LGBT Families Contemporary Family Perspectives CFP

by Nancy J. Mezey

Author Nancy J Mezey Isbn 9781452217383 File size 2 72MB Year 2014 Pages 232 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship Nancy J Mezey s LGBT Families presents a comprehensive yet accessible understanding of LGBT families today by drawing upon and making sense of the burgeoning scholarly literature about LGBT families from the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries It pays particular attention to how structures of race class gender sexuality and age shape LG

Publisher :

Author : Nancy J. Mezey

ISBN : 9781452217383

Year : 2014

Language: English

File Size : 2.72MB

Category : Family and Friendship


Family Perspectives
Series Editor
Susan J. Ferguson
Grinnell College

Volumes in the Series
Families: A Social Class Perspective
Shirley A. Hill
Making Families Through Adoption
Nancy E. Riley and Krista E. Van Vleet
Global Families, Second Edition
Meg Wilkes Karraker
Family Policy and the American Safety Net
Janet Zollinger Giele
The Work-Family Interface: An Introduction
Stephen Sweet
Families and Health, Second Edition
Janet Grochowski
LGBT Families
Nancy J. Mezey


Monmouth University



Copyright  2015 by SAGE Publications, Inc.

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pages cm. — (Contemporary family perspectives)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
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1. Gay parents—United States. 2. Gay couples—United
States. 3. Lesbian couples—United States. 4. Sexual
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Series Preface


Preface and Acknowledgments


About the Author


Chapter 1. LGBT Families
Deconstructing and Defining Terms
A Brief History of the Development of LGBT Families
Remaining Barriers for LGBT Families
Plan of the Book


Chapter 2. Marriage
The Struggle for Marriage Equality
The Importance of Marriage to LGBT Families
The LGBT Argument Against Marriage for LGBT People
The Heterosexual Backlash Against Marriage Equality
What We Gain From Marriage Equality


Chapter 3. LGBT Parents
Parents Becoming LGBT
LGBT People Becoming Parents
LGBT Parenting Experiences and Issues
What We Know About LGBT Grandparents
What We Learn From LGBT Parents


Chapter 4. LGBT Youth
Youth Coming to Terms With LGBT Identities
Parental Responses to, Reactions by, and Consequences
for LGBT Children
Responses of Other Social Institutions to LGBT Youth
What We Learn From LGBT Youth


Chapter 5. Intimate Partner Violence
Prevalence of IPV Within LGBT Relationships
Causes of IPV Within LGBT Relationships
Issues of IPV Specific to LGBT People
What We Learn From LGBT IPV


Chapter 6. Learning From LGBT Families
Lessons Learned From Studying LGBT Families
How LGBT Families Benefit Society
Suggestions for Strengthening LGBT Families


References 175
Index 205

Series Preface


he family is one of the most private and pervasive social institutions
in U.S. society. At the same time, public discussions and debates about
the institution of the family persist. Some scholars and public figures claim
that the family is declining or dying, or that the contemporary family is morally deficient. Other scholars argue that the family is caught in the larger
culture wars currently taking place in the United States. The recent debates
on the right of same-sex couples to marry are one example of this larger
public discussion about the institution of the family. Regardless of one’s
perspective that the family is declining or caught in broader political struggles, scholars agree that the institution has undergone dramatic transformations in recent decades. U.S. demographic data reveal that fewer people are
married, divorce rates remain high at almost 50%, and more families are
living in poverty. In addition, people are creating new kinds of families via
Internet dating, cohabitation, single-parent adoption, committed couples living apart, donor insemination, and polyamorous relationships. The demographic data and ethnographic research on new family forms require that
family scholars pay attention to a variety of family structures, processes,
ideologies, and social norms. In particular, scholars need to address important questions about the family, such as, what is the future of marriage? Is
divorce harmful to individuals, to the institution of the family, and/or to
society? Why are rates of family violence so high? Are we living in a postdating culture? How do poverty and welfare policies affect families? How is
childrearing changing now that so many parents work outside the home and
children spend time with caretakers other than their parents? Finally, how
are families socially constructed in different societies and cultures?
Most sociologists and family scholars agree that the family is a dynamic
social institution that is continually changing as other social structures and
individuals in society change. The family also is a social construction with
complex and shifting age, gender, race, and social class meanings. Many
excellent studies are currently investigating the changing structures of the

