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Sexuality and Society Week 14 Families of Choice.

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1 Sexuality and Society Week 14 Families of Choice

2 What are ‘families of choice’? Term suggested by Kath Weston in book called Families We Choose, first published around Weeks et al al 1999 also use to refer to non- heterosexuality-based affinity groups or what they also call ‘elective families’.

3 Aspects of changes supporting families of choice (the detraditionalisation of the family) Transformations of intimacy The formation of lesbian and gay families of choice New reproductive technologies Legal changes But also need to consider-- Challenges to what is argued to be the imposition of family forms onto lesbian-bisexual-gay social ties

4 Transformations in intimacy the development of alternative life-styles and family practices. Heterosexuals no longer share a single or coherent form of family and those engaged in what David Morgan calls ‘family practices’ (ways of ‘doing’ family) are now so diverse that the difference between straight and gay living arrangements may be insignficant.

5 ‘transformations of intimacy’, ‘detraditionalisation of family’ Phrases from sociological analysis by Anthony Giddens and Beck and Gersheim Beck

6 The ‘pure relationship’ (Giddens) refers to ‘a situation where a social relation is entered into for its own sake, for what can be derived by each person from a sustained association with another; and which is continued only in so far as it is thought by both parties to deliver enough satisfaction for each individual to stay within it’.

7 The formation of lesbian and gay families of choice Not really new, but more more visible Simon Watney- We should not imagine that there was ever ‘some absolute divide between the two domains of “gay life” and “the family”, as if gay men grew up, were educated, worked and lived our lives in total isolation from the rest of society’. (Watney 1987:10, cited by Weston, p. 22) Easier for lgb families to achieve ‘pure relationship”?

8 Challenges of the lgb family to conventional nuclear family roles and composition? More egalitarian? (Dunne 1999, Gabb 2001) More inclusive (Weston, c. 1991)

9 Radical disruption of the links between sex, love and reproduction (Gabe 2001)

10 New reproductive technologies Key technology of artificial insemination not new, although access to unknown donots is.

11 Legal changes Support non-heterosexuality-based family rights driven by Article 8 of the Human Rights Act of 1998, which is supposed to bring British law into line with rights enshrined in European conventions that guarantee everyone ‘the right to respect for his private and family like, his home and correspondence’ (Diduck 2001: 295) Labour Government’s policy of supporting and encouraging stable families as a cornerstone for a stable society and well-balanced, well-socialised children. Now thinks that stability is not dependent on families being based on the ‘biological family’ established around blood relations. But ‘only those relationships that appear to be striving for stability are seen as meriting social and legal recognition. (Shipman and Smart 2007: ) Campaigning by Stonewall

12 Important changes in relation to Adoption, through the Adoption and Children’s Act, which gave lbg couples the same tights to adopt as other couples Civil Partnership Bill, which came into effect in Autumn 2005

13 Queer questions Is the family model being recognised at the cost of further marginalising those who do not wish to adopt a family-based life style? There is the risk of reproducing normative notions of respectability from which gays, lesbians and bisexuals were previously all excluded, only now SOME, on certain grounds, get entry. Shipman and Smart suggest it was not in fact a key demand by the lgb communities, except for Stonewall? ‘Same-ing’ as a route to sexual citizenship does not do justice to the new forms of interdependence that have been evolving in the gbl communities. Does this new family model sufficiently question the inequalities of family life? See especially Robson (1994), Smith (1997) and Auchmuty (2004)

14 Intimate citizenship (Plummer 2001) Notion which covers‘rights, obligations, recognitions and respect around those most intimate spheres of life-- who to live with, how to raise children, how to handle one’s own body, how to relate as a gendered being, how to be an erotic person’. This too has drawbacks- means

15 New research by Shipman and Smart Based on interviews with couples who organised commitment ceremonies for themselves, which they mostly refer to as weddings. Mostly they are quite aware of these wider debates but enunciate personal reasons, having to do with wider families, the discourse of ‘romantic love’ etc. These more important factors than equality and legal rights for those they interviewed.(See sources on final slide, including link to ‘listen again’ online to radio programme on the research.

16 Conclusions It is true that the refusal of family rights to lesbians and gays caused injustice and hardship. But-- does it follow that corrective action is all to the good? Allowing gays and lesbians to model their relationships on heterosexual coupledom may be a mixed blessing.

17 See further reading B. Shipman and C. Smart (2007) ‘“It’s made a huge difference”: Recognition, rights and the personal significance of civil partnerships’ Sociological Research Online 12 (1) research/gay-lesbian-marriage/ Includes link to radio interview with Smart. Feminism and Psychology Vol 14, No 1, Several useful articles, including R. Auchmuty Wilson, Anela Ruth (2007) ‘With friends like these” The liberalization of queer family policy’ Critical Social Policy 27, 1:


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