It's So Important to Talk and Talk: Gay Fathers and the Complexities of Difference
Method: Gay men who adopted children through domestic and international routes were interviewed about their experiences as parents at home and in their communities. In-depth phenomenological interviews were conducted with gay adoptive fathers from 20 families (18 gay couples and 2 single gay men). The children of the fathers ranged in age from 9 months to 22 years. Using a social constructionist lens and the descriptive phenomenological method (Giorgi & Giorgi, 2003) and with the aid of NVivo qualitative analysis software, themes within each interview and across interviews were identified.
Results: Many fathers reported that they and their children frequently encountered questions and comments about the nature of their family. Being different from the “norm” took different forms as children got older. Consequently, fathers talked to their children about being adopted, not having a mother, and having gay fathers in ways that prepared them for living in a heteronormative world. Through their communication practices, this group of fathers shows how openly addressing these issues with their children can become a source of strength and cohesiveness for a family. The difficulties they encountered in their own lives as gay men helped fathers parent their children as they confronted the complexities of difference.
Conclusions and Implications: This study contributes to a growing body of research on the day to day lived experiences of gay fathers. It provides new information for social workers doing direct practice with gay and lesbian individuals, couples, and families; foster care and adoption professionals; and, those advocating for LGBT rights. The study illuminates the overt and subtle ways ideologies about sexuality, gender, and family surface in everyday social interactions for gay father families. This information can help practitioners challenge heteronormative biases in social work practice, education, and research and broaden their perspectives on fatherhood and parent-child relationships.
Gianino, M. (2008). Adaptation and transformation: The transition to adoptive parenthood for gay male couples. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 4(2), 205-243.
Giorgi, A. P., & Giorgi, B. M. (2003). The descriptive phenomenological psychological method. In P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, & L. Yardley (Eds.), Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design (pp. 243-273).