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Undoing Normativities And Creating Family_ A Queer ...

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UndoingNormativitiesAnd Creating Family: A Queer Stepfamily’s Experience
Autumn M. Bermea1Brad van Eeden-Moorefield1Jacqueline Bible1Hannah Karpman2Raymond Petren3
[1] Montclair State University [2] Smith College [3] Pennsylvania State University
Queer Theory
Notes thesocial construction of sexuality out of social norms and powerstructures in labelingSexualityGenderCertain expressions of sexualities are labeled as normative (e.g., heterosexual), others as deviant (e.g., gay, lesbian,ect.)Normativesexuality isheteronormative;Deviantsexuality isqueerSexuality, relationships, and family are all considered performances and not something to haveWhen queers dofamilyin a way that isnot heteronormative,they are considered illegitimate and difficult for most who are members of a heteronormative family structure tounderstandUnintelligibility
(Butler, 1990; 2004)
Queer Theory
Undoing-howqueers and their families resist heteronormativestandards/counterunintelligibility“Dailysocial rituals” that guide sexual and family life(p. 48)Queers create familylife,making their family legitimate, resisting and rejecting a heteronormative culture does not view them as suchUndoing createsandsustainsa queer family within the context of heteronormativity itself
(Butler, 2004; Oswald, Bloom, & Marks, 2005)
In 2015, there was at least one step child in approximately 3,700,000homes(United States Census Bureau, 2015)
The process of becoming a stepfamily has beencharacterized with:conflictstress(Petren, Ferraro, Davis, &Pasley,2017)boundary ambiguity(Boss,2016)struggles with co-parentingdifficulties for the nonresidential father to maintain ties with his biological children(McGene& King,2012)
Stepchildren/ stepparentsmay struggleifthe stepchild feels the stepparent is attempting to disciplinethem(Ganong, Coleman, & Jamison,2011)
Nonresidential stepfamilies may also be more vulnerable to experience boundaryambiguity(Stewart, 2005)
Research Question
What are the experiences of undoing family for a gay male-headed stepfamily?
Queer Stepfamilies
Queerstepfamilies have been virtually invisible within the family sciences(Gold, 2017)
Stigmatizedas both stepfamilies andqueer(Berger, 2000)LegalLess legal recognition“Morality” considered when determining custody(Chauveron, Alvarez, & van Eeden Moorfield, 2016; Patterson, 2013)InterpersonalRejection of both queer biological parent and child by peer groupsChild being told queer biological parent is immoral by heterosexual biological parent(Titlestad& Pooley,2014)
Queer Stepfamilies (con’t)
There are supports and strengths that make this family formresilientIncreased support from stepsiblings(Titlestad & Pooley, 2014)Menin stepfamily relationshipshavehigher relationship quality than men in their first cohabitating relationship or arepartnership(van Eeden-Moorefield,Pasley, King, & Crosbie-Burnet)Positive stepparent to stepchild support(Current-Juretschko& Bigner,2005)Flexible and child-centered in the creation of new family(Lynch, 2000)Support from the queer community(Titlestad& Pooley,2014)
Data came from a larger study on queer stepfamilies in a Midwestern stateRecruitment letters were provided to 12 LGBT organizationsParticipation criteria:Be a gay/lesbian headed stepfamilyBeen together for at least 5 yearsHave an adolescent (13-17) or young adult who has lived in the home at least some point in their childhood
FathersAge: 40sRace/Ethnicity: WhiteRelationship length: 9.5 years
ChildrenAge: 13-19 yearsRace/Ethnicity: White
The family was selected because:Male-headedfamilies,areoften under-represented in queer family literature(Biblarz & Savci, 2010)Theassumption is made that gay male headed families do not want children, although a body of research indicates this is not thecase(Tornello& Patterson, 2015)Mothersare often viewed as the default parent;overhalf of Americans view mothers as a better parent than fathers(Parker & Livingston, 2017)
Case Study Analysis
