Remembering My Hat

18th June 2015

Module Workload Workshop

Encouraged by the positive responses on Twitter to my liveblogging of the Queer Kinship conference, here are some notes from a workshop I attended this morning at the OU about managing student workload. Written in slightly fuller sentences, but still a quick and partial account based on what interested me and what was said in my group, rather than aiming to be representational of the whole workshop, still less the OU position. And most likely to be of interest to other educators, especially OU-types.

The workshop was aiming to address these questions:

  1. What factors impact on perceived student workload and how can we manage these to effectively support our students in keeping up with their workload?
  2. How do we effectively manage student expectations around workload?
  3. What elements should be included in IET guidance to module and production teams around managing student workload?
  4. How do we effectively categorise study texts in terms of ‘easy’, ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ and how do we ensure module teams adopt consistent norms in relation to these?
  5. What should student-directed learning look like and how do we support students in effectively engaging with it

It’s clear that lower workload increases retention (I think the statistic cited was that you get about 4% drop-out per extra hour of content per week) but how low can you go and still deliver graduate-ness by the end? We at the OU still work with the QAA norm of 600 hours per 60 points of credit, but some other HE institutions are moving towards 480 hours. But it’s not always clear how that relates to student-directed study v. module-directed activity.

It is also clear that consistency of workload helps retention. [I’d come across this statistic before and we’d wondered whether that meant you shouldn’t have break weeks, but the people I spoke to today said that this wasn’t the case. Phew.]

What factors impact on perceived student workload and how can we manage these to effectively support our students in keeping up with their workload?

Perceived v. objective is an important distinction, but perceived is very important.

Materials designed to be supportive but non-core (such as guides to referencing, assessment guidance) can add to perception of workload. The trick is to be clear about what it core and what is ancillary or just for support if needed.

Anxiety, stress and feeling of lack-of-control all contribute to perceived workload. Collaborative working can be especially problematic in this respect. So it’s really important to make clear to students the benefits they gain from collaborative working.

Things the module team thinks are easy can be surprisingly hard for students and add to workload unintentionally (e.g. getting to grips with eTMA submission for new students, taking a screenshot).

Referencing module materials! Especially when different modules have slightly different conventions due to having different types of materials.


This picture, from Normanack thanks, is actually relevant to this post, because a librarian in my group said that he had been asked by a student how to reference a seed packet. An excellent example of unplanned workload for students.

How do we effectively manage student expectations around workload?

At different points – pre-registration, before module start, early weeks, TMA preparation, EMA/exam preparation, for the whole qualification. Knowing what students’ expectations are is itself challenging. Helping them to be realistic without making them think they can’t succeed.

ALs have a crucial role to play here. Module teams can include activities encouraging students to plan out their workload. Peer accounts can be useful (like on the Moon MOOC, apparently, which has a real student popping up throughout). Being explicit about workload.

What elements should be included in IET guidance to module and production teams around managing student workload?

[nothing noted here]

How do we effectively categorise study texts in terms of ‘easy’, ‘medium’ or ‘difficult’ and how do we ensure module teams adopt consistent norms in relation to these?

[I was a bit sceptical of the project of this question. I do think the distinction is really important and one that authors have to constantly think about. Some texts are clearly easier (e.g. newspaper articles) and other harder (journal articles) and this then affects student workload. But it’s very contingent on the student, the module, the level, the qualification context, what the activity is that surrounds the text and what the student has to do with the text. I’m not persuaded this is the kind of thing that can be categorised a priori or assessed without seeing the context]

What should student-directed learning look like and how do we support students in effectively engaging with it?

What do we mean by student-directed anyway? How is it different from ‘studentship’? University norms are 80% module-directed and 20% student-directed at level 1, 70:30 at level 2 and 60: 40 at level 3. We need to tie student-directed study into assessment, otherwise why should they bother? We also need to be clear to ALs that they should give credit for materials which the student has found (especially at higher levels).


