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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Lessons learned and unlearned : a study of queer family-making practices Brodyn, Adriana


The United States has a history of legislating family boundaries. In 2015, the Supreme Court extended the right to marry to same-sex couples in Obergefell v. Hodges. Its passage and the gradual, though unevenly liberalizing, attitudes about homosexuality have impacted the ways queer people imagine and create families. In this context of evolving notions of stigma and acceptance, queer lives exist in a state of tension. Hence, the research questions which motivate my work: How does queerness impact the way people think about family? What can family studies learn from individuals and families who make their families differently? What is the relationship between queer family-making and community building? Drawing on 42 qualitative interviews with LGBTQ+ individuals and 30 hours of ethnographic observations, I address these questions in three empirical papers. The work consists of three independent papers that examine distinct yet interrelated aspects of stigma, queerness, and family-making. Together, all three papers elevate the centrality of these concepts in core debates in sociology, family studies, and psychology. The first discusses how queers respond to the stigma and societal rejection they first encounter within families of origin. Findings highlight the unexpectedly generative effects of early stigma and rejection in families of origin, and how respondents use “queer connections” to establish new relational norms that help them heal from experiences in early life. The second, an example of queer methods and an asset-based approach, explores the characteristics of queer relationships and innovative worldmaking strategies within the context of queer families. Findings generate new insights into ways queers employ individual and relational strengths in order to transform the family context into a site of potential healing from societal stigmatization and trauma. The third explores the intersections and interconnections between family-making and community-building and contributes to contemporary debates about neoliberalism, homonormativity, and the effects of marriage equality. Three main findings highlight that existing debates are pessimistically preoccupied that family and community will dissociate. My findings show both are living systems with blurry boundaries: sometimes separate, sometimes similar, sometimes overlapping, sometimes existing simultaneously. I summarize findings and make recommendations for future research and application.

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