Becoming Father, Doing Fathering: How Gay Men's Practising of Relatedness, Intimacy and Care Disrupts Normative Constructions of Families

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Nicola SURTEES , University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Fatherhood is frequently conflated with parenthood for any man who begets children. Fathers are typically assumed to be involved parents as ‘natural’ outcomes of biogenetic relationships with children. Drawing from the findings of a qualitative study, this paper examines the ways in which the gay men concerned distinguished between biogenetic relationships and the doing of fathering and parenting through reflexive negotiation of expected or actual roles and involvement with the lesbian mothers of their planned or current donor-conceived children. The paper highlights three ways in which multiple parenting models based on cooperative nonsexual reproductive relationships between men and women, and intimate same-gender relationships, disrupt normative constructions of family. Firstly, such disruption occurred through the men’s deliberate separation of biogenetic fatherhood, motherhood and parenthood from the doing of parenting in ways that suggest relationships with children can be flexible, negotiable and centred on practices of involvement rather than biogenetic relatedness. Secondly, disruption occurred through the men’s separation of the doing of father and mother from gendered assumptions about parenting roles; they performed both fathering and mothering. Thirdly, the men disrupted the assumption connecting fathering, mothering and parenting with joint residence through the de-centring of ‘home’; neither fixed nor static, ‘home’ was attached to relationships, not places. Troubling the taken-for-granted primacy of heterosexual two-parent family forms, legal relationships between parents, legal and biogenetic relationships between parents and children and co-residence as benchmarks operating to regulate families, the men’s stories open (discursive) spaces for reconceptualising possibilities for queer fathering, mothering and parenting beyond heteronormative understandings of ‘proper’ families. Within a context of escalating family transformations in an increasingly complex society, thinking and talking about new forms of practising relatedness, intimacy and care in ways that are expansive and generative will open up rather than shut down possibilities for all families.