AUTHENTICATING FAMILY: RE/CLAIMING LEGITIMACY BY THE LESBIAN HEADED STEPFAMILY
Rickards, Suzan Tracey Selby
MetadataShow full item record
Family is an integral part of the fabric of society with diverse configurations of people living together, related through blood or kinship. Changes to the Canadian political and legal structures granting access to marriage have affirmed the rights of gays and lesbians, yet many remain positioned on the margins of society. This grounded theory study illuminates the experiences of women with children who meet and fall in love with another woman. An intricate series of events is set in motion towards development, and ultimately, affirmation of a new lesbian headed stepfamily that addresses the central problem of family legitimacy. The theory of authenticating family demonstrates how women and their children incorporate another woman into their lives, maintaining and protecting the legitimacy of the new family structure. Transitions from being a heterosexual and/or single parented family to a lesbian headed stepfamily create multiple opportunities for challenges to their sense of legitimacy. The new stepfamily faces marginalization, stigmatization and heteronormative assumptions that contest the sense of legitimacy for all family members. Lesbian headed stepfamilies have few role models to provide guidance for behavioural expectations. These families learn from multiple interactions among themselves and with outsiders about how to negotiate a new understanding of family. They develop the ability to demonstrate pride to a society that has marginalized in the past, even as society is evolving in acceptance of multiple and diverse family configurations. There are three stages in authenticating family: (a) accepting the challenge, a process of realizing an intimate attraction to another woman, coming to terms with the significance of pursuing a relationship, and finding balance between many potential obstacles; (b) building the bonds, takes families through the process of getting to know each other, creating relationships, and understanding how dynamics among the family have shifted. While the process of authenticating family remains primarily within the confines of the family home, members begin to look beyond their family in anticipating interactions with outsiders; and (c) thriving, the final process includes solidifying and reclaiming legitimacy while juggling relationships within the home and countering the impact of continuous interactions with society at large.