How interesting.  I’m not sure what to make of this, but here goes:

The changes may seem surprising for a city where churches that have long condemned homosexuality remain a powerful force. But as demographers sift through recent data releases from the Census Bureau, they have found that Jacksonville is home to one of the biggest populations of gay parents in the country.

In addition, the data show, child rearing among same-sex couples is more common in the South than in any other region of the country, according to Gary Gates, a demographer at the University of California, Los Angeles. Gay couples in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas are more likely to be raising children than their counterparts on the West Coast, in New York and in New England.

The pattern, identified by Mr. Gates, is also notable because the families in this region defy the stereotype of a mainstream gay America that is white, affluent, urban and living in the Northeast or on the West Coast.


Experts offer theories for the pattern. A large number of gay couples, possibly a majority, entered into their current relationship after first having children with partners in heterosexual relationships, Mr. Gates said. That seemed to be the case for many blacks and Latinos in Jacksonville, for whom church disapproval weighed heavily.

“People grew up in church, so a lot of us lived in shame,” said Darlene Maffett, 43, a Jacksonville resident, who had two children in eight years of marriage before coming out in 2002. “What did we do? We wandered around lost. We married men, and then couldn’t understand why every night we had a headache.”

Moreover, gay men who have children do so an average of three years earlier than heterosexual men, census data shows, Mr. Gates said. At the same time, there are fewer white women of childbearing age nationally, according to demographers, while the number of minority women of childbearing age is expanding.

If I may hazard an anecdotal guess as to why the numbers come out this way, besides the phenomenon of having children in a straight relationship and then coming out later in life:

Having lived in the South all my life, and having watched friends move Northeast, to the West Coast, etc., one common thread emerges: By 25-30, most of those who stayed in the South are married or close to it, while for many of those who moved away, marriage is still the furthest thing from their minds. Since the gay community is indeed so diverse, and since we don’t exist in a vacuum, but are influenced by the culture around us, it would follow that many of the gay people in the South are simply following the same sorts of cultural norms as their straight counterparts.

I’m surprised by the data showing that gay men have children a few years before straight men, on average. I don’t have an explanation for that one.

What y’all think?