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

Craig Kenneth Michaud, Bonnie Stelmach


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.


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

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Copyright (c) 2019 Craig Kenneth Michaud, Bonnie Stelmach

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