11th June 2015

Queer Kinship Conference: Notes part 5 (final instalment)

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 13:05

Last set of notes as the conferences ends at lunchtime today (apart from 3 1/2 hours on a coach back to Warsaw)

Last parallel session

Chosen families and friendships


Thomsz Basiuk, Warsaw

Reimagining relationality in American gay men’s life narratives

Cultural / literacy studies. Novel by Edmund White (didn’t catch title but it’s the one about Austin and Julien and was pub’d 2000), Foucauldian approach. White often seen as a regressive writer, but he thinks it’s a misreading – it’s more nuanced and reflective – people miss that [?]. Assimilation v. distinctive gay lifestyles and values.

Tuula Juvonen, Tampere

Lesbian community building in Tampere 1971-2011

Tampere ‘the Manchester of Finland’ – 2nd largest city, 19th century growth.

Ints 15 ppl so far, women born 1944-1968, who were part of lesbian community in Tampere 1970s -90s.

A lot seem to have started a relationship with the first person they met, because so hard to meet other lesbians. Later, with more people moving to city, new mode of short term relationships as part of project of self-exploration – not aiming to find a life partner.

One interviewee used ‘a carousel’ as description of constantly changing relationship constellations [my mixed metaphor!], one break-up setting off another. Also old flames in small circles – mutual appreciation and intimacy about exes. Also enabled gossip, helpful to newcomers because found out who drunk too much, was violent etc. Worst stories of bad relationships come from people who weren’t part of the scene or who met partners elsewhere.

Many accounts of painful break-ups then end with ‘but nowadays we’re great friends’ – small group, can’t afford to hold grudges – although not the case for violent or abusive exes. [Also normative female gender stuff]. Great to have this community of people who know you intimately. [This account seems to me a bit rose-tinted]

Marcelo Perilo, Sao Paulo

Unicamp, harder, better, faster, stronger: Transits, visibility and parenthood between LGBT families in Sao Paulo

Research in deprived areas with people with same-sex behaviours (not identities), aged 14-28. Usually black, low income. Have chosen families for protection and support. Have at least one founder ‘the father’ and ‘mothers’, draw up rules about taking on new ‘sons’.

One family called ‘Stronger Family’ has 100s of members. Anyone can adopt further sons but father[s?] have to agree. Recently became very political active.

Another family (Valentine family) has rule that you can’t belong to another family too. Mother doesn’t attend meetings as much. Uncles step in if father can’t make it. Family act together when insulted on public transport. Live in poor areas far from the downtown area, which is where all the good stuff happens. Helps members access areas of city that otherwise wouldn’t be able to.


Gibran Teixeira Braga, San Paulo

Me and my boys: Queer kinship, eroticism and friendship among a young woman and some gay guys

Doctoral research – sociability, sexuality, gender performance and style. Fieldwork at parties and nightclubs, drawing on sexual scripts theory (Gagnon and Simon). Good for refuting pathologising psychologies.

Focusing here on one working class ciswoman (age 32) and her younger gay friends (18-23). [Interesting detailed analysis of how she uses concepts of gender, sexual identities, testosterone, top/bottom, body parts etc. in non-traditional ways to account for her sexual and friendship practices. Not captured here]. ‘I am a nightclub, I even have a VIP area (pubis)’ mocks herself too. One of younger men calls her ‘mother’. She supplies advice and help to them.

Gender of sexual partner doesn’t seem like a good way of understanding her sexuality – it’s about the particular type of relationship to a particular type of person.


Q: Tell us more about the Stronger and Valentine families? Everyday functions.

A: Usually adopted when use a particular space – a square. Go there every Sunday. After adoption, have contact every day. Check if they are doing okay in school and also check contact with family of birth is okay.

Q: More about race? Families of choice ought to be good sites for disrupting race stratifications, but they don’t seem to be

A: Marcelo – none of these people are white. Race is deeply related to acceptable and unacceptable gender and sexuality performances – they function together. Tuula – Tampere was very white until very recently, so lesbian networks very white. Gibran agreeing with Thomasz – should be aiming for thick description of race, not putting more labels and categories on people. American and European Sociology differences in how we deal with race as a concept.

Q to Tuula: Why stopped in 1990s, where are we now?

A: I’m too old to know about now! I did mean to keep going to 2000s but things shifted a lot at end of 1990s – lesbian club closed so no more central meeting place, younger lesbians had better access to mixed space, the internet came along and changed things utterly. Current situation is mostly two middle-aged women living together, little contact with lesbian community except for a few friends. Don’t feel part of a big lesbian community any more.

