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Gay, lesbian, and trans families through the lens of social science: A revolution or a pluralisation of forms of parenthood?

Martine Gross

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.