LGBT+ single parents

Date last updated: 1 February 2019

Information for LGBT+ Single Parents

Single parents can face many challenges – however, LGBT+ single parents may also face additional difficulties that they need support with. This page looks at issues that may be of particular relevance to single parents that are LGBT+. This includes, but is not exclusive to, single parents who identify as:

  • Lesbian, gay, or bisexual
  • Queer
  • Transgender
  • Intersex
  • Non-binary
  • Asexual


LGBT+ Parenting

Discussing your identity with your children

Communication about your LGBT+ identity with your child can be important for their wellbeing. Children are very intuitive and likely to realise that their family has differences to those of their friends, which can create feelings of confusion and distress. This can be especially true if you have separated from your partner due to ‘coming out’.

The best approach to this is open communication with your children to help them understand that while your family life may be different to others, it is simply another kind of family.

Some useful talking points to consider are:

  • Your LGBT+ identity and story
  • Your family, and how it may be different to their friends’ families
  • How there are different kinds of love and family, but all are valid
  • Discrimination and prejudice, including why these are wrong and why they are not your child’s fault if they experience them.

Of course, it’s important to take into account your child’s age and how much information is appropriate to them. Talking about these issues in small doses on a regular basis is likely to do more to reassure them than one long discussion.

You may also want to discuss this with other parents and contact your child’s school to see if they would be willing to discuss some of these topics in class. Stonewall provide educational resources for use by primary and secondary schools.

Bullying

Some LGBT+ parents are concerned that their LGBT+ identity may cause their children to be bullied. Unfortunately, homophobic bullying does still occur but there are ways to get help if this is a worry for your children.

Talking with your children about LGBT+ identities and issues as discussed above can help prevent bullying from happening. If your child doesn’t feel like your identity is anything unusual or to be ashamed of, they are less likely to be targeted.

If your child is being bullied, you can find advice and support from BullyingUK and Kidscape.

Childline also provides support for children who are being bullied and want to speak to someone directly.

It’s worth trying to engage with your child’s school about any concerns you have about bullying. Some run classes specifically on how to tackle prejudice and discrimination. A number of organisations that can help with these issues include Stonewall, Diversity Role Models, and Schools Out.

LGBT+ parenting literature

A common challenge for LGBT+ parents is finding books and resources that represent their identities. Below is a list of LGBT+ friendly parenting materials. You can also browse for books by searching for book lists on Goodreads, using tags such as ‘same sex parents’ or ‘diverse families’.

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You might want to share your experiences and get support from friends or other single parents. Joining a group like a Gingerbread friendship group or chatting to other single parents in our online forums can be helpful and supportive.


Working

Flexible working

Flexible working involves asking your employer to change or reduce your working hours so that they fit better with other commitments, including childcare commitments and other needs as a parent. Any employee who has been working for the same employer for 26 weeks or more can ask for these changes. You can read more about this on our flexible working page and on the Working Families website.

Single parents and LGBT+ parents can find it difficult to discuss their parenting needs with their employer, worrying that they will be treated differently. However, you have the same rights as any other parent and your employer has to take your request under consideration. Additionally, if you feel you cannot speak about your parenting needs at work while heterosexual employees can, this could be a form of discrimination.

Workplace Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, it is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you on a number of criteria, including being perceived to be LGBT+. You also cannot be discriminated against for having parenting needs.

Discrimination is divided into four broad types under the act – click below to find out more about each type. You can find out more about workplace discrimination from Citizen’s Advice, or specifically about discrimination against LGBT+ people on Stonewall’s website.

Indirect discrimination

Indirect discrimination is when a workplace policy or practice is applied to everyone, but leaves a particular group at a disadvantage because of their needs.

For example, a company may have a policy never to update employee’s personal details for a training course once it has been completed. While this has few implications for most staff, it indirectly discriminates against trans employees whose official details or preferred name may change.

