There are more than two million LGBT people (lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals) in Poland. It is estimated that around half of them live in intimate relationships.
Many raise children.1 Their families are called “families of choice”. Why such a term? It reflects the reality whereby these families are often created and sustained without any kind of social and legal support and/or recognition. Additionally, such families are not always of blood kinship, and thus it is their choice to form, live, and self-label as a family.
Little is known about these families in Poland, due to the lack of extensive research on this topic. Our project is the first complex attempt to understand the phenomena of LGBT families in Poland. It is an in-depth study which aims at showing diversity of intimate and familial configurations lived by non-heterosexual people in Poland. It aims at understanding the multiplicity of challenges facing such families in their daily lives, and strategies of coping with such duress. Therefore, in our project we investigate the manifold complexity of everyday life of non-heterosexual families in Poland in their social, economic, political, cultural, personal, and other dimensions.
To sum up, there are five main aims of this research:
- to investigate the diversity of ‘families of choice’;
- to grasp the depth, breadth and complexity of these relationships and their changing nature;
- to recognize needs of ‘families of choice’ that will contribute towards shaping a more friendly social policy;
- to learn about the dynamics of parenthood and the children’s wellbeing in such family formations;
- to redress the absence of empirical studies on this topic in Poland and Europe
The project has been designed as a multi-stage research process of many methods (both quantitative and qualitative) – this will not only allow us to capture the complexity of the studied phenomena, but also will secure the highest level of validity and reliability of research findings. Please see the Methodology section for more details.
Members of the International Advisory Board on the project:
Professor Małgorzata Fuszara (Warsaw University, Poland),
Professor Krystyna Slany (Jagiellonian University, Poland),
Professor Bożena Chołuj (Europa-Universitat Viadrina, Germany),
Professor Jon Binnie (Manchester Metropolitan University, United Kingdom),
Professor Ulrika Dahl (Södertörn University, Sweden),
Professor Teresa Kulawik (Södertörn University, Sweden),
Professor Joanna Regulska (Rutgers University, USA).
1Much of the existing research on homosexuality suggests that around 5% of each population consists of homosexual people. Also Western survey data suggests that 40 to 60% of gay men, and 45 to 80% lesbians, are involved in long-term intimate relationships (see e.g.: Patterson 2000; Peplau 1990, 1996). Similar findings were presented in Poland by Campaign Against Homophobia (Abramowicz 2007, 2012) and a research team of Prof. Ireneusz Krzeminski (2009).
1.What are families of choice?
Families of choice are built by non-heterosexual people.
There are more than two million non-heterosexual people (lesbians, gays, transgenders and bisexuals) in Poland. It is estimated that around half of them live in intimate relationships. Many raise children . Their families are called ‘families of choice’. Relationships and families are as diverse as these created by heterosexual people, still, little is known about them. Exactly such families are often called ‘families of choice’.
Why such a term? It derives from the fact that these families are often created without any kind of social and legal support and because their members are not always connected by blood (social parents – children). The fact that they want to be a family and be treated as such is only a matter of choice.
The term ‘families of choice’ as such comes from a book by an US-American anthropologist Kath Weston Families We Choose: Gays, Lesbians and Kinship. Already in the middle of 1980-ies she carried out research in California and observed that the term ‘family’ became more and more popular among homosexual people in respect of their own relationships.
2.What is the aim of the project(ed) research?
One of the main goals of the proposed research is presentation of the complexity and diversity of functioning of family and intimate configurations made by non-heterosexual people in Poland as well as understanding of challenges that they wrestle with in their daily life.
Among many other things, we would like to enquire into the following aspects:
- How do non-heterosexual people create their relations? How do they understand and define them?
- How do non-heterosexual people justify their relations in their own social environment? How do they wrestle with social exclusion and marginalization, with legal pitfalls and social challenges?
- What are the needs and expectations of members of „families of choice”? In what range is social and legal acknowledgement necessary for the realisation of these needs (e.g. in such areas as: child care, education, health and social care)?
- How do non-heterosexual people cope with their parenthood, which decisions do they make in connection with it and how do they put them into practice? How does parenthood change the dynamics of relationship between partners and in relation to the family of origin? What is the role of the co-parent?
- What are the experiences and needs of children raised in non-heterosexual families?
3.Why is this project important?
Project execution will allow for gaining knowledge on realities of people living in non-heterosexual relationships in Poland. Thanks to gaining this knowledge, it will be possible to work out new, more effective strategies and forms of activities for „families of choice”. The project is thus crucial not only for scientific reasons. The collected data may also be useful for:
- specialists working in the area of social policy,
- employees and activists of non-governmental organizations,
- politicians on local and central level,
- people interested in the problem for professional reasons,
- scientists, especially those working in the area of social science,
- students of such subjects as: psychology, sociology, pedagogy, medicine, economy and many others.
4.Who is invited to participate in the research?
We invite to participate in the research all people who are over 18, and have lived in a non-heterosexual relationship for more than six months.
5.How can I join the research?
In order to participate in the research, you can:
- contact us on the Internet firstname.lastname@example.org
- send us a text message on the following number: 785 070 035
We will call you back for sure. Please, let us know, at which time and on which day we may ring you back.
6.How to fill in a questionnaire?
In our research, we would like to get valid results, based on the contacts with people living in the ‘families of choice’. For this reason, we are very concerned to meet or contact you or your partner in person.
You will get the questionnaire or access to it directly from a pollster, working in our project. You will be asked to fill in the questionnaire by yourself. This will take approximately 45 minutes. The pollster will not be able to see what you write.
The questionnaire is absolutely confidential.
The pollsters’ work is regulated by restrictive ethical rules. The pollsters were not chosen at random but they all received excellent education and have hands-on experience. In addition, their work is supervised by auditors, who bring a wealth of experience in conducting similar research projects.
7.What is an individual-in-depth interview?
An individual in-depth interview (IDI) is a longer conversation, moderated by one of our main researchers. We will meet people wanting to have such an interview in 2014, in order to learn as much as possible about your opinions, problems and worries. We would like to know who you really are and how you live.
An IDI is usually longer than a questionnaire and is recorded on a dictaphone – the aim of this practise is a transcript from the interview, done after the conversation had been held.
8.What is focus research?
Focus research, in other words, a focus group interview, is carried out in a group of 6-10 people. It also lasts longer than a paper questionnaire and is designed for getting to know diverse opinions and associations on a given topic by the researched.
9.Do you guarantee full confidentiality for the researched?
(= how is my data going to be stored)
Yes, we do guarantee full confidentiality. Our team members have long relevant experience in carrying out research projects, where sensitive data was collected. In order to guarantee full confidentiality, the data will be stored in a safe place, secured by the password, known only by the research team members.
All forenames, last names, names of cities, towns and villages, which are going to be mentioned in the conversation, will be deleted or changed. E.g., if you say: “my aunt Maggie, who doesn’t accept my girlfriend, Kate, at all, she lives not far away from here, in Y-town…” the transcript of this phrase will be written down as: “my aunt X., who doesn’t accept my girlfriend, A., at all, lives not far away from here, in B. [a town close to the place where the interviewed person lives]”.
10.How will the results of the research be used?
After each stage of the research, i.e. after collecting the paper questionnaires, individual in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, as well as after the ethnographic research phase, we will draw up a report. You will be able to read our analysis of the collected material. During the project, we will keep making the so-called part-results accessible on our website, which means that we will try to describe what we have learnt during a particular research stage, as thoroughly as possible. While quoting somebody, we will follow the confidentiality rule [see above].
A number of scientific publications will also be prepared. The research results will be reported at international and national conferences.