Homosexuality and the family.
This study is an analysis of the social construction of lesbian and gay identities within
the immediate family. The analysis draws on the insights obtained from in-depth
interviews conducted with 39 individual lesbian and gay respondents and 22 parents.
The thesis is organised into six chapters.
In Chapter 1, I review past work on lesbian and gay identity formation and the
disclosure of a lesbian or gay identity to members of the family. I argue that past
research on lesbian and gay identity formation has not paid sufficient attention to the
influence of the family on sexual identity construction. I also argue that past research
on lesbians and gays and the family has only focused on initial disclosure of sexual
identity to parents. I suggest that we can proceed beyond these limitations by
examining the social construction of lesbian and gay identities in the family by
focusing on two research themes: the internal theme which explores individual sexual
identity formation, coming out to parents and developments in familial relations from
initial disclosure to the present; and the external theme which examines lesbian and
gays experiences beyond the family, for instance, the lesbian and gay communities
and work. It also considers how lesbian and gay involvement beyond the family
affects parents. The research is then related to a broad theoretical framework
concerning the construction and negotiation of identities in postmodernity.
The methodology for the research is explored in Chapter 2. I review
etiological and structural approaches to lesbians and gays and the family and argue
that if we are to consider sexual identity and family relationships, then it is best
achieved through a qualitative approach based on grounded theory. This approach
would focus on meaning, interaction and the negotiation of relationships between
lesbians and gays and their families. The design and uses of the research tools, the
sampling procedure, the pilot and main studies and data analysis are also outlined.
The findings of the research are reported in Chapters 3,4 and 5. Chapters 3
and 4 examine the internal theme of the research. Chapter 5 explores the external
theme. Finally, three conceptual themes are identified in Chapter 6, based on the findings reported throughout the thesis. This is consistent with the grounded theory
approach, which seeks to theorise on the basis of empirical data. Firstly, I suggest that
individuals are active strategists in the production of postmodern identities; secondly,
family relations are constructed through discourse and social practices; lastly, familial
and sexual identities and relationships are constructed in wider contexts beyond the
family. The chapter ends by attempting to make some recommendations for further