viii——LGBT Families

institution of the family and the lived experiences and meanings of families.
Contemporary Family Perspectives is a series of short texts and research
monographs that provides a forum for the best of this burgeoning scholarship. The series aims to recognize the diversity of families that exist in the
United States and globally. A second goal is for the series to better inform
pedagogy and future family scholarship about this diversity of families. The
series also seeks to connect family scholarship to a broader audience beyond
the classroom by informing the public and by ensuring that family studies
remain central to contemporary policy debates and to social action. Each
short text contains the most outstanding current scholarship on the family
from a variety of disciplines, including sociology, demography, policy studies,
social work, human development, and psychology. Moreover, each short text
is authored by a leading family scholar or scholars who bring their unique
disciplinary perspective to an understanding of contemporary families.
Contemporary Family Perspectives provides the most advanced scholarship and up-to-date findings on the family. Each volume provides a brief
overview of significant scholarship on that family topic, including critical
current debates or areas of scholarly disagreement. In addition to providing
an assessment of the latest findings related to their family topic, authors
also examine the family, utilizing an intersectional framework of raceethnicity, social class, gender, and sexuality. Much of the research is interdisciplinary, with a number of theoretical frameworks and methodological
approaches presented. Several of the family scholars use a historical lens as
well to ground their contemporary research. A particular strength of the
series is that the short texts appeal to undergraduate students as well as to
family scholars, but they are written in a way that makes them accessible to
a larger public.

About This Volume
In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage
Act (DOMA), clearing the way for gay and lesbian couples to obtain access to
federal marriage benefits in the United States. At the same time, the Supreme
Court declined to hear a case from California that would deny marriage to
same-sex couples. As of March 2014, 17 states plus the District of Columbia
now allow same-sex couples to marry. These recent landmark legal decisions
cannot be fully understood without first studying the history of LGBT families. LGBT Families is a comprehensive research volume that examines how
LGBT families are shaped by history, and how these changes in marriage laws
have come about. The author, Nancy J. Mezey (Monmouth University), has

Series Preface—ix

studied LGBT families for more than ten years and has published articles and
a book, New Choices, New Families: How Lesbians Decide about Motherhood (The Johns Hopkins Press, 2008). This timely volume expands on
Mezey’s earlier ethnographic research to examine more broadly the diversity
of LGBT families in the United States.
Mezey argues that LGBT families are socially constructed and therefore
defined by history, economics, and other social factors. Mezey also states
that most of the problems LGBT families face are the result of homophobia,
heterosexism, and gender discrimination. As such, scholars and students
alike need to appreciate the sources of this discrimination and the fear many
people have of sexual difference. Mezey believes that if we can learn more
about LGBT families, we can become stronger advocates for social change,
including making better policies for LGBT families.
Mezey begins in the first chapter by defining what LGBT families are,
providing a brief history and explaining how she will examine these families
using a sociological lens. After laying this groundwork, Mezey turns her
attention to marriage equality and why LGBT activists have focused on this
issue. The next two chapters focus in turn on adult and parenting relationships and then on LGBT children and youth. Understanding how LGBT
people decide to become parents or not and the different challenges facing
them is central to appreciating this family form. Mezey also examines the
work-family balance, the division of household labor, and other family and
work issues. The chapter on LGBT youth explores identity and the struggles
many LGBT children face. Sadly, due to discrimination, many LGBT youth
encounter bullying, familial rejection, or experience mental health issues.
These factors encourage all of us to demand changes to support children and
youth growing up LGBT-identified. The last substantive chapter turns our
attention to intimate partner violence and what we know about its prevalence and nature within LGBT relationships and families. Mezey concludes
this volume with an emphasis on what we can learn from LGBT families.
Simply put, to understand the institution of the family in the 21st century,
we need to understand how LGBT families form and their diversity across
the United States. Mezey also argues that LGBT families benefit society.
Mezey ends by providing suggestions for strengthening LGBT families.
A unique feature of this book is Mezey’s use of Global Boxes that examine
policies and issues related to LGBT and families from around the globe. While
most of Mezey’s analysis is on LGBT families in the United States, this added
feature, written by Morganne Firmstone, enables readers to understand better
some of the different issues faced by LGBT people in other countries.
LGBT Families is appropriate for use in any class concerned with family
structure, family policy, social inequality, gender and sexuality, and how

