Same-sex parents are compelled to be more reflective, to plan, and to negotiate their contact with mainstream service providers and professionals in an effort to find those whom they feel comfortable with disclosing their sexuality and/or to find a service provider who would adequately understand their unique needs. This paper presents findings from an Australian qualitative study of separated same-sex parents and explores their experiences with professionals and service providers during and after their separation. As a consequence of their separation, same-sex parents encountered new service providers with whom they had to navigate relationships with; this paper will focus on their experiences with the legal profession, mediation services, counseling, and mental health services. Findings demonstrated ongoing challenges for parents in finding service providers who they believed could meet and/or understand their specific needs. Heteronormativitiy, whether experienced or perceived, often created an added layer of marginalization for same-sex parents as they navigated the already difficult terrain of separation. Consequently, some parents did not access service providers and missed out on the help that they needed during their separation. Those that did visit professionals and service providers reported mixed experiences, with some participants describing encounters fraught with difficulty, while for others, their experiences were much better than they had anticipated. While some participants had a preference for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) specific service providers, some discovered a lack of understanding among LGBTI providers towards separating parents or non-biological mothers. This study highlights the need for better education and training for separation related service providers, both mainstream and LGBTI, and the need for more research exploring separation experiences of same-sex parented families.
Key Take Away Points
- Separated same-sex parents have ongoing challenges finding service providers who they believed can meet and/or understand their specific needs.
- Heteronormative services (experienced or perceived) can create an added layer of marginalization for same-sex parents as they navigated the already difficult terrain of separation.
- Parents may not access service providers due to negative perceptions and miss out on the help that they needed during their separation.
- LGBTI service providers may also lack understanding of separating same-sex parents.
- There is a need for better education and training for separation related services - both mainstream and LGBTI providers
Luke Gahan is a Research Officer at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) and is the Secretary of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA). He has previously co-convened the TASA Families, Relationships and Gender Thematic Group (FRG) and in 2015 he organized and chaired the TASA FRG international symposium “The Changing Face of Relationships”. In 2013 he co-edited "Heaven Bent: Australian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Experiences of Faith, Religion and Spirituality". His research interests include divorce and separation, non-normative relationships, same-sex relationships and parenting, and the religious or spiritual lives of LGBTI people.
The PhD research for this paper was supervised by Dr Jennifer Power at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health, and Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University. The research was funded by an Australian Research Council grant as part of the Work, Love, Play Project at the Bouverie Centre, La Trobe University.
"Separated Same-Sex Parents’ Experiences and Views of Services and Service Providers,"
Journal of Family Strengths: Vol. 17
, Article 2.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol17/iss2/2