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“I told them I had two mamas ?”: Careers in Revealing (or Concealing) Same-Sex Parents in French Schools

Alice Olivier

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.