The New Normal: Same-sex Families Negotiating Nuclear Family
Abstract: France legalised same-sex marriage (mariage pour tous) in 2013. In theory, it also allows a recognition of gay and lesbian families, as the social parents can now adopt their spouses children, thus becoming themselves official parents. However, same-sex families existed prior to that law. Through interviews with French gay and lesbian parents, I focus on two aspects of their family life: the way they negotiate with the model of the nuclear family, and the processes of transmission of values. The new law, rather than accepting same-sex families as a new norm, allows them to melt into the normative ideal of (heterosexual) nuclear family. Departing from this homonormative aspect, and from the informants' family creation narratives, I will investigate on the respondents' representations of family, the way their daily life is organised, and how they approach parenthood. Gay and lesbian families, although they do not at first sight fit into the nuclear family norm, (re)interpret this model to build their own families, rather than simply reproducing it. The conception of parenthood and family life, in the same way as family values, depends on a transmission that happens within the nuclear family. Drawing on Kellerhal, Ferreira and Perrenoud's typology of family identity transmission channels, I identify two transmission patterns: based on rules and based on communication, between which my respondents are trying to find a balance. However, transmission, even regarding heterosexual norms, does not occur solely within the nuclear family, and interactions outside of the family core impact both on the children and their parents. Although children raised in same-sex families do not experience those norms within the familial core, they are subjected to them. The existence of gay and lesbian families is not enough to undermine heteronormativity. However, they can be a departure point to a rethinking of family norms.
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