Making queer families: identity, LGBTQ parents, media, and cultural representation

Reed, Elizabeth Helen (2016) Making queer families: identity, LGBTQ parents, media, and cultural representation. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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This thesis investigates how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer parents interact with media
representations. I identify two significant gaps in current scholarship on this topic. One
between queer theory and LGBTQ sociology, where claims about the possibility of radical
politics are disconnected from studies of everyday life. The other, between media studies and
sociology of the family, where the central role of media in constituting identity drops out of
discussions about everyday LGBTQ lives. As a result of this mapping of the field I formulated
these key research questions: how do LGBTQ parents negotiate media culture? How do LGBTQ
parents negotiate visibility and intelligibility for their families and how do they experience
media invisibility? And, what conditions of family and what broader social possibilities are
generated by the interactions LGBTQ parents have with media?

These research questions framed the design of a project in which I conducted semi-structured
interviews with thirty LGBTQ parents living in the UK. The thesis takes this primary empirical
material together with reference to scholarship on media culture, family formation, and
queerness, and posits that media representation is a core constituent of identity formation
and central to how we can understand the making and maintenance of LGBTQ-parented
families. I examine how ideas about what a ‘normal’ or heterosexual family looks like shape
the experiences and quest for intelligibility, legitimacy and visibility; how parents conceptualise
their families in relation to the possibility of articulating radical identities; and the notion of
generational rupture and inheritance as it is managed through media and community.

The key findings of this thesis are that LGBTQ parents employ a variety of strategies to tackle
media invisibility; LGBTQ parents both conform to, and resist, narratives of family as
intrinsically normative; LGBTQ parents negotiate new representations of family and produce
new narratives of the meaning of radicalism. Finally, I show that media is central to the
identity work of LGBTQ parents, and is strongly implicated in the construction of home and
family life. I offer a thesis which contests the meaning of futurity and normativity in queer
theory and interjects in the discussion on the cultural formation and meaning of family.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > Media and Film
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0503 The Family. Marriage. Home > HQ0755 Parents. Parenthood Including parent and child, husbands, fathers, wives, mothers
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2016 12:22
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:37

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