Gay Families: Challenging Racial and Sexual/Gender Minority Stressors through Social Support

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In the Southern United States, gay family is a term given to constructed social networks formed by mostly African American gayand transgender adolescents and adults in the face of marginalization and rejection from their biological families and religious communities. The current research initiates the study of these fictive kinship structures, in which older members assume parental roles to somewhat younger members. The current grounded theory qualitative study examined the experience of gay family members in the Mid-South region, with a focus on how these families are structured and serve tosupport their members. Results revealed that, overall, these networks used methods of coping consistent with African American cultural values to find acceptance and guidance and bolster resilience in the face of racism, heterosexism, and transphobia. Community norms tended to support and celebrate gender flexibility in family roles as well as creative gendered performances in family competitions. Methods of coping within gay families could result in unhealthy coping strategies (e.g., drug use) to withstand extreme social and economic stressors but also in a sense of personal growth, interpersonal responsibility, and both personal and community pride. The implications of these findings for minority stress theory and forgender theory are discussed.


Journal of GLBT Family Studies, Taylor & Francis