The LGBT Health & Development Program

Family Blog—Queering Parenting: How LGBTQ Parents Are Challenging Gender Norms


Posted on January 11th, 2016 by Antonia in Families Blog, Featured. No Comments

Two women and a child by a lake

Photo credit: Antonia Clifford

Same-sex parents and non-gender normative families have existed for a long time, but recent social changes have brought more visibility to LGBTQ parents and families. The 2010 Census estimated that there are over 100,000 same-sex couples across the United States raising children – and that number is an underestimate, because it does not include transgender or bisexual parents, or parents who are not out. When it comes to the children of same-sex parents, the research is consistent – children raised by LGBTQ parents fare just fine.

But What about the Parents?
Juggling childrearing with internalized homophobia and social pressures, LGBTQ parents may set up their families differently than heterosexual or cisgender parents. This blog provides a brief introduction to research on how LGBTQ families reshape gender roles through parenting practices.

Same-Sex Parents and the Division of Labor
Research on parenting practices among same-sex and opposite-sex partners has consistently found that housework (e.g. cleaning, childcare) is divided more evenly between partners in same-sex households [1]. The author of a 2013 meta-analysis suggests that “same-sex couples enacted a division of labor that resisted, or ‘queered,’ dominant assumptions about the division of paid and unpaid work” [1].

Gender is connected to culturally engrained ideas of what it means to be a mother or a father, in terms of parenting responsibilities and roles. In the mainstream press, there have been recent discussions about how changes in the workforce may change the division of labor in heterosexual families as well. Such parenting practices demonstrate the increasing need to de-couple gender from labor practices (e.g. cleaning as “women’s work”).

Shifting Genders, Shifting Roles
Even the terminology and responsibilities of parenting can be up for debate. Some parents make choices to discard the terms ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ for more gender-neutral terms, or variations like ‘Mommy’ and ‘Mama.’ Parents of the same gender or non-binary genders also define for themselves the roles of each parent. Is one staying at home to take care of infants? Who attends the football practices? Or do we take turns?

One study of same-sex parents found that they have more flexible gender roles than heterosexual parents, which can lead to a “more harmonious family unit and therefore feeding on to better health and well-being” [2]. A small but growing body of research on parents who transition genders indicates that between 25 and 50% of transgender people report being parents [3]. A 2014 review of the literature found that the majority of transgender parents report their relationship with their children remains “good” or “positive” after transitioning, although more research is needed [3]. For more about Transgender parents, you can find the Williams Institute report on Transgender Parenting here.

Queering Parenting can mean challenging the gendered assumptions about what parenting looks like. LGBTQ families are negotiating parenting roles that are responsive to the individual parent’s skills, desires, work schedule, and/or availability, rather than their gender identity or assigned sex at birth. This “Build-Your-Own-Family” approach may lead to shaping a family context that is healthier for both children and parents.

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References:

[1] Goldberg, A. E. (2009). ‘Doing’ and ‘Undoing’ Gender: The Meaning and Division of Housework in Same-Sex Couples. J. Fam. Theory & Rev, 5(2), 85-104. doi: 10.1111/jftr.12009

[2] Crouch, S. R., Waters, E., McNair, R., Power, J., & Dagovis, E. (2014). Parent-reported measures of child health and wellbeing in same-sex parent families: a cross-sectional survey. BMC Public Health, 14, 635. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-635

[3] Stotzer, R. L., Herman, J. L., & Hasenbush, A. (2014). Transgender Parenting: A Review of Existing Research. The Williams Institute, October 2014. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/transgender-parenting-oct-2014.pdf





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