Psych Department will speak on LGBT issues within families

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Story by Mikayla MarshallStaff writer

The Dr. and Mrs. Gary Brummer Colloquium Series presents Rachel Farr on “The kids are all right,” on March 29. Farr will present in the Wrather West Kentucky Museum Auditorium from 7-8 p.m.     

The talk will discuss child development and family dynamics in adoptive families with lesbian and gay parents.

Farr is an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, where she directs the Families, Adoption and Diversity (FAD) Lab. Her work involves research related to diverse family systems and issues of adoption through the lenses of developmental and community psychology. She also researches how issues of race, gender and birth family contact are relevant in adoptive families. 

She started her work in graduate school and built a network of lesbian and gay parents across the United States who were willing to have her observe interactions in the home.

“It’s really cool because so often a lot of the research is just a survey, and this has a lot more external validity,” said Eric Smith, assistant professor of psychology.

He said he expects her data will show that kids with lesbian and gay parents will be on an equal playing field as kids with heterosexual parents. It will challenge the notion that kids who grow up in that environment will become gay themselves or be at risk for psychological harm.

Smith said Farr challenges people and has solid data to back up her claims.

“I could see where some people might think the topic is too forward-thinking, but that’s the direction we’re headed in,” said Mary Kathryn Curtis, freshman from Mayfield, Kentucky.

She said she would like to hear Farr speak and present new data on the topic.

The Williams Institute at the University of California conducted a study in 2013 that estimates as many as 6 million American children and adults have an LGBT parent.

“The hardships that are placed on families today that either have an LGBT person at top of the household or as one of the children are very real; there’s still the cultural barriers,” said Jody Cofer Randall, coordinator of LGBT Programming.

She said this is a very relevant topic, especially considering Senate Bill 180, which could have a negative impact on a lot of people, not just LGBT individuals. Lawmakers have said that the bill could interfere with interracial couples and businesses refusing to serve them. She said it could negatively affect daily lives.

Even though studies have shown that there is no psychological harm caused when LGBT parents raise a child, legislation still struggles with allowing those individuals to adopt. Most studies, like the Williams Institute study, show that the most important thing is for children to have two parents in the household. Farr’s talk will continue to support these parents and their right to adopt.

Cofer Randall said that Murray State is a safe place for LGBT individuals, but there is still work to be done regarding policies.

“The policies weren’t written to exclude those students but they weren’t meant to include them either,” Cofer Randall said.

She said she is excited about the data Farr will be presenting.