Troubling the family: Ongoing problems of coming out as lesbian or gay to families of origin

Article English OPEN
Nordqvist, Petra ; Smart, Carol (2014)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1332/204674313X667380
  • Subject: Childbirth, coming out, family, gay, lesbians, intergenerational relationships, same sex marriage

Legal and social attitudes towards gay men and lesbians have altered considerably in latter years and yet recent research suggests that ‘coming out’ as lesbian and gay may remain a troubled business, especially in one’s own family. Exploring this theme, we situate gay and lesbian identities in wider family networks and explore how gay men and women negotiate family relationships at particular and significant moments in their lives, such as weddings and child birth. In doing so, we draw together three qualitative data sets; the Mass Observation Project and two interview studies exploring same sex commitment ceremonies and lesbian motherhood, all conducted in the UK in the 2000s. We investigate how hostility in families may shape the ‘coming out’ process and also how a culture of silence plays an important role in maintaining family relationships. We suggest that to understand what it means to ‘come out’ we need to examine the meaning of non-heterosexuality in the context of kin relationality and situate gay and lesbian lives in webs of intergenerational relationships.
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