Remembering My Hat

9th June 2015

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!


1 Comment »

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

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

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