Making LGBTQ single parents visible

For LGBT History Month, Community Worker for Outside the Box, Ciara Maguire, writes about their Queer Families project in Glasgow and the often overlooked experiences of LGBTQ single parents


LGBT History Month is a good time to reflect on including different families in all our communities.

We know there have been LGBTQ one parent families across history – but they are still much less supported and celebrated than they deserve.

And with this lack of visibility, many people don’t know about the experiences and brilliance of single LGBTQ parents in our society.

The main challenge I’ve had to deal with is everyone assuming that because you have a child, you must be straight! As a lesbian single parent I felt invisible. It was harder to come out casually because you can’t refer to your girlfriend or wife and let people connect the dots. I felt awkward having to correct people all the time and ended up just not bothering most of the time.

- single parent, Glasgow

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Queer Families is a peer support project for LGBTQ families, running in Glasgow.

We provide a safe space for LGBTQ parents to share their experiences and knowledge without judgement, and many of the parents we work with are single parents.

We spoke to them about their experiences of being LGBTQ single parents, the challenges they face and what services can do to help this.

Being a single parent comes with its challenges, and when you’re an LGBTQ single parent, many of those challenges are compounded.


Here is some of what they told us:

People don’t realise we exist! I’m a single parent and when I asked my son’s school what resources they have on LGBTQ families they told me ‘oh, we don’t need to do that as we don’t have any of those families here’. She was shocked and didn’t know how to respond when I told her I am one of those families!
I was worried about my son being bullied by other kids because I’m gay. He did get some abuse and while I dealt with it with the school, it made me feel isolated because I felt like I couldn’t forge the same friendships with other mums at the school gate – if that’s what their kids are saying in the playground, it made me feel like their parents must be saying it at home.
I found it difficult challenging the school about LGBTQ issues without a partner to back me up. Once, my daughter’s primary school were learning about families and did an activity where the kids all had a pretend wedding – of course only boys and girls getting married. I thought it was so inappropriate but when I complained to the school they didn’t see the issue at all – the heteronormativity is so ingrained it’s hard to challenge.
I’m trans and chose to have my baby alone. I felt like there was definitely a stigma about choosing to be a single parent, and it was compounded even more by the fact I was a guy carrying my own baby. I had a great support network of friends and family around me but I did feel lonely a lot of the time, especially when I didn’t feel able to join in prenatal classes and other groups as they didn’t cater to me.
Being a single gay dad I was always the odd one out at the school gates! People always asked things like ‘oh, where’s mum?’ and I had to explain there was no mum. People don’t mean any harm but it gets exhausting having to explain all the time!

Support for single parents

If you’re a single parent looking for support or advice, find out more about One Parent Families Scotland’s local services.

The Lone Parent Helpline and webchat is available weekdays from 9.30-4pm. Just call 0808 801 0323.

More support for LGBTQ families

You might also find it useful to check out LGBT Health and Wellbeing and their Rainbow Families events and resources for LGBTQ parents.

These experiences will be familiar to many LGBTQ single parents – feeling invisible, having to challenge homophobia or transphobia on your own and services not feeling inclusive to you.

But there are lots of things services and groups working with LGBTQ single parents can do to be more supportive. Not making assumptions and using inclusive language makes a big difference. Schools and nurseries can normalise talking about LGBTQ families and make sure LGBTQ focused activities and books are included.

Queer Families has produced two resources, a guide for LGBTQ families (and people who want to start families) and a guide for services supporting LGBTQ families with advice and tips for best practice.

You can read more about the Queer Families project and the support and training we offer on our website, or email for more info.