Q to Tuula: You mentioned intimate partner violence – how was that handled in the community given that there was less state intervention then?

A: It was known that some women were dangerous, you should try to avoid them. V little discussion of partnership violence. Many interviewees saying now that there was a violence in the relationship then which Tuula, as a community membe, didn’t know at the time. Tough Finnish dykes idea – to admit you were hit is an affront to face [was there not butch and femme going on in Finnish lesbian culture at the time? She didn’t mention at all]

Q: Putting things in boxes by categorising them in certain ways? Are we reifying families?

A: Gibran: I don’t like researcher coming along saying ‘wow, this is a family!’ – kinship is better. Useful term if people use it, not if they don’t [does this include family relationship terms like ‘father’ though? What counts as a participants’ orientation (that old chestnut)]. Another speaker whose paper I missed: we need the terminology of family because of fight for access to rights. Thomasz agreeing with Gibran – if people use it. Tuula – moment of time is important. Whole discourse of being a lesbian in Finland was being created. First study published in 1982. Often women moving from small towns to big cities, away from families of origin. Talk about kin not very common in her group – were creating something very different. Marcelo – they use these terms but I still have to think about how I use these terms – still have a responsibility. Audience member: even terminology varies – can be used camply or ironically. Another audience member: if it’s a continuum from friendship to partnerhood, why do we draw lines and say ‘this is family, this is friends’? Marcelo – you have to explain why you use the term in a particular context.

Q: Anything on bad friends – let’s you down, breaks your heart?

A: Tuula: Historical local contexts – lesbian acts illegal in Finland until 1971. So you had to trust someone a lot to be in a relationship with them. Thomasz – bad friendship sounds like kinship!

Conference closing plenary

Remarks from Joanna:

There were so many papers on parenthood and reproduction – speaks to what’s going on for so many queer people at the moment. Some gaps:

  • Families of origin
  • Queer children
  • Methodology
  • [bisexuality! There were some but very few and a lot of sliding from ‘queer kinship’ to ‘same-sex relationships’]

Maybe run this conference again in a few years, address these gaps. Probably not a book from this conference, because our neo-liberal university systems don’t value books – suggest go for special issues of journals instead.

Facebook group. Jiscmail list. Videos will be available.

10th June 2015

Queer Kinship Conference: Notes part 4

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 17:48
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve only liveblogged one session today, due to a combination of technical issues and being tired. Click backwards from this one on the blog to find the earlier ones. As always, this is my version, not necessarily what the speakers intended.

Parallel Session 10: Practices of trans-parenting

Sally Hines, Leeds

Pregnant pauses: Trans* blokes, bodies and babies OR Pregnant men: An international exploration of trans male practices of reproduction

Early thinking, not yet funded. First title is what she’s interested in, second is one she thinks is more likely to get funded.

Wants to look at post-transition transmen’s experiences of pregnancy in order to look at what male pregnancy tells us about gender in society.

Pregnant men in scifi (Marge Piercy etc.). Donna Harraway imagined reproduction untied from feminity. And reproduction has been a key theme in feminism – as major cause of women’s disadvantage (Woman’s Room). Desire for men to experience disadvantages of pregnancy and reproduction. Also feminist desires for gender-neutral parenting. Pipefish and seahorses do it.

Proposing: mixed qual methods, interdisc, internat, experiences, health needs and citizenship claims of transmen re pregnancy.

Growth in phenomenon e.g. 50 transmen in Australia gave birth in 2nd half of 2015. Support and help groups in UK around these issues.

Subject of fear and fascination – an interesting binary. Potentially fetishized. Citizenship and recognition not well though through in policy and law. Few differences across Europe, unlike same-sex marriage.

Media furore around Thomas Beatty (?sp) 2010ish – claimed to be first pregnant man, although wasn’t actually (Pat Califa’s husband). Diverse responses although little celebration.

Non-academic phrased research questions:

  • What’s is like to be a guy and be pregnant
  • Who’s got access? What sort of families are being reproduced?
  • Does gender-recognition legislation help?
  • Is reproductive technology playing a major role, or are people doing it for themselves?

