Sarah R. Young and Sean G. Massey

Learning Objectives

The learner will be able to:

  • Describe the various ways that LGBTQ people form relationships and the various configurations of LGBTQ relationships
  • Describe the challenges faced by LGBTQ people who are in or are trying to form relationships.
  • Describe some of the negative consequences of homophobia, heterosexism, and minority stress, and the various ways LGBTQ people manage those consequences.
  • Describe the myths that exist regarding the quality of LGBTQ relationships and the research that challenges those myths.
  • Identify different types of LGBTQ family formation, including challenges to family formation and family building
  • Describe sources of stress and buffers for LGBTQ families, including for LGBTQ individuals within their families of origin
  • Describe various challenges or limitations to researching LGBTQ families and relationships
  • Describe challenges that some LGBTQ families have in interacting with systems including legal, health and human services, and educational systems.
  • Understand and articulate queer critiques of the information presented in the chapter regarding both LGBTQ relationships and families

This chapter will provide an overview of research and practice as it relates to LGBTQ families, relationships, and parenting. It will begin by describing the various definitions LGBTQ people have for “family”, and the relationships LGBTQ individuals have with their families of origin. It will then investigate how minority stress, family acceptance, and rejection impact these relationships. The next section will describe the various ways that LGBTQ people form intimate relationships, including how people in these relationships navigate established (often discriminatory) social and legal systems, and how recent social and legal changes (e.g., marriage equality) affect these relationships.  The next section will describe the nature and prevalence of LGBTQ-headed families with children, and the various ways that LGBTQ people become parents.  It will then review the changing legal landscape as it relates to same-sex parenting and family building, and describes some of the challenges these families face when interacting with legal systems, health care and human service providers, and educators.  The final section will consider what it means to come out as LGBTQ to one’s children.  Each section will include a critical exploration of the scientific literatures; challenge existing anti-LGBTQ myths; and identify existing resources and organizations that support LGBTQ families.

It is difficult to quantify how many people in the U.S. are engaged in LGBTQ relationships.  However, U.S. census data does give us some idea, although the numbers are likely under-reported.  According to Romera (2017), the U.S Census counted approximately 10.7 million adults (4.3% of the U.S. adult population) who identify as LGBTQ and 1.4 million adults (.6% of the U.S. adult population) who identify as transgender (Williams Institute, Flores et al., 2016). Of those, approximately 1.1 million are in same-sex marriages (totaling 547,000 couples) (Romero), and 1.2 million are part of an unmarried same-sex relationship (totaling 700,000 couples) (Gallup, 2015).