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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Robert Zussman

Second Advisor

Joya Misra

Third Advisor

Naomi Gerstel

Fourth Advisor

Laura Briggs

Subject Categories

Family, Life Course, and Society | Gender and Sexuality


Parenting in queer families calls into question some of our most fundamental assumptions: that parents are biologically related to their children, that only women give birth, that all fathers are men, that families push away friendships and communities based in anything other than “blood” ties, and that parenting is life-long. In this dissertation, presented through five in-depth family case studies and a series of analytic chapters based on fifty semi-structured interviews with LGBTQ adults in families with children I discuss gay sperm donors, gestational fathers, non-binary foster parents, transwomen dads, queer adopters of kids from queer birth parents, trans step-dads, and chosen third (or fourth, or fifth) parents. I argue that queer parents demonstrate the vast possibilities of parenting—and living—freed from heteronormative scripts. The forms LGBTQ families with children take, that they can seldom be reduced to two procreative bodies and their offspring, leave opportunities for queer utopian experimentation in an institution synonymous with heteronormativity. I frame these families as “real utopias.” To call these families utopian is not to claim they are free of hardship, violence, sadness, or struggle. It is, however, to recognize that the new family forms LGBTQ people are actively producing are not simply individual adaptations to new situations but also a way of rethinking family more generally.