Documentary auto-ethnographic film will be part of the outputs. Reps from trans health groups costed into bid as project consultants.


Rachel Epstein, LGBTQ Parenting network, Sherbourne Health Centre, Toronto

Space invaders: Queer and trans bodies in fertility clinics

Run courses for queer people planning parenthood. Heard lots of stories about fertility clinics, did funding bid ‘Creating our families’. Qual 44 ints with 66 LGBTQ ppl across Ontario. Produced a guidebook for LGBTQ people, a tips sheet for clinics, fact sheet for trans people, theatre pieces for clinics, turned into a video (will soon be avail freely online – look at their website) + academic outputs.

Fertility industry – hugely gendered, raced, classed. How does queer fit into these spaces?

Drew a lot on Charis Thompson’s 2005 ethnography of fertility clinics, mainly het people.

Newness of technologies get normalised, become less scary by linking them back to conventional gender roles and family relationships. Heterosexual matrix (Butler) really gets naturalised. Sex = PIV heterosexual sex, desire for children is natural etc.

Gender labour – repairing of damaged gender identities. Men congratulated on how many sperm they produce, applauded on returning from the donation room! Body parts are separated from social identities.

So when queer and trans people enter this space, they may be unintelligible. Bodies don’t line up with norms. E.g. described 2 lesbians, one transwoman, as ‘het couple with male factor infertility’. ‘Good girl’ when ovulates, sperm called ‘the boys’. Advised to go home and have sex. Because transwoman can produce sperm, she is seen as a man. Cisfemale partner also found the kinds of femininity they expected her to perform difficult – would have preferred just to be treated as a uterus-on-legs, not to be constantly incited to perform femininity in traditional ways [also an issue for heterosexual people in fertility clinics].

Yuval Topper-Erez, Hoshen – LGBT education Centre

Transgender pregnancy and queer parenting from the personal perspective

Born to orthodox Jewish family. FTM, started testosterone age 20, told that after a year would never be able to get pregnant, but felt if he didn’t take T, he wouldn’t survive anyway. He and male partner thought they might adopt, but not possible as gay couple in Israel. Felt surrogacy wasn’t ethical for them since he had a uterus. Now have a 3 yr old and a 1 yr old.

Stopped testosterone, got pregnant. Outed in media – sure hospital leaked it, so decided he had to become a media figure – gained rights to edit and veto. Wanted to give birth at home in order to avoid media attention but medical complication meant couldn’t – not a good experience at all.

Took 18 months to register them both as parents – only way to do it was to register him as female again, register as mother, then change his gender back to male.

Second child state refused to register at all, so no access to health care until 3 months old. Same solution to ‘problem’ of his gender – Guinness Book of Records for most registered sex changes!

Has lots of implication for how bring up children – lots of talk about gender in their household. Kids know that gender is a choice and that you shouldn’t ascribe. Also changed his gender practices – told son nail polish was for everyone, then felt hypocritical that never wore it himself. Started to do so sometimes (also makes his son very happy).


Q to Sally: Are you going to look at what are the narratives that transmen develop in order to navigate this difficult terrain? [Like narratives developed to get treatment at gender clinics]

A: A really good suggestion, thanks.

Q to Yuval: Say more about experiences – any difficulty or dysphoria from being pregnant?

A: Spoken to with female pronoun during labour (he didn’t notice!). Social worker came 12 hours after birth, asked lots of questions ‘now are you going to stay a woman’ ‘I’m a man now’ argument. Just have to agree to disagree. Didn’t feel there was anything feminine about being pregnant. Didn’t like being pregnant but it didn’t feel dysphoric. Since being pregnant it has changed his gender identity a bit because feels greater connection to the many women who have also given birth.

Q: Dominant cultural narrative that transpeople hate their original genitals and reproductive parts. I don’t see this in my work with trans youth. Do any of you?

A: It’s a narrative we had to tell to get treatment – a strategic rehearsed narrative. Maybe we are outgrowing the need for that story as trans gets more common.

9th June 2015

Queer Kinship Conference, Poland: Notes part 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:54

More liveblogging notes from this conference. Usual discaimers, part 1 here and part 2 here.

