganda down the throat of Middle America, even with two lesbians at its core. Jules and Nic (Bening) are just two relationship-challenged people trying to make it work. Oh, and they have two kids. No biggie.”
http://www.baywindows.com/index.php?ch=arts&sc=movies&sc2=news&sc3=&id=107430

The Film Journal: “Not that The Kids Are All Right is lightweight. It deals with such universal issues as the importance of family values and slyly, without any soapbox preaching, puts across not just that kids can be all right in same-sex marriages but that same-sex marriage itself can be natural and beautiful.”
http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/news-and-features/features/movies/e3iee6a0d1f3ba0fce7e981ab1df6fc91f1

Julianne Moore on the film:

“I’ve said this a lot, but films don’t influence culture as much as they reflect it. I think the reason we can have a film like this is because these are the kind of families we’re seeing right now; this is not shocking. That said, there was an article on the front page of the New York Times about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and they were saying that repealing that act is a major, major thing because what does change opinion is proximity. That if your next door neighbor is gay, if the person in the unit with you is gay, and suddenly you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’ve been here the whole time and I didn’t know they were gay, they’re just like me!’”

“That’s what changes, that’s what makes people think that this is not other, this is not different. That being said, the fact that the movie presents everything that way is ultimately very helpful. But it’s also generational. My kids are growing up in a world where people have two moms or two dads or two moms or two dads who have split up and re-partnered just like a lot of heterosexual couples. They’re living in a world where all of it is happening. It is not different.”

-The Advocate