x——LGBT Families

government affects which families are legally recognized. This book is a
valuable resource to teachers and students in beginning and advanced
courses in sociology, family studies, women’s and gender studies, LGBT studies, social work, public policy, and other disciplines. It also finds an audience
in any person interested in comparative family studies or among those who
work in various human services fields, including human development, social
work, education, counseling, health services, and the government. This last
statement is particularly true for social service employees who work with
lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered populations. This volume can help
them to better understand how discrimination and governmental policy can
dramatically impact LGBT individuals and their families.
—Susan J. Ferguson
Grinnell College

Preface and Acknowledgments


y purpose in writing this book has been to add to the series on Contemporary Family Perspectives by presenting and analyzing research
on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families. My aim was to be
as inclusive as possible, to focus not just on lesbian and gay but also on
bisexual and transgender people, and to include a diversity of research across
racial, class, and age boundaries. At the suggestion of Susan Ferguson, series
editor, I wanted to provide an analysis of the research on LGBT families.
Studying and writing about LGBT families is certainly not a neutral endeavor.
And while I try to be as objective as possible in my presentation of the
research, the main purpose of this book is to highlight four main points:
1. LGBT families, like all families, are socially constructed. This means
that how we define family, the experiences that people have within
families, and the privileges bestowed upon or denied to certain families are based on historical, economic, social, cultural, and political
factors, not on biological mandates.
2. Nearly every problem that LGBT people around the world face as
LGBT people—including those in the United States—are due to heterosexism, homophobia, and dominant gender norms that define
masculinity and femininity in ways that leave little if any room for
variation. In other words, the problems LGBT families and people
face are caused by factors external to themselves. However, people
around the world are quick to blame LGBT people for problems that
are caused by other factors.
3. People’s fears of LGBT people, as strong as those fears may be, are
unfounded. Such fears are based on beliefs, not on facts. The facts
show that LGBT families do not harm society; indeed LGBT families
benefit society in a variety of ways.


xii——LGBT Families

4. A change in policies, coupled with the continuing change of hearts
and minds, will lead to equality for LGBT people and eliminate many
of the problems facing LGBT people and their families today.
I address these four points throughout the book.
The literature that I analyze focuses almost exclusively on LGBT families
in the United States. However, I recognize that life in the United States does
not represent the lives of those around the world. Therefore, through Global
Boxes written by Morganne Firmstone, a graduate of Monmouth University’s
master of public policy program, the book addresses some issues and policies
related to LGBT people and families around the world. Morganne’s writing
of the Global Boxes provides readers a glimpse into some of the issues that
LGBT people face in different countries and the ways in which different
countries both support and greatly hinder the rights of people of diverse
gender and sexual identities. I am particularly grateful to Morganne for her
hard work and thank her for the research and writing she did to complete
the Global Boxes, as well as the film, DVD, and web resources she provided
at the end of Chapters 1 through 5.
In addition to Morganne, I owe thanks to many others who have helped
me in a variety of ways through the process of writing this book. First and
foremost, I thank Susan Ferguson for encouraging me to submit a prospectus
to Sage, and for guiding and supporting my work throughout the research
and writing process. I am honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to
work with Susan and be part of the Contemporary Family Perspectives
series. I also thank my Sage editor, Jeff Lasser, as well as Melanie Birdsall,
Patricia Sutton, and the Sage staff for all their help and support. They have
helped make the writing and publications process a truly pleasurable one.
Thank you to Maxine Baca Zinn for reading and commenting on my
original prospectus. Her suggestions to include elder LGBT people and provide a global focus were very valuable. I also thank Johanna Foster for her
support and comments on early drafts of the first several chapters. I owe a
special thanks to Monmouth University for granting me a summer sabbatical, thus providing me with concentrated time and funding to work on a
significant portion of the book. Thank you also to the faculty and staff in
the Department of Political Science and Sociology for covering my administrative duties while I was writing.
In addition to my mentors, colleagues, and friends in academia, my
personal friends and family were also instrumental in helping me complete this work. Many thanks to Donel Young who had the wonderful
ability to thoughtfully help me focus my work. Donel was particularly
instrumental by asking the question, “Why do straight people fear LGBT

