Conventional and Cutting-Edge: Definitions of Family in LGBT Communities

Kathleen E. Hull, Timothy A. Ortyl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper uses data from a study of 105 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people to examine conceptions of family in LGBT communities. Respondents were asked how they would define “family” and whom they consider to be their current family. The study sought to determine whether constructionist definitions of family (“families of choice”) remain dominant among LGBT people. Earlier research had clearly established the importance of friends as chosen family in this population, but a growing emphasis on same-sex marriage and increased gay and lesbian parenting might be expected to cause some LGBT people to shift toward more traditional definitions of family. Results show that constructionist definitions remain prominent in abstract conceptions of family, but also that LGBT people frequently define biological and legal relatives as members of their current family, and few define their current family as only consisting of chosen family. The notion of families of choice continues to resonate, but chosen family members mostly complement rather than replace other kinds of family in definitions of one’s current family.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2019


  • Definition of family
  • Families of choice
  • Family
  • LGBT
  • Sexual minorities

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