A new study finds same-sex couples in the Bronx are more likely to have children than those in any other New York City borough, and, "perhaps more than any county in the country." The new report frames a fascinating feature in this morning's New York Times which interviews a number of gay and lesbian couples raising children in the Bronx. Most of those interviewed are black and Latino, such as Julian Rodriguez, left, and his partner, Joel Jusino.
"I feel more comfortable because the demographic is more what I’m used to, with my neighbors playing dominoes and the Spanish music," says Rodriguez, who has lived in the Bronx almost all of his life and has two daughters from a previous marriage.
There may be as many reasons for same-sex couples to settle in the Bronx as there are same-sex couples there — almost 3,000, according to a demographic snapshot by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. Forty-nine percent of those couples have children. Many said they chose the Bronx for similar reasons as their straight neighbors: affordability, space, racial affinity, familiarity.
The Bronx, home to 11 percent of New York City’s 26,000 same-sex couples — a fraction of the borough’s 1.3 million people spread across 54 square miles — is hardly a gay mecca. Gay and lesbian couples generally do not gravitate there, as they might to neighborhoods perceived to be more gay-friendly, like Park Slope, Brooklyn, or Chelsea in Manhattan. In fact, many say there are fewer support services, and more harassment, in the Bronx than elsewhere.
“The Bronx lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has largely been a hidden community for a very long time because of very real homophobia,” said Lisa Winters, executive director of the Bronx Community Pride Center, the borough’s only community building for gays and lesbians, which opened a decade ago. “The Bronx is a very machismo borough, and it’s a very religious borough. The religious institutions have a very strong foothold here, and they preach from the pulpit that homosexuality is a sin. But the world is starting to change,” she said, “and the Bronx is finally getting in line.”
Julian Rodriguez is a manager at the Bronx Community Pride Center and grew up in the South Bronx in a family of Dominican immigrants. His coming out story is very interesting. It's also revealing to hear the story of Carmen Quinones, a lesbian, a recovering addict and a substance abuse counselor with four children who says rocks and bottles were thrown at her as a teenager.
The mainstream media and the larger gay media are finally discovering black and Latino gay men and lesbians have been raising children children long before it became popular. Across the nation, black and Latino same-sex couples are "two to three times more likely to have children than white same-sex couples." The Bronx is 83 percent black or Hispanic.
"Media images of gay and lesbian people are very much in the Will & Grace mode — white, male, urban and wealthy," says Gary J. Gates, a demographer and senior research fellow at the Williams Institute. "One of the interesting things this report shows is that in places like the Bronx, absolutely none of those stereotypes hold."