It has been successfully argued that because women tend to have increased childcare responsibilities nationally, a policy insisting on working long work hours would indirectly discriminate against them based on their sex. Related provisions exist for men but under direct discrimination.

Direct discrimination

Direct discrimination is when an employer treats you differently and worse than someone else because of who you are. There are numerous protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, including representing as LGBT+.

An example of direct discrimination would be if two employees worked in the same position but one was paid less than the other, and the only difference was that the person being paid less identified as LGBT+.

Fathers cannot claim indirect sex discrimination for childcare reasons because they are not commonly associated with childcare responsibilities. However, if a man is not allowed flexible working by their employer when women working in similar positions have been, that could be considered a form of direct sex discrimination.

Harassment

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

It is defined as any unwanted or unwelcome behaviour which is meant to or has the effect of either:

  • violating your dignity, or
  • creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

This behaviour could include jokes, physical behaviour, gestures, written words, verbal abuse, or threats.

Find out more about what you can do about harassment from Citizen’s Advice.

Victimisation

Victimisation is when you are badly treated because you have complained about discrimination or tried to help someone suffering from discrimination. Victimisation is illegal under the Equality Act 2010 and it is possible to take legal action if you are subject to victimisation.

You can find out more about workplace discrimination from Citizen’s Advice.


Parental responsibility

A person who has parental responsibility for a child has the right to make decisions about their upbringing. You can read more about this on our parental responsibility page.

As a LGBT+ parent, you should have parental responsibility for your child. However how you obtain it will vary depending on your circumstances.

Legal parents

A child can have two legal parents who both have parental responsibility. You are a legal parent if you are the child’s birth mother, or if you are named on the child’s birth certificate or their adoption certificate.

Donor insemination

If your civil partner or wife conceived a child after 6th April 2009 through artificial insemination, both you and your partner are the child’s legal parents and therefore have parental responsibility. This is true regardless of whether the donor is anonymous or known to you.

If two women are in a relationship but are not married or in a civil partnership both mothers can gain parental responsibility through signing the election forms at the donor clinic before the child is conceived.

If the child was conceived before 6th April 2009, you do not automatically have rights to the child and will have to pursue one of the options below.

Non-birth mothers

If you are a woman who is married or in a civil partnership with the birth mother you can gain parental responsibility by signing an agreement with the birth mother. This agreement may be a parental responsibility arrangement or a parental responsibility order. Find out more on our page on parental responsibility.

If you are a woman in a relationship with the birth mother but are not married or in a civil partnership, you can gain parental responsibility by being named jointly with the mother as a person with whom the child lives with under a child arrangements order. You could also consider a step-parent adoption.

Other circumstances

If none of the above circumstances apply to you, you can still acquire parental responsibility through either a parental responsibility arrangement or a parental responsibility order.

You can find out how to apply for these on our page on parental responsibility.

Tips from LGBT+ single parents

Talk about your family to help prevent bullying

We talk about families a lot, we try to give (my daughter) the language to talk about having lesbian parents. It’s likely at some point she’ll get bullied for something, but we want to make sure she feels strong enough in her identity and the complexity of her identity to be able to say ‘this is who I am, deal with it’, rather than it being a source of vulnerability.

Mum

Talk to your children's school

In nursery they completely missed the opportunity on mother’s day and they sent my daughter home with only one gift. The next year I contacted the school before to say please let her make two things, she has two mothers.

Mum, 2 children

Talk about your donor

We’ve always talked about ‘donor dad’, that he’s someone who helped us out to make you.

Mum, 2 children

Talk about your family

We talk about people have different families a lot, saying you’ve got two mummies but we’re not married anymore, we don’t live together.

Mum, 2 children

Stonewall

Stonewall campaigns for the equality of LGBT+ people across Britain. They provide support and advice on a range of topics affecting LGBT+ people.

Contact Stonewall

Mind (LGBTQ Page)

Mind is a national charity which provides advice and support around mental health. Their LGBTQ webpage provides useful information and tailored signposting towards useful organisations.

Find out more