Preface and Acknowledgments—xiii

people so much?” I also thank Donel for helping me shape Chapter 6 and
for encouraging me to keep an eye to a broad audience who will hopefully
benefit from reading the book.
I thank my parents, sisters, in-laws, and extended family for exemplifying
how support can lead people to comfortably and successfully pursue their
goals and dreams. Thank you to my children Jack and Sophie for keeping
me sane and reminding me that parenthood is the toughest job I will ever
love. And most of all, I thank my partner, Karen. Not only is she my rock
and keeps me grounded, but she also edits my work.
—Nancy J. Mezey
Monmouth University

Publisher’s Acknowledgments
SAGE gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the following reviewers:
Pamela J. Forman, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire
Sara Raley, McDaniel College
Jill M. Smith, The Ohio State University

About the Author
Dr. Nancy J. Mezey received her PhD in sociology from Michigan State
University. She is currently an Associate Professor of Sociology, the Sociology
Program Director, and advisor to the Sociology Club at Monmouth University. At Monmouth, Dr. Mezey has also served as the chair of the faculty
governance body, was Associate Director and Director of the Institute for
Global Understanding, and was the 2011 recipient of the Distinguished
Teacher Award. Her areas of specialization are family sociology, gender studies, the sociology of sexualities, race-class-gender studies, and qualitative
methods. Her research focuses largely on how historical factors, social
inequalities, social activism, and policies shape and affect new family forms.
Her first book, New Choices, New Families: How Lesbians Decide about
Motherhood, is a multiracial feminist study of how lesbians decide to become
mothers or remain childfree. Dr. Mezey has also published in a variety of
academic journals and books in the areas of LGBT families and intimate
partner violence. She is an active member of the Society for the Study of
Social Problems (SSSP), where she has held several elected and appointed
positions, and is an engaged member of Sociologists for Women in Society
(SWS) as well as several other sociological organizations. Dr. Mezey is also a
returned Peace Corps Volunteer where she served in Mali, West Africa, from
1988 to 1990.


This book is dedicated to
Ann Stein
Dorothy Cerami
Two devoutly religious people who understood that
love really does make a family.

LGBT Families
My grandpa majored in biology in college, but he wasn’t allowed to
teach at a high school because he was black. Not long ago, I spoke on
a panel at a high school with my mom. This guy in the audience told
my mom that he wouldn’t want her to teach his kids because she is a
lesbian. It reminded me so much of what happened to my grandpa. I
think homophobia is like any other “ism.” . . . Like racism, you learn it
from the people you grow up with, from your parents, from television,
and from society.
—Rayna White, eleventh grader, daughter
of a lesbian mother (PrideSource, 2013, para. 9)
What we collectively define and accept as family has far-reaching implications. The boundaries that we—and others—make between family and
nonfamily play both subtle and not-so-subtle roles in our daily lives.
—Powell et al., 2010, pp. 1–2


ecause of cultural, political, and religious debates over the past several
decades about how families must be structured and function in order
to perform a productive role in society, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) families have captured the interest of politicians, academics, and
the general public. Fierce debates persist concerning who should be able to
form families through marriage, adoption, and the use of reproductive technologies. Policies and laws concerning families in general are developing out
of those debates, thus reacting to a changing family landscape and in turn

