Question

Why does larger society believe that heterosexuality is "more...

Why does larger society believe that heterosexuality is "more natural" than other sexual identities? and Why is it important to think of gender in non-binary terms (for example, beyond man/woman, masculine/feminine)?

Answer & Explanation
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-When it comes to parenthood outside the realm of heterosexual reproduction, arguments about ethics and morality tend to be mobilized by socially conservative critics who sometimes question the righteousness of the mere idea of parenting by people who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). In turn, sexual-minority parents, along with their liberal allies, often refute these arguments by drawing attention to positive aspects of LGBTQ family life. What can be lost, or strategically ignored, in such polarized debates is the ambivalence experienced by sexual minorities, including their own views about different ways of creating families.

In this article, drawing on interviews conducted with lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in England and Wales, who do not have children but may have them in the future, I explore some of the ethical considerations the interviewees expressed when prompted to think about parenthood and about the different methods that enable people to become parents without engaging in heterosexual sex (what I refer to as "pathways to parenthood"). I draw specific attention to how, in this ethical reasoning, the concepts of "normal" and "natural" relate to each other, and what consequences this relationship has for reproductive decision making of same-sex couples and LGBTQ individuals. I suggest that revealing the disjuncture's behind the meanings of normality and naturalness exposes biases inherent in societal expectations that determine what forms of parenthood are seen as morally superior or problematic and what is popularly understood as being "in children's best interests."

Before presenting my research findings, I situate this study vis-à-vis three themes, or perspectives on pathways to parenthood, distilled from the social science scholarship on lesbian motherhood and gay fatherhood, to which this article aims to contribute: 

  1. Concerns about children's needs and welfare.
  2. Processes of normalization and naturalization.
  3. Ethical dimensions of planning for parenthood.

I use the three themes as interrelated "lenses" through which we can make sense of some of the contradictions in lesbian, gay, and bisexual people's reasoning about how to create a family. Sexual-minority parents often recall being hesitant about having children, or about "coming out" if they had children already, for fear of negative repercussions their unconventional family circumstances may have for their offspring. 

 

 

-Gender is social and cultural. It's how your identity relates to society's idea of what it means to be a woman, man, neither, or a mix of many genders. For most people, their gender matches up with the cultural expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth. This means they're cisgender. Others may self-identify as being transgender, agender, Two-Spirit, gender queer, non-binary, gender fluid or any number of terms. Gender identity is your deeply-held inner feelings of whether you're female or male, both, or neither. Your gender identity isn't seen by others. Gender identity may be the same as the sex you were assigned at birth (cisgender) or not (transgender).

Some people identify as a man (or a boy) or a woman (or a girl). And some have a gender identity that doesn't fit into one of these genders.

  • Transgender means your gender identity doesn't match up with the sex you were assigned at birth.
  • Agender means you don't identify with any gender.
  • Gender non-conforming, non-binary, and gender fluid means you don't identify fully as a man or a boy (male, masculine) or a woman or a girl (female, feminine).
  • Gender queer means you identify or express yourself beyond what is often linked to the sex and gender you were assigned at birth. People who are gender queer also may or may not identify as transgender.

 

Step-by-step explanation

-Heterosexual reproduction is often seen as normal and natural, with the two descriptors commonly understood as mutually reinforcing. I argue that, despite their apparent similarity, the meanings of "normal" and "natural" are distinct in important ways—a distinction that questions the positioning of lesbian motherhood and gay fatherhood as inferior. Through an analysis of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people's ethical judgments about different ways of creating families, I show that pathways to parenthood that make a family appear "more normal" rely on means of reproduction that seem, in fact, "less natural." Conversely, reproductive possibilities seen as "more organic" create families that depart more substantially from the cultural norm of the nuclear family. As a result of this tension, different pathways to parenthood can be justified as being "in children's best interests." However, while this children-centered justification can be flexibly applied, it also has contradictory meanings. The focus on children's best interests in the academic debates about LGBTQ parenthood stems from popular criticisms directed at sexual-minority parents as unable to provide what children require. Argues that the rhetoric of children's needs is a powerful device that supports the traditional family unit and, as a result, lesbian mothers "may have to work harder than most parents to demonstrate that their child's welfare is not in jeopardy". This "work" is made explicit in studies of lesbian mothers' and gay fathers' reproductive decision making, which show that achieving social acceptance often requires a "strategic" approach to parenthood.

 

-Gender expression is how you choose to express your gender identity through your name, pronouns, clothing, hair style, behaviour, voice, or body features.

Gender expression includes using facilities (like washrooms and change rooms) that match up with your own sense of gender. Society often thinks of these cues as being male/masculine and female/feminine. But what's thought to be masculine and feminine changes over time and within different cultures.