Doing Family: The Reproduction of Heterosexuality in Accounts of Parenthood

Monday, 16 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Emily KAZYAK, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, USA
Nicholas PARK, Gavilan College, USA
In this paper we address how people respond to LGBQ-parent families in everyday interactions. Specifically, we analyze what accounts or assessments others make of adults with children when determining whether or not they are a family. Our analyses draws on data from 75 in-depth interviews with LGBQ parents in the United States who have become parents in a variety of ways (donor insemination, adoption, surrogacy). The sample is also diverse with regard to race, class, gender, and geography. We find that when LGBQ parents are alone with their children, others assume that they are heterosexual and that there is an absent different-sex parent. When both parents in a same-sex couple are present with their children, others do not always assess them as being parents or a family, but rather might understand them to be friends. Our work thus shows how heterosexuality is a key component of the how membership to the social category of “family” or “parent” is produced in social interactions. Additionally, we show how assumptions about heterosexuality are predicated on assumptions of biological connection between parents and children. These assumptions rest on racialized and gendered assessments insofar as parent-children pairs that are seen as racially matching are read as family in a way that pairs that are seen as racially different are not. Likewise, gender matters to people’s assessments insofar as LBQ women with children are understood as mothers, but GBQ men are not always understood as fathers. Those who are perceived as gender normative also report that they are more likely to be seen as parent (with a presumed biological connection to their child) than those who are perceived as gender non-normative. Our focus on accountability foregrounds power in everyday interactions and provides a lens through which to understand how inequality is reproduced.