Parallel session 2

Queering Heteronormative Life Cycle

Kathryn Almack, Nottingham

Friends, Families and Kinship: Proximity and Intimacy in the Support Networks of LGBT Elders

[Quite minimal notes both because my laptop is running out of battery and because I know quite a lot about this project already because I was on the advisory group for The Last Outing project.]

Lesbians and bi women seemed to have good social capital through lifelong activism, often through feminism. Gay men had often been involved in activism around HIV earlier in lives but seemed much more isolated in later life – activism had not continued. [Very interesting. Activism careers and trajectories.]

What seems like ancient history of legalised discrimination against same-sex relationships to young people is not ancient history to older people. Referenced in talk, especially section 28 and personal experiences of past custody battles.

Stigma by association – gay man’s mother worried about being stigmatised in the care home due to him and his partner being visible to staff and residents.


Rebecca Jones, The Open University

Queer kinship in bisexual people’s imagined and experienced later life

Ask me if you would like the slides. Or come to one of the other versions of this paper I am doing this summer – ‘Troubling families’ seminar at Walton Hall on the 29th June or i-ages conferences at Surrey 6th-7th July.


Danielle Pearson, The Open University

‘I just want to get a dog and see how that works…’ Family planning among young same-sex couples

14 couples, 8 female, 6 male, 12 L, 11 G, 5 B in same-sex relationships, 1 other.

Similar methods to larger Enduring Love project

Children were an unquestionable possibility, an option even if they didn’t want them. A step or a stage in the relationship. All imagined experiences as none had children yet. Male couples tended to talk about adoption and fostering, female about IVF.

Worries about implications of different options – genetic relationship with one parent and not the other. Also worries about cost of access to IVF and surrogacy (also illegality of surrogacy).

Pets and animals frequently invoked as similar or different from children. Part of family, parent-child for human-pet, connectedness between partners, liminal objects (on boundary between humans and animals, semi-kin), maternal thinking, transitional objects – preparing them for parenthood (quote from title). Dogs as a lifelong commitment, worse than children who will at least grow up and leave!

Queer Kinship Conference, Poland: Notes Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 18:49

Incomplete and very partial liveblog from a conference. Not necessarily representative of what the speakers said or meant, just what I noticed. [My thoughts in square brackets]. Part 1 here:

Plenary 2

Research Findings from ‘Families of Choice in Poland’ – the hosting research project for the conference

3yr, 2013-15, mixed methods, incl ethnography and focus groups, focused on everyday life of non-heterosexual families. Aiming to show variety of family and intimate relationships in Poland and challenges face in everyday life:

  1. Family arrangements
  2. Family v. outer world
  3. Needs and expectations re policy and recognition
  4. Parenthood and child wellbeing


  1. Desk research – stats, public opinion polls, LGBT reports
  2. Critical discourse analysis of documents from key players (gov, church, LgBt orgs
  3. Case studies of legal and media cases.
  4. Quant survey 3038 ppl with a same-sex partner and LGB 2378 singles. 37 pollsters, one in each province of Poland + internet.
  5. In-depth interviews using biographical methods. 6 researchers.
  6. Ethnographic – 15 ethnographers, 21 families, 30 days with each family
  7. Focus-groups 22, with 153 people. Different groups (parents biological and social, children of diff ages, family of origin members, people 55+ in same-sex relas)

The ethnographic part (6 in the process)

[Usual claims for ethnographic research]. Longest and most intensive research conducted in the area of queer familial life, they think.

Worried that would have difficulty recruiting for such a major intervention into lives. But didn’t so were able to balance sample for gender and include 6 families with children.

Ethnographers were MA and PhD students in Anthropology etc. from various Polish universities, who were given 2 days specialist training and ongoing support by research team.

Ethnographers had to do 8h daily for 30 days [how on earth did they organise all this! Cross-university too! Amazing achievement]

Specific foci for each week, as well as general obs. Had to post at 2pm every day.

Lots of ethical dilemmas. Families and researcher couldn’t keep distance over that length of time. Also challenging for supervisors who felt like Big Brother.

Analysis not yet done because lots of data!

