Remembering My Hat

9th June 2015

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.



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

    Pingback by Queer Kinship Conference, Poland: Notes Part 2 | Remembering My Hat — 9th June 2015 @ 18:49 | Reply

  2. […] liveblogging notes from this conference. Usual discaimers, part 1 here and part 2 […]

    Pingback by Queer Kinship Conference, Poland: Notes part 3 | Remembering My Hat — 9th June 2015 @ 18:54 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: