You are here: Institute for the Study of Children, Families and Social Issues / Projects / Lesbian motherhood in a Chilean cultural context
Document Actions

Provisional Thesis Title: Lesbian motherhood in a Chilean cultural context

Victor Figueroa Guinez, PhD Student

(Primary Supervisor: Dr. Fiona Tasker; Secondary Supervisor: Dr. Virge Eatough)

Qualitative studies have provided insightful understandings into the lived experiences of lesbian mothers and the diversity of family arrangements they make. Nevertheless, most of this research has been conducted in Western European and English-speaking countries. Little is known about cultural variations in the experiences lesbian women have of forming their own families elsewhere.  A few qualitative studies conducted in Latin American countries, including Chile, have revealed the substantial impact of normative discourses of gender, homophobia, and the legal/political context on the experiences of lesbian mothers. This thesis aims to extend this line of research, with a particular focus on possible linkages between religious/moral discourses and family of origin influences on the life course stories of lesbian motherhood in Chile. This thesis details findings from three empirical, qualitative studies, which followed a life course perspective. Data from 29 participants collected through individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups were analyzed.

The first study used Narrative Analysis to explore the stories of sexual identity and motherhood of eight lesbian mothers post-heterosexual separation through individual interviews. The study found that participants followed a heterosexual path to conform to family and heteronormative social pressures. Lesbian mothers who came from families from a religious background were rejected by their parents when they identified as a lesbian, yet as with other participants, family of origin social support for them as mothers often continued. The study also revealed that participants struggled to express their same-gender feelings and to see themselves as lesbians because lesbian women were often completely hidden or seen as "sick" or "deviant" and inappropriate models of motherhood.

The second study used Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore the expectations of motherhood of a younger cohort of six lesbian and bisexual prospective mothers in a focus group discussion. The study revealed that participants thought that it would be difficult to deal with Chilean society as mothers because the same-gender attraction was still seen as a perversion/ abnormality by some people in their family of origin and their social contexts. Nevertheless, they focused on their biological motherhood desire and believed that they would be supported as mothers by their family of origin in spite of not being accepted as lesbians.

The third study investigated contemporary Chilean attitudes towards lesbian and gay parenting using Thematic Analysis of focus group data of 15 heterosexual women who were first-year psychology students on an evening university program. The study aimed to interrogate the beliefs behind the current social context experienced by lesbian mothers and prospective mothers in Chile. The study revealed that the major concern reported by participants was the possibility of children of same-gender parents being discriminated against as a consequence of parents' sexual identity. A minority of participants had worries that same-gender parents' could disrupt children's gender and sexual orientation development. These participants also saw homosexuality as something unnatural, pathological, and a deviation of sexual morality.

It is concluded that despite the increasing level of acceptance of sexual minority people in Chile, lesbian mothers were still regarded as "immoral" models for children. These moral discourses of lesbian motherhood often came from people with Christian religious background. Overall, the findings of these studies suggested that heterosexuality was still a principle of sexual morality in Chilean society, and that this cultural mandate represented the major social barrier lesbian mothers might encounter by living in Chile.