LGBTQ+ single parents
Date last updated: 1 July 2022
Information for LGBTQ+ Single Parents
Some single parents identify as LGBTQ+, including, but not exclusive to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, non-binary, or asexual parents.
This page looks at issues that may be of particular relevance to LGBTQ+ single parents or where extra information may be helpful, such as parental responsibility and workplace rights. You may find this helpful in addition to other single parent information.
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 single LGBTQ+ parent, how you gain parental responsibility heavily depends on your circumstances. Below is an overview of routes to parental responsibility. For a more detailed explanation of the legal options available to you, see the NGA Law Knowledge Centre.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Discussing your identity with your children
Communication about your LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ 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.
Some LGBTQ+ parents are concerned that their LGBTQ+ identity may cause their children to be bullied. Homophobic bullying is a serious problem, but there are ways to get help if this is a worry for your children.
Talking with your children about LGBTQ+ 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.
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.
LGBTQ+ parenting literature
A common challenge for LGBTQ+ parents is finding books and resources that represent their identities. Below is a list of LGBTQ+ 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’.
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 LGBTQ+ 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.
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 LGBTQ+. You also cannot be discriminated against for having parenting needs or for being a single parent.
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 LGBTQ+ people on Stonewall’s website.
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 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 a LGBTQ+ person.
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 LGBTQ+.
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 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 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.
Tips from LGBTQ+ 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.
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