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Precarious Inclusion: Studying Ontarian LGBTQ+ parents’ experiences childrearing in a post-legal parity framework


Purpose of this research project

A team of LGBTQ+ parents and researchers at the University of Guelph are conducting a study to learn more about what it is like to raise a child in this time of political backlash and equal legal LGBTQ+ parenting rights. We would like to know how other forms of discrimination impact your experiences as an LGBTQ+ parent. We also want to learn how your experiences as an LGBTQ+ parent influence how you care for and protect your children. Study results will lead to new knowledge about how LGBTQ+ discrimination exists in the current political climate and lead to improved LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Background Rationale: It is a unique and complex time to be a LGBTQ+ family in Ontario. In the past 15 years key laws and policies have changed to become less discriminatory towards LGBTQ+ families: the Equal Marriage Act, passed; “gender dysphoria” clinics closed; gay conversion therapy, banned; and funding approved for trans-related surgeries. The last hurdle for legal LGBTQ+ family equality was reached in 2016 when a group of parents successfully won a charter challenge case against the Ontario Liberal government for discriminating against LGBTQ+ families. With this victory came the All Families Are Equal Act, where parental rights were awarded based on intention rather than biology and gender neutral language was incorporated into standardized documents and family law.

While achieving legal recognition, existing research shows that LGBTQ+ parents still face significant barriers when accessing social institutions (government, education, healthcare, recreation). Debates in the policy sphere reveal that LGBTQ+ families continue to experience precarious inclusion. The Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) government’s recent scrapping of the Liberal government’s LGBTQ+-inclusive sexual education curriculum is one poignant example. The recent passing and then retracting of the resolution to debate if gender identity is “a liberal ideology” at the PC convention, is another. On the level of routine social interaction current literature indicates that heterosexual dominance continues to inflect the daily lives of LGBTQ+ families. There has yet to be a study of how this profound cultural ambivalence shapes the lives and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ families.

Objectives: The aim of this study is to explore inequities that surface in the gaps between law and policy and practice to identify opportunities for restructuring. We plan to: 1) Understand LGBTQ+ parents’ current experiences of inclusion and exclusion when navigating legal, institutional (government, healthcare, education, recreational) and social interactions in everyday life; 2) Examine how intersecting identities with regards to sexuality, gender, geography, disability, class, race, Indigeneity, and ethnicity influence LGBTQ+ parents’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion; 3) Explore how experiences of inclusion/exclusion influence LGBTQ+ parents’ values, philosophies and strategies for protecting and caring for their children to create familial belonging.

To learn about everyday LGBTQ+ parenting experiences, interviews for this study will focus on learning LGBTQ+ parents’ everyday experiences when:

  • Accessing childcare and education programs
  • Encountering the law and/or police
  • Participating in community, religious, political, cultural events or groups
  • Accessing drop-in centers and recreational services
  • Accessing reproductive services or healthcare for your child
  • Accessing social services, Newcomer programs, language services
  • Participating in parenting groups or communities
  • Encountering strangers, acquaintances, neighbors, family members and friends
  • Completing forms like Declaration of Parentage, your child’s Birth Certificate, Health Card, and Passport.

Our participants will comprise 30 LGBTQ+ families who will complete a 1-1.5 hour long anonymous and confidential semi-structured interview completed in their home or a place of business in their area.

How this research will help LGBT2SQ people and communities

Results will lead to the identification of discourses and processes within institutions and services that perpetuate heterosexual dominance and require restructuring in their daily operation to improve equity for LGBTQ+ families. Results will also expand scholarly literature in gender, family, and equity studies by showing how the governance of diverse LGBTQ+ families complexly operates in a local post-legal parity context. After all interview data has been collected, analyzed and coded, the research team will create guidelines and an infographic tip sheet for mass distribution to improve LGBTQ+ inclusion experiences within services and institutions. The research team will contact all 30 families to provide them with the opportunity to offer feedback regarding the guidelines and tip sheet, before finalizing for distribution.


We would like to interview LGBTQ+ parents with children aged 5 years old and younger.

Because the experiences and supports for LGBTQ+ families may differ depending on the size of their community, we would like representation from 3 differently-sized communities: families from large cities with populations of over 500,000; families from mid-sized cities with populations between 100,000-400,000; and families from small communities with populations under 75,000.

Interviews will be conducted after participants have completed the Intersectional Screening Questionnaire and we have tallied the results to ensure diversity related to gender, sexuality, socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, Indigeneity, disability, and citizenship.

Language: Participants who do not speak English are not eligible to participate because we do not have resources to hire an interpreter.

Sexual Orientation: Only participants who identify as LGBTQ+ are eligible to participate because we are studying the specific inclusion/exclusion experiences of this particular under-represented group.

Age: Only adults are invited to participate in our study because parents are our topic of study.


Each participant will receive $25 in cash as a thank-you for their time for participating.

Mitigation measures

There are no concerns about the vulnerability of research participants as we will not individually target participants and all members of the research team will be listed in our recruitment call out, which will only be posted in public forums. We will go over the consent information verbally with participants to ensure that they have been provided with all the pertinent information. After this, we will provide them with the opportunity to read the consent information document and to ask any questions they have. Participants will be informed of their right to withdraw at any point until one month after participating, without any adverse effects. During the interview process, participants will be told they can skip any question they would rather not answer and can end the interview at any point.

Psychological: Interviews may cause unintended stress for participants. Participants will be reminded they can stop the interview or skip any question they do not wish to answer. All alternative qualitative research approaches we considered involve similar levels of minimal psychological risk.

Social: While we will be as careful and thorough as possible with storing and securing data there is minimal risk that confidentiality could be breached by human error. To secure data, we will have a master file that contains all participant identifiers and the link between these identifiers will be stored on a password protected, encrypted computer. Only the faculty researchers will have access to the master file. The Principal Investigator will not have access to the master file for the health educator data. Participant data will be identified using a pseudonym (not according to the participant's name). In all resulting study publications or reports, participants will be referred to by pseudonym."

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