Researching LGBTQ Parenthood: Conceptual and Methodological Tensions
1The Open University, United Kingdom; 2Virginia Tech, USA
There have been great advances in socio-legal queer partnership and parenthood rights in recent years and LGBTQ-parent families are more visible now than ever before. As a consequence of these political gains and public recognition, LGBTQ-parent family research has arguably come of age. While a great deal of exciting research is now appearing around the globe, we will show that this area also faces numerous challenges in the context of sexuality and inclusivity. Empirical studies typically instantiate hetero-gender and sexuality through insufficient attention to everyday experience and the ways in which this queers kinship. Geo-political and socio-cultural contexts are used as scene-setting rather than being operationalized to prise apart the intersections of public–private intimacies. Biological imperatives are defining and confining families, with practices of conception invoked to separate one family from the next. We will address the conceptual, theoretical, intersectional, and methodological tensions that remain or have emerged around qualitative LGBTQ-parent family research, focusing on: (a) era, age, and generation; (b) class, sociocultural capital, and the economies of reproductive labor; (c) sexual-maternal identities. We contend that it is timely for research on queer parenthood to take stock; to refocus attention onto the everyday and more sufficiently contextualize experience. So, our provocation is, in these permissive and precarious times, whose lives matter in research on LGBTQ-parenthood? How is ‘queer parenthood’ materialised? How can our research better reflect ordinary LGBTQ experiences of kinship?
Heteronormativity and Openness about Same-Sex Coupledom
University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
This paper explores how heteronormativity impacts the lives of older same-sex couples. The main focus of the paper is to examine how the social structures built around heteronormativity, such as heterosexism, homophobia and gendered power relations, influenced the lives of non-heterosexual individuals in the past, and how they impact their present intimate relationships and their imagination of possible futures. The data, in the form of semi-structured interviews and written diaries, is drawn from a doctoral research on older same-sex couples in Scotland. The social, historical, and cultural norms present in the participants’ lives are explored in the context of the United Kingdom, focusing on Scotland in the present and the future, as the place where the participants live now and imagine they will live in the future. The paper explores the participants’ coming out narratives, relationships with their family and community, and the perception of their past and present intimate relationships. Even though Scotland is currently one of the best countries in Europe for LGBTI equality, older non-heterosexual people still remember times when their lives were predominantly regulated by heteronormativity, and its effects are visible in their narratives about the present and the future. The contributions of the paper relate to the exploration of the intersection of the past, present and future, and the importance of studying the three temporalities together when constructing life narratives. Furthermore, the paper contributes by furthering the understanding of how older same-sex couples’ lives and intimate relationships are shaped by their past experiences.
LGBTIQ break-ups in Finland
1University of Jyväskylä, Finland; 2University of Tampere, Finland
In this presentation, we explore relationship break-ups of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people in Finland. Demographic research indicates that separation and divorce rates are even higher among same-sex couples than among other-sex couples in Western countries. The long battle for equal rights has placed LGBTIQ people’s relationships under a lot of pressure to succeed. Many partners in LGBTIQ relationships try to pass as ordinary and happy as possible and choose to remain silent of the challenges they face in their intimate relationships. Consequently, they may miss the opportunities to receive institutional and familial support. There is also a paucity of research on the separation experiences of LGBTIQ people.
In this presentation we seek to fill this gap and explore the break-up experiences of Finnish LGBTIQ people. Our data consists of ethnographic observations of relationship seminars, including events targeted at the recently separated; survey data; and interviews of LGBTIQ people, who have experienced a recent relationship-break up. In our analysis, we further combine queer theoretical, psychosocial and affect theoretical perspectives in our analysis. In particular, we seek to grasp the affective, lively and often messy realities of relationship break-ups in a way that does not straightforwardly renew dichotomic understandings of sexuality or gender or draw upon pre-defined identities.
Paradoxical Family Practices: LGBTQ+ Youth, Mental Health and Wellbeing
1Lancaster University, United Kingdom; 2Open University; 3Lancaster University; 4The Proud Trust
This paper will explore how queer young people sustain and in some cases survive family relationships. Open channels of communication between family members are crucial to wellbeing and when ruptured can adversely impact on the mental health of young people. Families’ investment in quality time can facilitate communication and a sense of family belonging conversely family tensions could also erupt during these ‘precious’ times. Parental practices of care can convey meaningful sentiments such as being there for the young person but these interactions also have the capacity to instantiate intergenerational power relations. Here, the meanings, practices and management of food and eating a particularly salient example. In this article, therefore, we develop the concept of ‘paradoxical family practices’ and use this to demonstrate the ways in which queer youth manage family life through everyday emotion work. This highlights 1. the value of emotion-centred multiple qualitative methods to explore the lives of queer youth and mental health; 2. the ways in which cultural and household contexts reproduce heteronormativity which in turn generates paradoxical family practices; 3. the need to develop ‘paradoxical family practices’ as a conceptual tool. Findings presented derive from a small scale UK study funded by the Wellcome Trust (UNS39780) and were generated through a two-stage methodology comprising of digital/paper emotion maps and qualitative interviews with queer youth aged 16-25 (n=12) and family members/mentors (n=7), followed by diary methods and recursive interviews (n=9).