Homoparentality, transparencies and manifestations of family diversity: the contemporary challenges of parenthood
Directed by Martine Gross, Marie-France Bureau
Gay, lesbian, and trans families through the lens of social science: A revolution or a pluralisation of forms of parenthood?
In recent years, rapid changes in both assisted reproduction and social practices have given rise to numerous questions related to parenthood and the definitions of fatherhood and motherhood in a number of disciplines. Gay, lesbian, and trans families in particular call into question the two-parent biological model (one mother and one father) in which parents produce their own children or can pass as having done so. Beyond questions about the psychological development of children born into gay, lesbian, or trans families, which numerous psychological studies have tried to answer, these types of families provide further avenues for thought in the areas of sociology, anthropology, family law, and filiation. In their diversity, these families disassociate the notions of conjugality, procreation, filiation, and parenthood. This disassociation—which jeopardizes the model in which the procreative (born of), legal (the son/daughter of), and emotional (raised by) aspects of the family exist simultaneously—exists today in many other family configurations, in particular blended families, the use of assisted reproduction with a third-party donor, and adoption.
This introductory article will serve to remind readers what is meant by gay, lesbian, and trans families, and will discuss, in light of the issues raised by these topics, work from various other disciplines. A literature review will summarize work conducted on gay and lesbian parenting since the 1990s using three primary approaches: psychological, socio-anthropological, and socio-legal. The far fewer and more recent studies of trans parenting will be covered in a separate section. The article will conclude with a presentation of the articles that make up this special issue.
The “théorie du genre” Chimera, or How the Debate Surrounding the French Same-Sex Marriage Law of May 17, 2013 Reveals the Mechanisms of a Gender System
While the French law of May 17, 2013 to legalize same-sex marriage was a major advance for non-heteronormative families, it also highlighted the resistance to changing gender norms as they apply to families. The controversial French term “théorie du genre,” arising from a literal translation of the English term “gender theory,” has influenced legislators and slowed the advance of equality for all families. At the same time, an analysis of parliamentary proceedings reveals gender mechanisms largely inspired by the realm of the imagination.
Lesbian mothers’ ambivalence in conveying gender norms: from criticizing stereotypes to emulating them “for the good of the child”
This article is based on accounts of lesbian mothers collected during a French sociological study on the transmission of gender roles in lesbian-parented families. The study aimed at determining how lesbian mothers represent gender norms and gender socialization for their children.
Individually, the subjects genuinely called gender norms into question. Their disconnection from heteronormative thinking manifested itself in criticism of gender stereotypes, condemnation of sexism, and a certain “deheterosexualization” in how they spoke about themselves and in their appearance. The couples’ day-to-day lives exhibited more equality than in the traditional heterosexual model of domestic life and parental roles.
In their accounts, they presented their lifestyles in a positive light and argued that it is not necessary for parents to be of different genders. These arguments were also found in the conception stories they told their children, so that their development would be based on a positive vision of the family. These stories provide a definition of the family that separates procreation from the conjugal relationship. On the other hand, their sense of legitimacy appears to be vulnerable to latent, inexplicitly hostile homophobia, the numerous day-to-day consequences of which they tend to minimize.
And while they were predisposed to convey identification models that are independent of gender stereotypes, the lesbian mothers questioned were mindful of promoting signs of normative gender socialization among their children in order to protect them from the social disapproval that they felt their atypical family model exposed them to. They teach their children arguments that will allow them to present themselves in a clear and socially acceptable manner.
Analysis of the psychological functioning of children raised by female same-sex couples
Émilie Moget, Susann Heenen-Wolff
Many studies of same-sex families have been conducted over the past 35 years. Primarily quantitative in nature, these studies tell us little about the unique dynamic operating in such families. By way of an exploratory longitudinal study, we analyze the distinct experiences of same-sex families (two women) who used assisted reproduction with an anonymous sperm donor. Our study explores the following topics: the mothers’ role with the child, the place of the anonymous donor in the family narrative, the child’s relationship to his or her origins, the development of the child’s sexual identity, and the integration of these families into a heteronormative society. Through regular meetings with both children and parents, we were able to highlight specific aspects of how these families function. The originality of our research is in its exploration of the intrapsychic and intersubjective experiences of these children. We try to understand how children of same-sex parents build their psychic identity. The use of projective tests (Patte Noire [animal metaphor], CAT, family drawing) yielded precious data about their psychosexual development. These tests can be employed both projectively and perceptively and reveal clues about how children perceive, represent, and symbolize their relationships. We use case studies to illustrate our findings.
“I told them I had two mamas ?”: Careers in Revealing (or Concealing) Same-Sex Parents in French Schools
While research has been done on the formation of same-sex families and the development of their children, few studies have explored how such children deal with their family situations while at school. School is a vector of heteronormative notions, which raises many questions about the attitudes that these children adopt : how do they talk about their family situation ? Based on interviews of 13 girls and boys aged 10 to 19 years from variously structured same-sex families in France, I analyze how these children reveal (or conceal) their unconventional family types over time by viewing it as a “career” stratified by the different levels of school. These levels all have very different normative contexts and thus involve specific and distinct ways of perceiving and talking about one’s family. Elementary school (approximately 6 to 11 years old) has few peer group norms, and same-sex families are not stigmatized, which explains why it is common for them to talk about their family situation. In “collège” (11 to 15 years old, akin to North American middle school or junior high), however, peer group norms are stronger and tend to stigmatize same-sex families, causing children of same-sex parents to reveal their situation to only a few select friends and conceal it from others. In “lycée” (15 to 18 years old, equivalent to high school in North America), having same-sex parents can be seen as a stigma, but it is often reversed when actively publicizing one’s family situation.
