Conventional and Cutting-Edge: Definitions of Family in LGBT Communities
This paper uses data from a study of 105 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to examine conceptions of family in LGBT communities. Respondents were asked how they would define “family” and whom they consider to be their current family. The study sought to determine whether constructionist definitions of family (“families of choice”) remain dominant among LGBT people. Earlier research had clearly established the importance of friends as chosen family in this population, but a growing emphasis on same-sex marriage and increased gay and lesbian parenting might be expected to cause some LGBT people to shift toward more traditional definitions of family. Results show that constructionist definitions remain prominent in abstract conceptions of family, but also that LGBT people frequently define biological and legal relatives as members of their current family, and few define their current family as only consisting of chosen family. The notion of families of choice continues to resonate, but chosen family members mostly complement rather than replace other kinds of family in definitions of one’s current family.
KeywordsFamily LGBT Families of choice Definition of family Sexual minorities
This study was funded by the Graduate Research Partnership Program, College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota (UM); Life Course Center, UM; Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, UM; Schochet GLBT Research Award, Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs, UM; and the Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Duggan, L. (2003). The twilight of equality? Neoliberalism, cultural politics, and the attack on democracy. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
- Flores, A. R. (2014). National trends in public opinion on LGBT rights in the United States. Los Angeles: Williams Institute Retrieved Nov. 9, 2017, at https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/research/census-lgbt-demographics-studies/natl-trends-nov-2014/.Google Scholar
- Gamson, J. (2015). Modern families: Stories of extraordinary journeys to kinship. New York: NYU.Google Scholar
- Giddens, A. (1992). The transformation of intimacy: Sexuality, love and eroticism in modern societies. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Heffernan, M. E. (1972). Making it in prison. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Hull, K. E. (2015). Same sex, different attitudes. In D. Hartmann & C. Uggen (Eds.), Getting culture (pp. 3–15). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
- Hull, K. E. (2016). The evolution of same-sex marriage politics in the U.S. In N. L. Fischer & S. Seidman (Eds.), Introducing the new sexuality studies (3rd ed., pp. 551–558). London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Hunter, N. D. (1991). Marriage, law, and gender: A feminist inquiry. Law and Sexuality, 1, 9–30.Google Scholar
- Lewin, E. (1998). Recognizing ourselves: Ceremonies of lesbian and gay commitment. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Luker, K. (2008). Salsa dancing into the social sciences: Research in an age of info-glut. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- McCarthy, J. (2017). U.S. support for gay marriage edges to new high. Retrieved Nov. 9, 2017, from http://news.gallup.com/poll/210566/support-gay-marriage-edges-new-high.aspx.
- Moore, M. R. (2011). Invisible families: Gay identities, relationships, and motherhood among black women. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Nardi, P. (1999). Gay men’s friendships: Invincible communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Patterson, C. J., & D’Augelli, A. R. (1998). Lesbian, gay, and bisexual identities in families: Psychological perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Pew Research Center. (2017). Support for same-sex marriage grows, even among groups that had been skeptical. Retrieved Nov. 9, 2017, at http://www.people-press.org/2017/06/26/support-for-same-sex-marriage-grows-even-among-groups-that-had-been-skeptical/.
- Polikoff, N. (2008). Beyond (straight and gay) marriage: Valuing all families under the law. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
- Powell, B. (2014). Changing counts, counting change: Toward a more inclusive definition of family. Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences, 17, 1–15.Google Scholar
- Powell, B., Bolzendahl, C., Geist, C., & Steelman, L. C. (2010). Counted out: Same-sex relations and Americans’ definitions of family. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
- Powell, B., Steelman, L. C., & Pizmony-Levy, O. (2012). Transformation or continuity in Americans’ definition of family: A research note. National Center for Family & Marriage Research Working Paper Series, WP-12-12.Google Scholar
- Richman, K. D. (2009). Courting change: Queer parents, judges, and the transformation of American family law. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar
- Stack, C. (1974). All our kin: Strategies for survival in a black community. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
- Stein, A. (2013). What’s the matter with Newark? Race, class, marriage politics, and the limits of queer liberalism. In M. Bernstein & V. Taylor (Eds.), The marrying kind? Debating same-sex marriage within the gay and lesbian movement (pp. 39–65). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Voorpostel, M. (2012). The importance of discretionary and fictive kin relationships for older adults. In R. Blieszner & V. H. Bedford (Eds.), Handbook of families and aging (2nd ed., pp. 243–259). Santa Barbara: Praeger.Google Scholar
- Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. New York: Free.Google Scholar
- Weston, K. (1991). Families we choose: Lesbians, gays, kinship. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar