'Gayby Boom' Fueled by Same-Sex Parents

Post-1980s children of gay parents thrive in school and a more open society.

ByABC News
August 2, 2009, 6:31 AM

Aug. 3, 2009— -- In 1994, Daddy Dave and Daddy Bob prepared 5-year-old Elizabeth Wall for the first day of kindergarten in New Jersey, meeting with the principal in advance to ease her transition as the daughter of two gay men.

They never learned until years later how insensitively the school reacted to their unconventional family, according to Wall, now 20 and a sociology major at The College of Wooster in Ohio.

"They had never had gay parents before," Wall told ABCNews.com. "It's funny, after the principal met with them, he went to the faculty and said, 'Who wants to take her?'"

Fortunately one teacher, who later became a close friend, volunteered and took the little girl under her wing in the classroom, but for years Wall was careful about only telling close friends that she had two fathers.

"Obviously I was different and didn't have a mom," she said. "We are living in a world that treats our families differently. It can be isolating and challenging."

Wall is one of a growing number of children, who affectionately call themselves "gaybies" or "queer spawn." Born after the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, they are now reshaping the American family.

Of the 270,000 children living with same-sex parents, about 65,000 are adopted. Most, like other Americans, are in two-child families.

"It's amazing how many of us there are," said Wall, who is working this week as a counselor with the organization COLAGE, or Children of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere, at its Family Week in Provincetown, providing children of same-sex families with support.

Just under one percent of all couples in the U.S. -- or 594,391 people -- identify themselves as gay, lesbian or transgender, and about 20 percent of them are raising children under the age of 18, according to the Williams Institute, an organization that advances sexual orientation law and public policy.

Having children is made possible through reproductive technology such as egg or sperm donation and surrogacy. Many, like Wall's parents, choose to adopt. About four percent of all adoptive parents are same-sex couples.

"Anecdotally, we are hearing a lot of stories about what is being called the 'gayby boom,' same-sex couples having children," said Naomi Goldberg, a public policy fellow at the Williams Institute.

"They are shattering the stereotypes that gay men don't want kids," she told ABCNews.com. "They want the same thing straight couples want."

Television personality Rosie O'Donnell first brought gay parenting to light in the mid-'90s and since then, same-sex families have gained growing acceptance in a predominantly heterosexual society.

Today, gay marriage is legal in six states. And for the first time in history, the 2010 census will include data from same-sex marriages, unions and partnerships, bringing gay families out of the demographic closet.

But families like the Walls say it's been a long, hard road to gain societal approval.

In 1989, at five days old, Elizabeth Wall was adopted by David Wall and Bob Houck (though Houck would not get legal custody until 1994) as part of the first major wave of children adopted by gay couples.

Prior to that, children who lived in same-sex households were from straight, divorced parents.