Every day at work as a doctor and at home as a parent, I am taught something all good footy coaches know: it’s what’s between your ears that matters most! There currently seems to be a lot of talk about what you need between your legs to be allowed to marry, when really we need to devote our attention to the brain.
The brain is the organ of greatest significance for human relationships and wellbeing. It’s the organ I’ve studied most in my training as an expert in the mental health of parenthood. And it’s the organ that will change at least slightly in each of us when we finally enshrine marriage equality as a society.
I am confident these brain changes will be positive for our children.
It’s about emotional safety, grounded in the best that brain science and clinical practice has taught me so far.
Emotional safety is the security of knowing your family – whoever is in it – will keep you physically safe, because your emotions tell you you are safe enough in that family. Life is so much less stressful that way, and people are much healthier in body and mind. I’ve trained as a psychiatrist, and that’s what my work is about.
I ask parents daily: can you think about what you and your child feel? Can you keep your child in mind? Can you ensure you act, both alone and in connection with other adults, to ensure your child feels safe and loved enough?
If so, your child will more likely feel respect for their humanity and their basic rights. They can be celebrated just for existing. They can be supported to learn from mistakes made amid the mess of daily human life. Crucially, they are not abused.
That is emotional safety.
At its core I think this marriage equality issue comes down to whose emotional safety matters more. Opponents of change seem to fear a breakdown in social fabric, and a loss of the emotional safety offered by tradition. Proponents of change fear ongoing loss of emotional safety steeped in millennia of persecution. Any resulting vitriol from either side speaks volumes about underlying fear – ad hominem attacks amid emotional danger.
For guidance amongst this complexity, I look to our babies.
I think of their emotional safety.
Our society is coming to accept the science of infant mental health: for us to survive and thrive we must put babies’ wellbeing first.
Ahead of everything else. All babies.
To put all babies born today first, and not some babies ahead of other babies, we simply have to grow as a society to welcome and respect diversity.
I don’t want to have to raise my children worrying about how the world will treat them if they are LGBTIQ. I want a world where it doesn’t matter whether my kids feel male or female or something else. Where it doesn’t matter if my kids like boys or girls or have moved past all that binary stuff and just want somebody who gets them.
The rest is noise. It’s noisy out there right now, but it will pass. My kids will be valued for who they are, and I’ll go to work with others striving to provide that for all our kids. Eventually the law will catch up. Childhood will be less stressful as a result, and our society healthier.
To finish, here are three predictions about the lasting effects of marriage equality, based on my observations as a father and a doctor with experience of hundreds of young families as well as my own.
1. Children who are born and grow up LGBTIQ will have less stressful lives from the outset.
Because they will grow up free of the looming deprivation of the right accorded their peers, to marry someone some day. Marriage equality helps recognise them as full humans, so all domains of life are likely to be less stressful for them.
2. Children born to LGBTIQ parents will have less stressful lives from the outset.
Because more people will have moved on from worrying about whether their parents’ relationship is unallowable or harmful. Fewer people will judge or mistreat them. Bullies take their cues from their seniors, and fear being left out. Once bullies see everyone else has moved on, they will have to tag along too.
3. All other children will be born into a more tolerant society, and have less stressful lives from the outset.
Because marriage equality leads the way towards treating all human difference with compassion and respect. So kids born with any kind of difference will receive more compassion and respect. The rest of our kids will grow from treating others with more compassion and respect. And all our kids will grow more securely, in less fear of the possibility that they could be different from others. We will all worry less about being different from others, and get on with life.
As always, I am grateful to the friends and colleagues who have helped me think and write about this.
20 thoughts on “Yes to Marriage Equality – for All Our Kids”
Thank you! Tolerant people like you makes me feel less stressful 🙂
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You’re welcome. It’s good to know these words are out there reducing stress for someone. That’s the aim!
Positive messages to influence positive narratives that gender and sexually diverse people can find comfort in at a time when so many more messages about being lesser in some way have to be contended with! Thank you, indeed!
A wonderful article, thank you
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I notice that in your analysis, that in my view, is not a balanced assessment. What about growing up in a traditional nuclear family and also having a role model of both sexes. This marriage proposal is about ‘normalising’ an alternate lifestyle and indeed has the potential to do much damage to children. As a past assessor of young people at work I have seen the damage of single parent homes and believe that it will confuse children. Their is a positive effect of a male teacher in my g/sons school of mostly female teachers. And where do the children of tomorrow come from? A test tube. But I have no problem with the current very understanding arrangements in society. What is their problem.
