Remembering My Hat

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.


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