University of Sussex
Reed, Elizabeth Helen.pdf (2.83 MB)

Making queer families: identity, LGBTQ parents, media, and cultural representation

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posted on 2023-06-09, 04:29 authored by Elizabeth Helen Reed
This thesis investigates how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer parents interact with media representations. I identify two significant gaps in current scholarship on this topic. One between queer theory and LGBTQ sociology, where claims about the possibility of radical politics are disconnected from studies of everyday life. The other, between media studies and sociology of the family, where the central role of media in constituting identity drops out of discussions about everyday LGBTQ lives. As a result of this mapping of the field I formulated these key research questions: how do LGBTQ parents negotiate media culture? How do LGBTQ parents negotiate visibility and intelligibility for their families and how do they experience media invisibility? And, what conditions of family and what broader social possibilities are generated by the interactions LGBTQ parents have with media? These research questions framed the design of a project in which I conducted semi-structured interviews with thirty LGBTQ parents living in the UK. The thesis takes this primary empirical material together with reference to scholarship on media culture, family formation, and queerness, and posits that media representation is a core constituent of identity formation and central to how we can understand the making and maintenance of LGBTQ-parented families. I examine how ideas about what a ‘normal’ or heterosexual family looks like shape the experiences and quest for intelligibility, legitimacy and visibility; how parents conceptualise their families in relation to the possibility of articulating radical identities; and the notion of generational rupture and inheritance as it is managed through media and community. The key findings of this thesis are that LGBTQ parents employ a variety of strategies to tackle media invisibility; LGBTQ parents both conform to, and resist, narratives of family as intrinsically normative; LGBTQ parents negotiate new representations of family and produce new narratives of the meaning of radicalism. Finally, I show that media is central to the identity work of LGBTQ parents, and is strongly implicated in the construction of home and family life. I offer a thesis which contests the meaning of futurity and normativity in queer theory and interjects in the discussion on the cultural formation and meaning of family.


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  • Media and Film Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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