BUILDING RESEARCH, BUILDING JUSTICE: Epistemology, Social Work, and Lesbian Parents

By Gibson, Margaret F. | Canadian Social Work Review, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview
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BUILDING RESEARCH, BUILDING JUSTICE: Epistemology, Social Work, and Lesbian Parents


Gibson, Margaret F., Canadian Social Work Review


Abstract: This article explores the author's reflections after being interviewed as an "expert" on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, and queer (LGBTQ) parents for a newspaper article. The socio-legal context of LGBTQ parenting has changed radically in recent years. In this shifting but still heteronormative environment, how should social work researchers construct "lesbian parents" in their work? Existing literature offers contradictions and prohibitions regarding the "appropriate" stance and methodology for researchers. Post-structuralism, queer theory, and feminism each offer theoretical framings of lesbian parents. New possibilities emerge for a political neo-pragmatism that is based on a commitment to social justice and that endorses continued flexibility in social work's use of language, methodology, epistemology, and practice.

Abrégé : Cet article se penche sur les réflexions que tient l'auteure après avoir été interviewée en tant que « spécialiste » de la question des parents lesbiens, gais, bisexuels, transgenre, transsexuels et queer (LGBTQ) pour un article de journal. Le contexte socio-juridique de l'éducation des enfants par des parents LGBTQ a changé radicalement ces dernières années. Dans cet environnement évolutif mais encore hétéronormatif, comment les chercheurs en travail social devraientils construire les « parents lesbiens » dans leurs travaux? La littérature existante renferme des contradictions et des interdictions quant aux positions et aux méthodes de recherche dites « appropriées ». Le poststructuralisme, la théorie queer et le féminisme peuvent tous servir de cadre théorique à la notion de parents lesbiens. Il en émerge de nouvelles possibilités pour l'édification d'un néopragmatisme politique qui se fonde sur le souci de la justice sociale et qui favorise la souplesse en tout temps des choix en service social à l'égard du langage, de la méthodologie, de l'epistemologie et de la pratique.

Blueprints: Introducing and delimiting the work site

"If you look at outcomes, kids who are raised by gay or lesbian parents are no more likely to be gay or lesbian themselves," says Meg Gibson, a social worker and PhD student at the University of Toronto with a background in the history of medicine's treatment of homosexuality, citing research supported by the American Psychological Association. (Bill Bryson, "This 'Billy Elliot' has two dads," Toronto Star, October 17, 2009)

THE ROLE of social workers and social work researchers is intertwined with the socio-legal context. This context has changed dramatically with regard to gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) parents and their families in Canada (Epstein, 2005). l Within the last ten years, fertility clinics, adoption agencies, and health care professionals have become more willing to provide services to openly non-heterosexual clients. Changes to laws on marriage and birth registration have also provided new rights to same-sex couples and parents. Less tangibly, but just as significantly, increasing numbers of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, and queer people are parenting children (LGBTQ parents). Especially in large urban centres, queer parents and would-be parents are more able to encounter each other, share resources, and generate communities of support.2

Despite these developments, there are many well-documented examples of the ongoing challenges faced by LGBTQ parents, from struggles to obtain legal parental status, to homophobic responses by family and community members, to custody battles, to negative media portrayals, to differential treatment in schools (Ariel 8c McPherson, 2000; Clarke, 2001; Gartrell, Deck, Rodas, Peyser 8c Banks, 2005; Lindsay, Perlesz, Brown, McNair, De Vaus 8c Pills, 2006). Many social workers and other service providers lack the skills and knowledge to work with LGBTQ individuals and families, and many are still actively hostile to LGBTQ individuals and concerns (Bonvicini 8c Perlin, 2003; Connolly, 2002; Hancock, 2008; Israel, Gorcheva, Walther, Sulzner & Cohen, 2008; Rohndahl, Bruhner 8c Lindhe, 2009).

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BUILDING RESEARCH, BUILDING JUSTICE: Epistemology, Social Work, and Lesbian Parents
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