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LGBT people are less likely to have children because of the stigma

Research has confirmed that lesbians, gays and bisexuals are less likely to have children than heterosexuals, mainly due to their expectation of social stigma regarding their parenting

An LGBT couple with children. Illustration:
LGBT couple with children. Illustration:

LGBT rights (lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals) in Israel are the result of a joint gradual process by the Knesset, the government and the courts that began since the repeal of the ban on male intercourse in 1988. In this process, several laws and regulations that created discrimination based on sexual orientation were abolished. However, rights related to personal status and the family unit such as same-sex marriage and parenthood have not yet been fully amended. There are several paths through which LGBT people can start a family in Israel, but in all of them there is discrimination. However, it decreased following the 2021 ruling that recognized the right to surrogacy in Israel for same-sex couples. Until then, many same-sex couples, mainly men, had to go through surrogacy procedures abroad.

Dr. Geva Shankman Lachberg from Reichman University and Dr. Kafir Yifarah from the Rupin Academic Center, expert clinical psychologists, research parenting, aging and mental health among lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGB) and examine their psychological adaptation throughout life.

What is the question? What shapes the desire to parent among lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Israel?

"The surrogacy law intensified the desire for parenthood among the Jewish people, especially those who are not yet parents, and had a psychological effect on those who can no longer realize it, mainly due to their advanced age. Gay men aged 65 and over grew up in a very discriminatory society; Until 1988 there was a ban on male intercourse and homosexuality was even considered a mental disorder. Of course, this had psychological consequences for gays of the older generation - they internalized the negative position that society took towards their sexual orientation and its lack of connection with parenthood. In addition, most of them are not in a relationship, which further reduces the chances of becoming parents. This is a unique group of gays that was formed in a different period, of discrimination, concealment and internalization of negative attitudes, which led to barriers to parenthood. This is how they also developed resilience mechanisms that include psychological flexibility (adaptation to the given reality and its demands and the ability to contain contradictions as a way to deal with mental stress, depression and anxiety)," explains Dr. Yafarah.

According to Dr. Shankman Lachberg, "the aspiration to parenthood and the questions related to it (for example, about maturity, number of children, and what would happen if I had children) preoccupy Jews throughout their lives (even if they have children), especially in Israeli society that sanctifies a birth and is in place First in the fertility rate in the OECD. There is a significant psychological effect here."

In their current study, which is still ongoing, and which won a grant from the National Science Foundation, the researchers sought to examine what shapes the desire to parent among LGBT and heterosexuals in Israel. The project is divided into three studies and samples that represent different strata of the population (from all over the country): the first sample includes about 600 49-18 year olds without children, the second sample includes about 200 55-21 year olds with children (in which the desire for more children is tested) and the third sample includes about - 25 aged 55 and over, Jewish citizens only, with or without children. "We reached out to those who wanted to participate in the research - people who apparently accept themselves and are ready to reveal their sexual orientation. Not everyone is like that. The majority learned to hide their tendency in order to survive," explains Dr. Yafarah.

We reached those who wanted to participate in the research - people who apparently accept themselves and are willing to reveal their sexual orientation. Not everyone is like that. Most have learned to hide their tendency to survive.

The participants of the first and second samples answered questionnaires on the Internet (among other things, they were sent by research assistants through contact on social networks, gay community events, academic institutions and workplaces). There, among other things, they were asked about the desire and intention to parent, the assessment of the chance that it will come true (for the first or second time, if they already have children) and their position regarding the importance of parenting and family. In addition, socio-demographic variables, life satisfaction, psychological flexibility, attachment style (a psychological index that tests the ability to be in a close interpersonal relationship), personality indices and mental health were examined.

"In the first two samples, we hope to get a broad mapping from the participants, which will explain differences in the aspiration to parenthood. Studies have found that Israelis are less aspiring to parent than heterosexuals due to legal and economic barriers and due to the expectation of social stigma regarding their parenthood. We want to re-examine this model and also variables that can reduce the negative consequences of anticipating stigma (such as social support and psychological flexibility) and variables that can exacerbate them (such as depression, which is more present in sexual minorities, insecure attachment and dissatisfaction with life)", notes D" R. Shankman Lechberg.

The participants of the third sample are interviewed by the researchers and research assistants about personal experiences as aging dogs. Among other things, they are asked if they regret not becoming parents or the way they gave birth to children (for example, in a previous heterosexual relationship).

So far, the first sample has confirmed the proposed model - LGBTs are less aspiring to parenthood compared to heterosexuals due to the expectation of stigma regarding their parenthood. At the same time, it was found for the first time that psychological flexibility and life satisfaction can moderate this effect. "This finding can help therapists and policy makers: increasing psychological flexibility and life satisfaction to reduce the gap in parenting aspirations between LGBT people and heterosexuals. Many LGBT people want to be parents and encounter difficulties, which leads to more depression and less satisfaction with life. On the other hand, people with children are happier because parenthood serves as an entrance ticket to the social mainstream and gives meaning to life," the researchers explain.

The second sample data is still being collected. According to Dr. Shankman Lachberg, "We hypothesize that even LGBT people who are already parents will report a lesser desire to have more children compared to heterosexuals due to the discrimination against them and the expectation of stigma regarding parenthood. The bureaucratic and economic barriers remain even after having children - such as surrogacy, adoption, joint parenting and sperm donation - then more social support and psychological flexibility are required. To this day, the desire of the Jewish people to bring more children into the world has hardly been examined, and we want to shed light on this issue."

In the third sample, so far it has been mainly discovered that there is acceptance with the decision to bring - or not to bring children into the world. Regret was mainly expressed about the way the parenting was realized. According to Dr. Yafarah, "many of the old Jewish people went through a unique psychological process that is full of fulfillment and benefits their people - they came out of the closet in front of themselves, their family and society as a whole."

"From the findings of the research so far, it appears that parenting in Israeli society needs to be addressed, the factors that discriminate against minorities in this context and the ways in which discrimination can be reduced (for example, strengthening variables such as social support and life satisfaction and legislation that facilitates accessibility to parenting)," notes Dr. Shankman to screw

According to Dr. Yafarah, "Actually, this is research with applied social implications; It is important for us to make the voices of the minorities heard, especially old Jews who often feel transparent. Therapists and policy makers need to be sensitive to their needs against the background of their unique life path."

Life itself:

Dr. Geva Shankman Lachberg, 44, married to Eran and father to Noam and Maayan (11-year-old twins), lives in Ramat Gan. In his free time he cooks, does sports, and likes to go to theme parks with his children.

Dr. Kafir Yifarah, 38, single, lives in Tel Aviv. In his free time he plays the piano and accordion, does sports, reads, watches movies and plays, and kayaks.

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