Evaluated the fieldwork, asking families and researchers. Researchers said it had changed their ideas about non-het family. All reported being very tired. Some said they couldn’t disengage. Families felt had gained insight into their relationships. Liked building relationship with ethnographer. But also found it hard, and finding time for the weekly interviews. Involvement had been identity-building, form of activism, triggered empowerment, and therapeutic for relationship.

Overall Results [Not reporting these in detail as they are available in their report, available online at their website  Mainly picking out relative proportions of L, G and B (T not mentioned) because the survey the UK Older LGBT Forum is carrying out at the moment is getting proportions that are surprising us]

Survey: 51% G, 41% L, 6% B, 2% Q [missed what they said about T, but wasn’t on the same line of chart]

Interviews: 42% L, 41% G, 13% bi women, 2.6% bi men [more lesbian and bi visible if you ask in more nuanced ways? Although small % of bi men doesn’t fit this theory] Actual talk gave more complexity to this picture [as you would expect].

Women not defining themselves as lesbians but through their relation with a woman, but men defining themselves as gay, and that that is obvious. Working class respondents their economic precariousness much more imp than non-het identities.

Pure relationships critiques:

  • Friendship intimacy (Weeks et al)
  • Intimacy of self (Jamieson) [either she is misreading Jamieson on disclosing intimacy, or I am. Should check my understanding].
  • Radical ordinariness (Heaphy, Smart and Einarsdottir, 2013)

Decided to use gender as a main factor in analysing data [so found it, in the ways you would expect around relationships and sex].

More main concepts used:

  • Displaying families (Finch 2007)
  • [too slow, missed the rest]

‘Family’ often meant nuclear family of choice (partner and children). Felt they should include family of origin, but often felt they didn’t perform roles families are supposed to for support and closeness. Ambiguous and varying feelings about ‘families’. Some wanting to problematize or widen the concept.

Few examples of complete acceptance from family of origin, and those were mostly where relationships were of long duration. Birth of grandchildren often helped. ‘Transparent closet’ – family knows but pretends they don’t or that partner doesn’t exist e.g. through minimal contact with them or keeping secret from neighbours and other family members. Inclusion in families sometimes without naming as partner.


Q: What about asexuality?

A: Not many people declared themselves as asexual but a lot of gay men said straight away that sex wasn’t that important – doing some rhetorical work. f

Q: Class and internet access?

A: Ethnographic study families had to be internet connected, so this skewed data. But this is no longer a class marker in Poland because of mobile phones and Facebook. But probably didn’t reach all Polish same-sex couples! But internet is hugely important to LGBT people for making connections and having community, especially if living in small town/rural area.

Q: What’s most specific to Poland in your findings?

A: Was surprised by how much violence and hostile response from families was reported. Discrimination mostly reported within own families of origin, less in outside world  – could have better strategies to keep themselves safe in public arena (like going abroad to get married).

Q: Rural/small town v. city differences?

A: Hard to say. City may be generally less homophobic, but some rural/small town couples were very out and very accepted. Can’t see rural / city split very clearly in their data. Also can’t see class or religiosity differences

Q: Ethnographic stage! So much! So long! How?

A: Not sure! We were maybe a bit mad. Political agenda of families was crucially enabling –wanted to tell their stories, saw it as a form of activism, wanted to testify. Not very satisfied with the ways LGBT organisations represented them, chance to give a better picture. (More lesbian families volunteered than gay men’s families). Got under the ethical processes radar – didn’t have to go through formal research ethics process because it’s less regulated in Poland. Did it within the project and with families, but not externally mandated.

Q: Private public divisions – is fight for legal rights just privatising?

A: Household was v important as safe space. People much more careful in public, so really very little evidence of public discrimination because people are being so careful/closeted. Media response when published quant findings was depressing – so many queer people! Happy in their relationships! Long term relationships!

Queer Kinship Conference, Poland: Notes from a conference

Filed under: Uncategorized — rememberingmyhat @ 14:00

Queer Kinship and Relationships Conference

Zalusie Mazury, Poland

8th – 11th June 2015

My usual partial and incomplete liveblog-ish notes from a conference. [My own reactions and thoughts in square brackets like this]. No pictures this time because the wifi is too slow.