2——LGBT Families

shaping a new family landscape. Amid the debates and changing laws, members of LGBT communities are negotiating the political, cultural, and social
terrain that regulate their material and ideological access to the title of “family.” Therefore, if we want to understand how families are changing today,
and how those families fit into, are shaped by, and also shape larger society,
then we must understand one of the most important growing segments of
current families: LGBT families.
In 2010, there were approximately 594,000 same-sex partner households
in the United States making up about 1% of all American households
(Krivickas & Lofquist, 2011) spread over 99% of all counties in the United
States (Gates & Ost, 2004). Of the total 594,000 households, 115,000
(19.3%) reported having children living with them, 84% of whom were
children of the householder. In 2008, 13.9% of male-male unmarried households, and 26.5% of female-female unmarried households reported having
children (Krivickas & Lofquist, 2011). The numbers of lesbian and gay
households with children have increased since 2000 when estimates suggested that only 5% of partnered gay men and 22% of partnered lesbians
had children in their households (Black, Gates, Sanders, & Taylor, 2000).
While these numbers do not take into account single lesbians and gay men,
bisexual women and men, and transgender people who are not living in
same-sex households, the data offer some evidence that there is an increasing
and substantial number of families in the United States that are headed at
minimum by lesbian and gay parents. In addition, in 2010, approximately
78% of LGB people in the United States said they would like the right to
marry (Herek, Norton, Allen, & Sims, 2010). In practice, by 2010 government offices within seven states and Washington, D.C. had issued at minimum 41,700 marriage licenses to same-sex couples (Chamie & Mirkin,
2011). The number of states allowing lesbians and gay men to marry has
increased from one state (Massachusetts) in 2003 to 19 states plus the
District of Columbia by the middle of 2014. Coupled with the U.S. Supreme
Court’s 2013 verdict that the federal government must honor all legal state
marriages regardless of the sexual identity of those married, we can expect
to see the number of married lesbians and gay men increase, as well as an
increase in visibility of LGBT families within public arenas, because of
changing marriage laws.
Social science research strongly suggests that families are socially, not
biologically, constructed. This means that the ways in which families are
formed—the roles and functions families perform, their structure in terms of
who occupies them, and the experiences of their members—are born out of
the social, economic, cultural, political, and historical context in which those
families exist. There is nothing natural, or normal, or biologically inherent

CHAPTER 1  LGBT Families—3

or mandated about any particular family type. We can see how families are
socially constructed by studying how families have changed throughout history and how they are structured and function in different geographic locations. Therefore, as a sociologist who understands families to be socially
constructed, I wonder about three particular questions: (a) How and why do
different family forms develop in particular social and historical contexts,
(b) why are new family forms so threatening to certain groups of people in
society, and (c) how are new family forms beneficial to the society in which
they exist?
Based on the current trends in LGBT families and on my three questions
above, the purpose of the book LGBT Families is to provide an understanding of what LGBT families are, why they have developed at this historical
moment, how they are socially constructed, why conservative thinkers perceive LGBT families to be a threat to society, and how LGBT families are in
fact an important and positive addition to the U.S. family landscape. The
book draws on cutting-edge scholarship and data concerning LGBT families,
focusing specifically on social constructionist and intersectional (i.e., raceclass-gender-sexuality) perspectives. In doing so, LGBT Families highlights
the diversity of such families in the United States, as well as globally. This
book not only organizes and presents current research on LGBT families,
but it also uses that research to better understand how LGBT families
strengthen the institution of family. In addition, although the book focuses
primarily on the experiences of people within LGBT families, a major theme
of how external forces shape these families runs throughout the book in
order to place LGBT families in a sociological context.
To start the conversation of what LGBT families are and how they have
formed historically, this initial chapter first deconstructs and defines key
terms. Then, to illustrate how LGBT families have been socially constructed
out of the culmination of several historical factors, the chapter provides a
brief history of the development of LGBT families. The chapter then focuses
on current barriers that LGBT families face, and finishes with a discussion
of the plan of the remaining book.

Deconstructing and Defining Terms
The connection between an active and effective LGBT rights movement, an
equally active and effective conservative movement against LGBT families,
and policies and laws concerning issues such as marriage and immigration
have led to a public discourse on what constitutes family and where LGBT
families fit into the current U.S. family landscape. As the quote by Powell and

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