Kin work as a gendered family practice in the sibling relationships of lesbians
How do lesbians and their siblings – as adults – maintain relationships with one another?
In a 2013 survey, a large majority of lesbians in Norway (89%) state that their siblings know about their sexual orientation; 80 percent evaluate their relationship with parents and siblings as very good or good (Anderssen and Malterud 2013). But what do they actually mean by that? What makes a lesbian’s relationship with her siblings good? And how do siblings experience their relationships with a lesbian sister?
Although sibling relationships can be the longest-lasting relationships in an individual’s life, they have long been outside the spotlight of family sociology and there is little research about sibling relationships during adulthood. However, siblings have been found to play an important role for lesbians and gay men in their processes of coming out to families of origin (see for example Haxhe et al. 2018).
With my PhD-project, I intend to study developments in sibling relationships throughout adulthood, concentrating on the time period after a sister has come out as lesbian. I am especially interested in looking into relationships between adult siblings from a “doing family” perspective and exploring “doing being siblings” through the concept of kin work/kinship practices (Di Leonardo 1987).
Therefore, one of my research questions is: How do kinship practices of and between lesbians and their siblings develop and how are these developments connected to events in their respective lives, such as entering into intimate relationships, having children, moving away from the home region, caring for a sick or dying parent?
In my presentation, I would like to discuss some of the implications of applying the concept of kin work/kinship practices to relationships between lesbians and their siblings, taking into account that Di Leonardo (1987) found kin work to be predominantly carried out by women.
Anderssen, Norman; Malterud, Kirsti (Eds.) (2013): Seksuell orientering og levekår. UniHelse/Uni Research. Bergen: UniHelse/Uni Research.
Di Leonardo, Micaela (1987): The Female World of Cards and Holidays: Women, Families, and the Work of Kinship. In Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 12 (3), pp. 440–453. https://doi.org/10.1086/494338
Haxhe, Stephanie; Cerezo, Alison; Bergfeld, Jeannette; Walloch, Joseph C. (2018): Siblings and the Coming-Out Process. A Comparative Case Study. In Journal of Homosexuality 65 (4), pp. 407–426. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2017.1321349
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