Resources >

Kinship, Family, and… > Introduction

Introduction

Why is it important to understand LGBTI+ kinship, family, and support networks?

LGBTI+ people, alongside other minority groups, experience challenges in mental and physical healthcare that the rest of the population do not. ‘Supporting People: A Resource for LGBTI Groups’ describes these experiences, and how stigma, prejudice and discrimination create a hostile and stressful social environment that can cause mental health problems.1 This is called minority stress. For example, when seeking mental health support, LGBTI+ people often face barriers, such as professionals’ lack of knowledge or understanding. This can lead them to rely on more informal and social networks for support. In this report, we look at those networks, alongside other points of support, such as groups and organisations, to build a more holistic view of how we, as LGBTI+ people, form kinship and community. This report was designed to promote better understanding of the LGBTI+ community. The results should not be taken as comprehensive or conclusive, but as part of a larger picture of research around LGBTI+ experiences in Scotland and across the UK. This report aims to inform the reader not only about how support networks were affected during the pandemic, but how support outreach could continue to improve, and how future policy recommendations could be more considerate of LGBTI+ individuals and communities.

Key Terminology: Kinship, Community and Chosen Family 

As LGBTI+ people, we are often marginalised by our biological families, and/or surrounding community. This means our definition of family, or kinship, has had to adapt. Rather than defining family, or kin, by biological ties, many LGBTI+ people choose whom they consider family from amongst their close friends, and members of their local support networks. Community encompasses chosen families, and other points of support that we find, whether individuals or groups, in-person or online, local, or far-flung. 

Throughout this report, LGBTI+ kinship and community will be central to the idea of a ‘support network’. 

‘Chosen Family’ is sometimes referred to as one’s ‘found family.’ This refers to others that people have chosen or found throughout their lives as individuals who nurture, support and care for them – for all intents and purposes, they are without biological or legal ties. For the LGBTI+ community our ‘chosen’ families are sometimes (but not always) our only families, and are who we turn to for love, support, and in times of crisis. 

The idea of a chosen family is not new – in the 1990s, Kath Weston first popularised the term and applied it to lesbian and gay kinship.

Since then, more research has been done on how LGBTI+ people choose and build their families, and care for one another.3 

We intend to build on this research to improve the lives of our community in Scotland. 

Methodology 

This project employed a self-selection sampling methodology using an online survey, which was disseminated via social media channels, and distributed to various groups and organisations through flyers and a conference, as well as at Pride events. 

The survey asked both quantitative and ‘multiple choice’ questions, and for qualitative written answers. 

Quantitative data, such as demographic information, was assessed as a means of contextualising qualitative data. 

Analysis employed mixed methods, using quantitative and qualitative thematic analysis. 

All written responses were thematically grouped (coded). All thematically grouped qualitative data was further analysed and written up throughout the report. 

Join our eNewsletter

Join 20,000 people and sign up to our mailing list today. View previous newsletters here.

30 Bernard Street
Edinburgh EH6 6PR