What is also ignored is that IVF humans, created in a petri dish, will have effects that cannot be known until they and any children they might produce, although that seems unlikely, have also grown up to live relatively healthy lives. We have another 50 years to go before we know that.
Effects may be minor but there will be effects. No human created through a process which uses synthetic hormones to force a woman’s body to produce multiple eggs, which are then stored in form and ways impossible in nature, and where a weak sperm who cannot do the job in nature, in fact the egg selects the sperm in nature, is forced into an egg and the whole lot is bathed in more synthetics to encourage conception, and then stored for a while more and then the fertilised egg is forced into the lining of a womb, probably not biologically connected, can ever be as robust as humans created naturally.
These IVF humans are likely to have much poorer health, including psychological and shorter lives. One wonders how the parents doting and clucking over their cute babies, purchased like ice-cream flavours, will feel when the reality of a lifetime of a troubled or sickly adult child appears.
On the contrary IVF will lead to a generation of super humans since we are on the cusp of technology that will predict everything from the IQ to the height to the emotional temperament of the child based on genetics and we will select the most superior foetus to implant. Over a few generations of selective breeding these super humans will have a 160 IQ and rule society. This will also lead to a permanent under class of people who can’t afford IVF who are essentially unemployable due to being so far inferior to the IVF generation.
Fred747, if you think that human life can be reduced to synthetic hormones, petri dishes, freezers and syringes you have no understanding of biology or reality.
Apart from which, indicators as the first IVF adults reach their thirties is that they have higher rates of mental illness and poor health and of course, sterility. Nature has her rules and human meddling will have outcomes. Let us hope they are minor but since we will not know for another half a century, your faith is a leap of faith.
And the world you see is so 1984 Orwellian it is horrendous. Of course all human bodies have a soul, who no doubt has chosen the experience, but artificially conceived human beings will never be as robust as those conceived naturally. It just isn’t possible. Sure naturally conceived sometimes have problems but no system is perfect and arrogant scientists with their ignorant mechanics may have laid the foundation for much suffering and misery.
Dear Doctor Matthew Roberts,
I read your excellent article in the ABC news. Thank you. It is much needed and timely in these seemingly polarising times.
The 3 positive points made provide an open window to the possible benefits that the whole human family can enjoy if we can somehow look at our inherited beliefs, see them for what they are (stories heard with our ears as children) lay our differences aside and begin to “see” and treat each other as the truely divine souls that we are.
Thank you and Blessings
Since we know children suffer from not having a father in their lives, how much more will they suffer from not having a mother. And these are not mothers or fathers who have died or left, these are fathers or mothers who are considered irrelevant by those who raise them, and who seek to overturn human biological and evolutionary reality to suit their own selfish needs.
Every human has a biological mother and father or they could not exist. That reality is part of who we are as human beings whether or not we have had to find surrogates for them in our lives. Same-sex couples who are foolish enough to not include the biological life-donor, whether egg, sperm or womb, in their child’s life, or to provide a constant surrogate for the missing gender, are guilty of negligence. And when those children grow up, perhaps not until the rubber really hits the road in their Forties, possibly of criminal negligence.
A woman learns possibly more about being a woman from her father and a man learns more about being a man from his mother. Take these out and you have children living in unnatural and distorted environments because no man, no matter how mothering he might be, can ever be a mother and no woman, no matter how fathering she might be can ever be a father.
Mother and father for all of us are far more than the physical reality in most of our lives. They are mythic, metaphorical, symbolic figures for all of humanity and for those denied them in their lives, they will no doubt gain power as denied shadow parents.
We know the harm done from denying adoptees access to and knowledge of biological parents and siblings, and he were go in a cruel experiment, pretending that two men or two women are the equal of a man and a woman when they are not and never can be.
And don’t come up with love is enough because it is not. If love were enough then few marriages would fail, it would be rare for a child to grow up damaged and the sick would always be healed. Love is not enough.
The best childhood any of us can have is being raised by loving and functional biological parents. Next best is being raised by loving and functional adoptive mother and father. That is second best and anything beyond that is less than second best.
We have a biological, emotional, psychological, spiritual need for a mother (female) and a father (male) to raise us and through whom we can learn to bring about the heiros gamos, the sacred marriage within, whereby we bring into union those aspects called masculine and those called feminine which are in union in every single human being ever born.
That a psychiatrist does not know these simple and powerful realities is even more astonishing. That you know them and deny them is even worse.
Your children must be very young for you to demonstrate such a lack of understanding of children and childhood cultures. Children are not stupid. They know that everyone has a mother and a father, somewhere, and will just feel sorry for kids missing a mum or a dad. Those children will always be different, strange, exceptional because no-one ever has two mothers or two fathers, never, ever, ever. And children can smell such lies a mile off.
