Deakin University

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Bisexuality and family: narratives of silence, solace, and strength

posted on 2015-01-01, 00:00 authored by Janet Watson
This article examines the constellation of factors that come to bear in the family domain for bisexually desiring, behaving, or identifying individuals. Specifically, it interrogates the prevailing conditions that hinder or encourage disclosure of bisexuality and the consequences of such action. It argues that the family is uniquely situated at the interface of private and public domains of sociality, and, thus, negotiation of sexuality is herein constructed through the articulation of the "the family closet." Analysis draws on doctoral research that investigated the sociological nexus of sex, gender, and bisexuality in an Australian sample. Data collected via 47 in-depth interviews comprised a sex-/gender-diverse cohort including men and women, as well as transgender, cross-dressing, genderqueer, and intersex individuals. From this diversity of narratives the family environ emerged as a primary locus of personal and social challenge. Case studies taken from the data demonstrate how disclosure of bisexuality to family of origin was a selective process predicated by a range of sociocultural considerations such as religion, geographical location, and dominant discourses of gender and sexuality. These narratives foreground a spectrum of family responses spanning total estrangement, silence and/or denial, tentative acknowledgement, or complete acceptance and support. Whether encountered as sites of negative resistance or positive acceptance, respondents' stories illuminate the capacity to forge strategies of coping, resilience, and empowerment. A theoretical framework informed by the nomadic philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari is deployed in order to explain these findings.


Title of book

Queerying families of origin

Chapter number



101 - 123



Place of publication

Abingdon, Eng.





Publication classification

B Book chapter; B1 Book chapter

Copyright notice

2015, Taylor & Francis