Alas, the first plenary speaker, Judith Butler, was unwell and unable to join us, even by Skype.

Parallel session 1

Different Dimensions of Parenting

Jose Pichardo Galan, Madrid

Rethinking same-sex sexuality and kinship in Spain

What constitutes ‘queer’ in relation to kinship is unclear [yes!] and what we think of as constituting kinship is always ethnocentric [good point].

In his fieldwork in Spain, he found no dichotomy between family of choice and family of origin (c.f. Weeks et al. and Weston). Trying to get recognition and integration from family of origin. Typical ‘family of choice’ people (lovers, exes, friends) were described as ‘like family’ but not ‘family’.

Chosen family may work for some non-US contexts (Eastern Europe) but doesn’t work so well for others (Spain, Australia?)

All families are ‘chosen’, even ‘biological’ family (Strathern, 1993)

LGBTQ people cannot always afford to choose non-biological family. 40% of people get a job via family in Spain. Main way you get help if ill, legal help. You can’t break up with your family, and they can’t break up with you.

LGBTQ people can’t always afford to choose parenthood (access to reproductive technologies expensive) [also an issue for infertile heterosexual people – also class-influenced rates of success]

Anna Borgos, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

A precarious status: Hungarian co-mothers in the system of family and society

Few legal rights but growth in visibility of lesbian parenting in Hungary. Lots of media discourse on fitness. Research so far shows co-mothers more vulnerable than biological mothers, legally and in everyday life. High levels of equality and balance in domestic task. Equally close bond to child but diff relational descriptors, e.g. parent, not mother.

Her research. High degree of intentionality and ‘I always wanted…’. Practical reasons given for which parent became the birth mother – career, physical fitness, fear of inheriting bad things from own bad relationship with mother [but practicality is a powerful discourse to rationalise choices]. Also found ‘parent not mother’ talk from some co-mothers (but not all). Although also pre-lingual baby signals both of them if asked ‘where is the mother?’ Differences are about personality of mothers, not biology or parental status. Mix of naming practices – two versions of ‘Mummy/Mum/Mama’ type equivalents, some Mummy and First Name.

Some biological fathers were family friends, but little active role in child rearing. Some preferred anonymous donors because of legal rights of known donor. Families of origin seem to accept them as a family and part of birth family still. Birth of grandchildren can improve relationships. Public visibility mixed and unclear. Legal situation worrying – ‘if biological mother died, her parents would claim the kid for sure’ .

Daniel Monk, Birkbeck

Too Gay to Foster?

One anecdote, used to think about queer kinship. 2 gay men rejected for fostering. Civil partnered, long term relationship. Initially local authority was very keen – poster child, flying rainbow flag. Right at end of year’s assessment, came out that they were consensually non-monogamous. Suddenly local authority dropped them, so did the LGBT rights organisation they were getting support from.

Story doesn’t fit neatly into liberal rights discourse, or queer rights one – interesting.

Deemed problematic because of stigmatisation of non-monogamy. But also traces of fear of predatory gay men and children. Also sex-negativity.

Steve Hicks on how successful gay adopters manage it – by feminising themselves. Going out seeking sex is too masculine. Steve also finds de-gaying narrative – distancing themselves from mainstream gay culture, become adult and thus suited to parenthood. This couple too male and too gay. Also ‘selfish’ – seeking sex outside relationship is selfish and that doesn’t go with parenthood [ha!]

Couple seen by others as naïve – they were astonished at the way there were treated. Class and cultural capital. Successful gay adopters know what they are supposed to say and say it [like successful straight adopters].

Relationship seen as inadequate because non-monogamous – have issues, may not be a stable couple. No longer expressed in religious / moral terms, but in psychological terms. But couple were talking about it as evidence of the stability and integrity of their relationship.

Easy to read through queer theory lens – homonormativity (Duggan), charmed circle (Rubin). But this is too easy. Also silences aspects of this story. Being a married dyad was really important to this couple. Non-monogamy was part of this but they didn’t want to challenge marriage or conventions of childrearing and lifecourse. Too conventional for queer theory’s desire to destabilise norms. Believed in Human Rights discourse – were horrified that this wasn’t working.

