Third of UK lesbian mothers experience homophobia from other parents

Monday, 20 April 2020 07:00 GMT

Children wave rainbow flags as they stand with their same-sex marriage supporting parents at Dublin Castle in Dublin, Ireland May 23, 2015. Irish voters appear to have voted heavily in favour of allowing same-sex marriage in a historic referendum in the traditionally Catholic country, government ministers and opponents of the bill said on Saturday. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Image Caption and Rights Information
During Lesbian Visibility Week, a rare study shows 37% of lesbian mothers had children bullied because of their parents' sexuality

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, April 20 (Openly) - One in three lesbian mothers in Britain has experienced homophobia from other parents, while the same proportion have children who have been bullied for having two mums, according to a rare study of LGBT+ women published on Monday.

The online survey by research firm Kantar of more than 1400 LGBT+ women – one of the largest of its kind – found 37% of lesbian mothers suffered discrimination from other parents, while the same number's children were victimised.

The study offers a rare look at the plight of lesbian mothers in the country, where reported homophobic hate crimes rose 25% in England and Wales in the year to March 2019 and three-fold since same-sex marriage was legalised in 2013.

"I'm actually surprised it wasn't higher," said Linda Riley, the publisher of DIVA magazine, which commissioned the study for Lesbian Visibility Week, celebrated in Britain this week.

"I've got twins and they were bullied at around 10 by a group of other children," Riley told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The number of LGBT+ mothers has risen in Britain as they have gained more rights.

In 2017 the number of female same-sex couples in Britain opting for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) rose by 12%, to 4,463 treatment cycles, whereas the number of straight couples, who had around 68,000 cycles, only rose 2%.

Research into lesbian mothers specifically is rare.

A 2013 paper by the U.S. National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study, a research project running since 1986, found 41% of the children, then aged 17, had experienced discrimination for having lesbian mothers.

Riley recalled parents not allowing their children to attend a birthday party of her twins, now 13, and a phenomenon she called "gay at the gate".

"When you're waiting for the children at the (school) gate, you get passive homophobia. You might not get people shouting at you, but you'll get everybody whispering and pointing at you."

Lesbian Visibility Week aims to raise the profile of LGBT+ women, who often feel shut out of discussions focused around men and gay rights. DIVA's survey found 80% of respondents felt gay and bi men are more visible in public life.

But the age at which LGBT+ women are coming out is falling as acceptance increases. Almost half of the 16 to 24-year-olds surveyed came out before turning 18, versus less than 20% of over-45s.

Related stories

Rise of homophobia in Britain condemned after attacks on lesbian, same-sex couples

Gay fathers face stigma as parents

Rising populism stokes homophobic hate speech across Europe - rights group

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Tom Finn and Hugo Greenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Update cookies preferences