Can explore participants’ contexts in-depth:Oppression(Gilgun, 2012)Heteronormativity(Oswald et al., 2005)Intersecting contexts(Mendez,Holman,Oswald,&Izenstark, 2016)Case was bound to a single familyTwo different interviewsThe whole familyThe fathersUsing queer theory data was coded forPerformativity (actions related to the construction of the family)Interpretation (how family members made meaning of their experiences)Context (What role context played in how family members constructed family)
Results:An Overview
Context“It Wasn’t a Big Deal”LabelsNew FamilyRituals”I Never Expected Them To Call Me Dad…But There Are Rules””They Will Always Be Our Kids”
Majority Queer Positive Neighborhood“[Our city] is more diverseand in this neighborhood anyway, with the rainbow flags and everything. That’s not as important for us, butthat sense of communityis important.” -MattPredominately Positive Coming Out Experiences“Mysister actually considers herselftransgender…[and]myparents had totally accepted my sister. SoI knew I wouldn’t have any trouble withit.” –ToddLegal Context/Custody Determination System In Their County“Whenwe went to court to decide custody,the decision had already been madeand well ‘you cannot provide for your children’” -Matt
Labels“Idon’t see why there is really a need to have “step” in there.We are just afamily…itis just thefactthat we are all together.” -ChrisNew Family“Allofus [kids] startedhanging out moreand…nowI still think of them more assistersthan I do as Todd’s kids.” –TylerRituals“Wehave never really done Christmas [with our biological mom] …and you guys go full out Christmas….it makes us actually look forward to coming.” -Chris
“It Wasn’t a Big Deal”
“Itwas always important to me when we had the kids… we would always have meals around the table… everything elseit is part of the family atmosphere.It was important for me to do that.”– Todd“There are certain things that we expectwhen the kids come here. We expect them to clean up after themselves, take care of their dirty dishes, keep the rooms clean.” -Matt“Youask andwe have respect for you.”-Kim
“I Never Thought They Would Call Me Dad…But There Are Rules”
“They Will Always Be Our Kids”
“[The custody decision was]‘hereis the child support you will have to pay’…And whether that is a gay thing or a straight thing I don’t think that really matters.” -Matt“[We] bothtried to be very amicable[with our ex-wives] andvery accepting and bend over backwards becausewe don’t want it to be ‘well you don’t get the kids.’” -Todd“[The children] are coming to the realization that‘okay, regardless of what mom says about gay relationships,you know, here is the reality.’” -Matt
Due to feelings of “justa family” instead of a stepfamily or a queer stepfamily, they were able todofamily without the focus of deviancybased on heteronormativityHeteronormativestandards indicate only certain forms of family arelegitimate(Halberstam, 2012), but that it is also more widely viewed for women to be caretakers even among queers(Biblarz & Savci, 2010)Blendingwas viewed by the family as being a positiveprocessPerforming family was also important for both the fathers, which undid heteronormative stereotypes about gayfatherhood(Biblarz & Savci, 2010)Thefathersvaluedthe inclusion of not only their children, but also their stepchildren as paramount to family
Thelegal system within the larger community in which they divorced did not grant them such legitimacy in that they did not favor fathers, which resulted in less time with theirchildrenThemothers held power through socialnorms (heteronormativity)by attempting to call into question the legitimacy of the fathers’family(Lynch, 2000; Titlestad& Pooley,2014)Through children’s discussions of their familyFathers recognizedthemselves as not having the same legal rights to their children as did the mothers, which is consistent with a queer lens(Butler, 2004)Otherstudies have found similar results for lesbian stepmothershave attributedthis to heteronormativity(Goldberg & Allen,2013); our fathers alsodescribedlawsin placethat madeit difficult to be with their children as fathers ingeneral
Thank You,Matt, Todd, Tyler, Chris, Kim, & Claire fortheirtimeandletting usintotheirfamilylife
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