We are hardwired to relate to a mother and a father and any study of adoptees or children who have lost a parent shows that. Perhaps you have not researched from that perspective. You should.
Your naive approach to this is no doubt well-intentioned but falls into the realms of fantasy.
Read the book “Antifragile” by Taleb. People don’t actually benefit from having everything easy. People grow from adversity. The idea that babies lives being less stressful is some unequivocal win is scientifically absurd. So called emotional safety is leading to a generation of emotional cripples, the equivalent of people who’ve never got out of bed to exercise their muscles.
Children do not benefit from having everything too easy. You are correct. But they do benefit from boundaries, sensible rules and discipline and a degree of order. The natural order is to have a mother and a father or an enduring surrogate for the missing gender parent. Everything else is an experiment with a human life.
Sensible same-sex parents will ensure their child knows about any absent biological parent, egg, sperm, womb, and has the right to meet them as adults, providing in the meantime a reliable surrogate for the missing mother or father. Those who do not will reap a bitter harvest, to lesser and greater degrees, depending on the nature of the child, and their child will pay the price.
Human life should not be available on order like take-away which is how IVF works. But we live in superficial, ignorant and poorly educated times. However, as you say, challenges make us grow. Let’s hope.
New to Twitter, first comment, and saddened that it is because of your many views and opinions. Have sat here thinking how to respond and really it is so hard to even begin. It does seem clear you don’t really understand IVF. I do because my husband and I walked that walk. I am no expert, I admit that, but at least in Victoria, the last time I was aware the regulations around donating mean at the age of 18, children have the right to information and contact their biological ‘parents’. Many of your comments have stabbed me to the core on so many subjects. I also would like to think that someone who has no idea about the author of this article would not pass personal judgement on them, or others. Argue your opinion, but spare a thought for people and their feelings.
In relation to point 2, the http://lgbtihealth.org.au/statistics/ itself provides alarming statistics on mental health disorders that may be exhibited with those leading a same sex relationship lifestyle and claim “adequately estimating the mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviours for LGBTI populations remains highly challenging” so the numbers are probably much higher.
The stats are over overwhelmingly clear and despite our acceptance of decades long anti discrimination laws and the like, LBGTI individuals are at higher risk than any other demographic of developing depression, anxiety or committing suicide not to mention a range of other health issues and so I cant fathom how this could possibly be a healthy nor an optimal environment for children to be brought up in. And according to the testimony of a young adult on tv recently who grew up with SS parents and pointed out that the gay community are not proud that children from SS families are at a far higher risk of suicide and depression than the general population while my mother who worked as a nurse with gay men having contracted AIDS learned that partner swapping and cheating on partners is quite high within the gay community which in my opinion does not provide the stability that children deserve.
Although I am now in the heterosexual camp my own experience of having had a homosexual relationship has afforded me the opportunity to understand that a same sex relationship will never provide the same personal growth that a heterosexual relationship can because SS is easier and doesnt shape a person the same way, where as HS has more challenges but is therefore more rewarding. A child who is naturally exposed to a family that is enjoying a richer experience should be able to learn more broadly and have more resilience in their own right whereas having a friend, relative or the biological Pop Up Mum or Dad once a month just aint gonna provide the best outcomes.
Then there are issues of exposing children to traumatic family experiences should a SS parent need to be hospitalized due to the fact that members of the gay community are within the highest demographic group of contracting, HIV, STI’s and developing anal cancer and its a scientific fact an anus is not as robust as a virgina for the purpose of having sex. These things may happen to straight families as well but the point here is minimization, lowering risk and enjoying overall healthy outcomes.
Also Ive commonly heard of a female become a lesbian because she was deeply hurt by a male relationship. Entering into a relationship with hatred and unforgiveness towards males is not a healthy base from which to form any relationship let alone parent a child.
As for point 3 the way our society is coining the phrase tolerance is really just demanding ignorance and giving up basic human rights to have an opinion that may not want to be heard by another for fear of offending or criticising ones behaviours or beliefs. Reducing ones freedom to speak their mind will lead to more anger, resentment and frustration as well as water down individuals capabilities to exercise and act upon critical thinking. Tolerance and love is just a small part of what constitutes a normal (non gay) and healthy relationship.
In closing homosexuality is a broken life style, it doesnt sustain life nor produce it, I know, I lived through it.
Are you Dr Matthews Robert a gay man? It looks like that you are and you are using in a very lamentable way your knowledge of psychology for the defence of a lost cause.