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Moving out of the Shadows: Accomplishing Bisexual Motherhood

Abstract

Our qualitative study explored the ways in which bisexual mothers came to identify as such and how they structured their relationships and parenting within hetero-patriarchal society. The experiences of seven self-identified White bisexual women (aged from 28 to 56-years-old) from across England and the Republic of Ireland were investigated through semi-structured interviews. Participants’ children were aged 8 months to 28 years old at the time of their interviews. A thematic narrative analysis highlighted the following issues that participants had encountered in constructing their self-identity: prioritizing children; connecting and disconnecting with others and finessing self-definition; questioning societal relationship expectations. Nevertheless, participants varied considerably in how each of the themes identified were reflected in their lives, in particular depending upon each participant’s interpretation of her local social context. Both motherhood and self-identifying as bisexual gave a sense of meaning and purpose to participants’ life stories, although participants sometimes foregrounded their commitment to their children even at a personal cost to their bisexual identity. Using three different theoretical perspectives from feminist theory, queer theory and life course theory, the narratives analysed revealed ways in which bisexual motherhood not only had been influenced both intentionally and unintentionally by heteronormative expectations but also had directly and indirectly challenged these expectations.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a Leonardo Grant to Marie Delvoye at the University of Liege to study under the supervision of Fiona Tasker at Birkbeck University of London. The authors with to thank participants of the UK Bisexual Parenting Project who were interviewed for this study and who generously shared their thoughts. We also wish to acknowledge our gratitude to: Dr. Meg John Barker of the Open University UK, who acted as a research consultant to the project, Dr. Pedro Costa of the Psychology and Health Research Unit (UIPES), Instituto Superior de Psicologia Aplicada / Universidade da Beira Interior, Portugal, who conducted the audit of the interview data analyses, and Anna Olsavsky of Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI who conducted the thematic analyses audit.

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Correspondence to Fiona Tasker.

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Tasker, F., Delvoye, M. Moving out of the Shadows: Accomplishing Bisexual Motherhood. Sex Roles 73, 125–140 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0503-z

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Keywords

  • Bisexuality
  • Parenting
  • Motherhood
  • Narrative analysis
  • Self-identity