Lesbian and Gay Parents’ Experiences and their Relationships with/in Schools: An Alberta Study

Keywords: LGBTQ, parent involvement, queer theory, qualitative case study, Alberta


Researchers have identified challenges for sexual minority individuals in schools; however, attention to lesbian and gay parents’ experiences with their children’s schools has not been given. We used a qualitativecase study involving one identified gay couple and one identified lesbian couple to document their experiences and relationships with/in their children’s urban publicly funded schools. Individual interviews with these parents were the chief data source, which we augmented through reviewing school documents. Through the lens of critical queer theory, we interpreted three themes: (1) lesbian and gay parents are shaped by the teachers’, administrators’, and other parents’ openness of attitudes and willingness to question assumptions about family; (2) lesbian and gay parents feel included, or excluded, depending on the policy and administrative processes that symbolically frame definitions of parenthood; and (3) lesbian and gay parents are sensitive to school climate as expressed through gesture, speech, and artefacts in the school. These four parents had the social capital to navigate barriers and opportunities. However, through the lens of critical queer theory, we conclude that there are real and symbolic markers and practices that normalize a heterosexual understanding of ‘parent’ in two-parent families that necessitates lesbian and gay parents to be intentional and vigilante about their positions in ways that heterosexual parents are not required to be to feel welcome in schools.

Author Biographies

Craig Kenneth Michaud, University of Alberta

Craig Kenneth Michaud, MA, BEd

Teacher, Edmonton Public School Board

Graduate Student, University of Alberta

Bonnie Stelmach, University of Alberta, University of Saskatchewan, Holy Family Catholic Regional Schools, Lanna International School Thailand, Simon Fraser University
Bonnie Stelmach, PhD, MA, BEdAssociate ProfessorDepartment of EducationEducational Policy Studies