New Dr. Spock Childcare Book Includes Gay and Lesbian Parents; Iffier on Transgender Issues

Baby and Child CareThe new, 9th Edition of the venerable Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care by Dr. Benjamin Spock, first published in 1946, includes a section on gay and lesbian parents, the Washington Post informs us.

I’ve taken a look, and while there is much to praise, there are also a few obvious gaps, particularly around gender identity and transgender issues. 

The section on gay and lesbian parents is short—just over three pages—but reassuring and positive. It is about half aimed at lesbian and gay parents, and about half aimed at straight ones. For gay and lesbian parents, it offers basic advice like needing to consult with a lawyer, but mostly refers people to further resources in the Guide at the end of the book. For straight parents, it addresses the fear that it will be “confusing” to their children to learn about same-sex parents. “I think the answer is simply no,” the book (now revised by Dr. Robert Needlman) tells us. “Children are remarkably able to accept plain facts when they are presented plainly.”

Bravo—and even more so for the following paragraph, which explains that children may be confused if they are taught homosexuality is wrong, but then meet parents who are nice and have great kids—and are gay or lesbian. It also notes that the existence of gay and lesbian families gives parents the opportunity to teach about different types of families, tolerance, and acceptance. The book also offers a short section to help parents support their teen if they suspect the teen might be gay or lesbian.

Where it fails, however, is in discussing gender identity, and not only because there is no mention of transgender parents or how parents might approach that topic with children. It dances around the issue of children who may be transgender.

It rightly says children should be allowed to play with toys aimed at any gender, and notes that does not determine gender identity. It also notes that some children may consistently express that they want to be the other gender, and that a psychiatrist or psychologist might diagnose “gender identity disorder (GID).” But it then simply notes that “Many children with GID do grow up to be homosexual; many do not.” True; but some people who have been diagnosed with GID also grow up to be transgender, and the book makes no note of that. (And the fact is, GID is itself a problematic term. The American Psychiatric Association may soon replace it with “Gender Dysphoria.”)

With organizations such as Gender Spectrum offering numerous resources for parents with gender variant and transgender children, there’s no excuse not to include at least a reference to them. It’s great to see the book explicitly include gay and lesbian parents, but let’s hope the 10th edition is even more inclusive.

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