Galina Yarmanova, Ukraine

‘We just want to be normal’: Double bind of reproductive pressure on lesbian mother in Ukraine

Strong pressure on all women in Ukraine to become biological mothers. Highest form of fulfilment, discrediting to not be a mother. Lots of remarks on childlessness at family gatherings. Those who declare don’t want children told they are going through a phase [also the case in UK. More so in Ukraine?]

But also high degree of stigma around same-sex parenting. Predatory, perverse, abnormal.

Can’t win! Must have children, but must not.

High need to ensure their children are properly traditionally gendered and heterosexual. Making sure they have male role models.

Simon Crouch, Melbourne

Heteronormative Conflict: Socially constructing child health in Australian same-sex parent families.

Archbishop Dennis Hart, Melbourne, this week ‘Messing with marriage [is] messing with kids’. Australia is last English-speaking country not to have marriage equality [really? What about US?]

Defined same-sex families as ones where at least one partner is attracted to same sex [that seems a rather problematic definition!]

Lit review by decades: 1970s all about custody battles, 80s and 90s ‘no difference in child wellbeing in same-sex families from trad’, since then more about stigma and discrimination. Limitations – too many well-off white lesbians, few gay men, small sample sizes.

Their study large scale, mixed-methods. Assessed against standardised scales of child well-being.

315 families, 500 adolescent children. Over-sampled male parents. Slightly young sample.

Found few differences. Children scored better on family activities and health but less well on peer problems and stigma. Parents also doing well but experiencing stigma and heteronormative conflict.

Resilience developed in same-sex families is helpful to health and wellbeing.


Audience comment: connecting to Daniel’s comment. Anecdotes about bi people’s difficulties with adoption – better to pretend to be a lesbian, because that fits the monosexual norm. Daniel’s reply: also issues for single people adopting re celibacy and future plans.

Audience question to Anna: what’s situation with AI in Hungary? Can’t get in Mexico, so all informal arrangements. Anna: can’t go forward as a couple. Can sometimes get as a single woman if getting older. Registered partnerships exist but don’t include reproductive rights. Known donors informally used too. Galina: Similar in Ukraine but growth in doctors claiming religious right to refuse to allow AI for known lesbians.

Simon responding to Galina’s comment that lesbian parents keen to demonstrate success through normalness of kids, providing male role models: In Australia has gone the other way – lesbians saying we don’t need male role models for kids, we can do it all. ‘Would be devastated if he grew up straight’.

Daniel – not using idea of heteronormative anymore – too reifying. Always an Other that we are rejecting. Jacqui Gabb: maybe it’s coupledom that’s the issue, not heteronormativity. Norms are always locally and politically located, so vary. Galina: depends on context. In Ukraine need the idea of heteronormativity to resist homophobia. Anna: the distinction between legally-supported and not legally-supported is still important [so what is heteronormative differs by jurisdiction? I think it’s more complex than that although I agree that legal context makes a big difference]. Daniel: resilience of coupledom is remarkable! Despite discourses of choice and rights to self-fulfilment [but isn’t serial monogamy the way you get round that?]. Jacqui: research shores-up some of the things it tries to break down, by researching (like coupledom and heteronormativity).

Daniel: finds Rubin more useful than Duggan. Duggan sets up a new binary of ‘bad gay and good Queer’, whereas Rubin is challenging the binaries. Likes Les Morran ‘quiet empiricism’, Carol Smart, Brian Heaphy, looking at same questions but being prepared to find complications, progressive and reactionary intertwined [isn’t this just good qualitative research?! And sometimes you need to do things that are less good research but are making a comprehensible political statement].

Audience member: maybe what we are looking at is privilege – increasing stratification of reproduction. Intersectional analysis is what we need.

[Talk keeps slipping into same-sex relationships. Bi people only count when they are in same-sex relationships. Grrr.]

Language differences: Ukrainian you can’t say ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’ without revealing gender, lots of talk about difficulties of terminology. Hungarian it’s very easy – no personal pronouns. In Spanish ‘homosexual’ is an acceptable word – got articles back from English-journals scoring it out and saying you can’t use this term.

Create a free website or blog at