“We don't exactly fit in, but we can't opt out”: gay fathers' experiences navigating parent communities in schools
Objective: This qualitative study, which was guided by an integrative theoretical lens incorporating ecological, intersectional, and minority stress frameworks, examined the heteronormative and gendered contexts of gay fathers' relationships with other parents in their children's schools. Background: Parents' interactions with other parents in the school environment can be a source of support, connection, tension, and/or alienation, and are significant to parents' overall school involvement, which in turn has implications for child academic and psychosocial adjustment. Little work has examined gay fathers' experiences in schools, and with other parents specifically, despite the potential salience of their gender and sexuality. Method: The sample consisted of 40 gay fathers from 20 couples with adopted elementary school-aged children (M = 9 years). The in-depth interviews were analyzed via thematic analysis. Results: Four main themes were evident: (a) school environments are heteronormative, homonormative, and gendered domains that gay fathers must navigate; (b) parent communities in schools are sometimes sites of disconnection, exclusion, and hostility around intersections among gender and sexuality, and race and class; and (c) parent communities in schools are also environments in which gay fathers experience connection, inclusion, and social support despite the prevalence of stigma. Conclusion: The school parent community is an important microcosm for children's academic and psychosocial outcomes. These gay fathers, who were actively involved in their children's schools, experienced both inclusion and exclusion in this heteronormative, gendered context. Their intersections of privilege and marginalization reveal the need to change institutional norms and advocate on behalf of diverse families in the educational environment.
Journal of Marriage and Family
Goldberg, Abbie E.; Allen, Katherine R.; and Carroll, Megan, "“We don't exactly fit in, but we can't opt out”: gay fathers' experiences navigating parent communities in schools" (2020). Psychology. 306.