French legal procrastination in recognizing families formed by female same-sex couples
For several years, French judges have been regularly asked by female same-sex couples to recognize the legitimacy of a “social” mother, as opposed to the legal mother (i.e., the woman who gave birth to the child). How do judges respond to these requests? The French law of May 17, 2013 allowing same-sex marriage also, as a consequence, allows a child to be adopted by the female spouse of the child’s mother. But even before this law passed, there was jurisprudence for the recognition of a quasi-status for “social mother,” both during the couple’s relationship and after it has ended. Now that same-sex families have been legally recognized in France for over a year, a status report of the situation is warranted.
The effects of the biogenetic component in recognizing same-sex filiation in Spain
Marta Roca i Escoda
This article takes up the line of thought arising out of bioethical research that seeks to analyze the intersection of three phenomena : the development of new assisted human reproduction technologies ; their legal and normative framework ; and new rights granted to sexual minorities, especially with respect to recognition of same-sex parenting. My discussion concentrates on legal changes in Spain with respect to same-sex filiation, both male and female, as they relate to assisted reproduction techniques. This choice is motivated by the fact that Spain, by allowing same-sex couples to marry, has gone further than other European countries in recognizing homosexual filiation. But in the end, the existence of several types of legal no man’s land throws up roadblocks in recognizing this type of filiation. In legal and political debates surrounding these legal impasses, it is the biological and genetic components of filiation that tend to be emphasized. My analysis therefore aims to show more specifically how, in these debates, the biogenetic component enters into the conception of filiation, from the viewpoint of both the legal system and the practices of same-sex couples.
Prohibiting discrimination against trans* people : improving the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms by adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of defined discriminations
The Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms prohibits, to a certain extent, discrimination against trans* people. However, the Charter does a poor job of covering different facets of gender identity and expression, and of certain resulting situations such as transgender parenting. In response to this shortcoming, and using a positivist approach, this article suggests adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of defined discriminations that are prohibited under section 10 of the Charter. This would give trans* people better legal “protection”—assuming such protection truly exists. It would also clarify the legal situation. To support this assertion, the author examines the prohibition of discrimination against trans* people, revealing that the concepts of “sex” and “civil status” are central to the issue. However, because of how they are interpreted, these concepts cannot fully and explicitly encompass the situation of people who do not adhere to gender stereotypes. In this regard, the Québec legal system is therefore incapable of completely and explicitly prohibiting discrimination against trans* people. Given this shortcoming, the article subsequently suggests adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of defined discriminations. Such an amendment to the Charter, which is being applied increasingly elsewhere in Canada, would compensate for the problem described above. While its tangible effects would be difficult to measure given that having true “protection” against discrimination is somewhat of a myth, the author nevertheless submits that such an amendment would be an appropriate step.
“I helped two women start a family”: gamete donation among private individuals in Québec
Isabel Côté, Kévin Lavoie, Francine De Montigny
This article presents the findings of a study aimed at better understanding the perspective and experience of men who donate sperm to help others start a family. The article is based on qualitative data drawn from two collections of interviews of men who had donated sperm to lesbian couples, either as part of a pre-existing relationship with the women (n = 10) or as part of an agreement stemming from an initial contact over the Internet (n = 8). The findings suggest the need for a more nuanced conception of their participation in the family plans of others. Not only do these men view this altruistic gesture with a significant sense of accomplishment, but the chosen method of procreation is part of a consensual and transparent process that meets the needs of those involved and their respective motivations.
Trans parenting: the sensitive experiences of parents and children (France, Quebec)
Trans parenting is a challenge both socially and intimately for trans parents themselves, but also for their partners and children. There are few studies on this sensitive subject, and even fewer children’s accounts. In this study, which incorporates aspects of both anthropology and psychology, I strive to report, as accurately as possible and without value judgments, the words of the people I met by presenting their feelings, experiences, difficulties, doubts, and victories. Within the limited scope of this article, I present the case of trans women—people born as men and who have become female—who were already married or in a relationship before their transition and who had children in this relationship. Their life stories relate how they adjusted to their transitions to their role as parents, even in the face of much incomprehension and even exclusion. I also examine how the children react to their parents’ change in sexual identity, a reaction that can change over time and that is linked intrinsically to how they were given the news, their age, the attitudes of their mother and of their immediate family, and society’s view of trans parenting.
Medical Management of Trans Parents in France
This article investigates how trans people are received in assisted reproductive technology centres (ART) in France and, more broadly, how procreation among trans people is currently regarded and managed by French medicine. It will analyze how sperm and egg banks serve couples formed by trans people, before exploring more in depth how the issue of pre-transition gamete preservation is considered. It will endeavour to understand in particular how, in various medical contexts, transgender parents’ attempts to conceive are specifically viewed as problematic even though they differ in no way from ordinary ART methods. In other words, what are the procedures and methods that make it a problem?