"What will the neighbours say?" Cover Image

„Mit szólnak a szomszédok?”
"What will the neighbours say?"

Families of origin of same-sex couples and the dilemma of the closet

Author(s): Rita Béres-Deák
Contributor(s): Judit Takács (Editor)
Subject(s): Social Sciences
Published by: MTA TK Szociológiai Intézet
Keywords: family; LGBTQ; coming out; stigma

Summary/Abstract: When an LGBTQ person comes out to her/his family of origin, they are pushed back into the closet the LGBTQ person has just come out of (Kuhar 2007). Sexual orientation is a ’sticky’ stigma (Goffman 1974), that is, it stigmatizes the environment of the person as well. Moreover, in Hungary no supportive communities are available for family members of LGBTQ people similar to those for LGBTQ people themselves. Therefore families frequently decide to hide the non-traditional sexual orientation or gender identity of their member. My paper is based on ethnographic interviews with same-sex couples and their family members. I am trying to explore what factors influence the decisions of family related to coming out. I have found that, contrary to stereotypes, parents living in villages often do not mind if their child’s sexual orientation comes to light, whereas small-town parents are more worried about the potential loss of prestige resulting from secondary stigmatization and try to convince their child to stay closeted. The assumed or experienced homophobia of their environment also influences family members’ decision to come out. When family members stay in the closet, the practical tasks of maintaining it still fall on the LGBTQ person; s/he has to continue her/his former strategies of hiding, though this is no longer her/his own decision. This often leads to conflicts or strategies that the LGBTQ person uses to provoke the coming out of her/his family members. The opposite also happens, with the family member first trusted with the information encouraging the LGBTQ person to come out to the rest of the family. I will also bring examples to family members who support the cause of LGBTQ people beyond coming out to others.

  • Issue Year: 5/2015
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 144-161
  • Page Count: 18
  • Language: Hungarian