Drawing on in-depth interviews with 28 U.S. adults who have at least one lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer (LGBQ) parent, we examine how this group negotiates the courtesy stigma of a parent’s sexual identity over the life course. Respondents reported less control over revealing courtesy stigma during childhood, when they were closely linked to their parents, but increased ability to conceal parents’ sexual orientation as they aged. During childhood and adolescence, parents’ gender presentation and choice of partner(s) impacted the visibility and degree of courtesy stigma, as did their peer networks and social environments. As adults, respondents continued to face issues of visibility; those who identified as heterosexual struggled to gain acceptance within LGBQ communities, while those who identified as LGBQ negotiated fears about how their own sexual orientation reflected upon their families of origin. Recognizing that people with one or more LGBQ parents face courtesy—rather than direct—stigma sheds light on past research, while providing a sociological framework with which to analyze future work on this population.

Author Biography

Rebecca DiBennardo is a doctoral candidate in the sociology department at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her research interests include gender and sexuality, reproduction and politics, and family and demography. Her dissertation examines the emergence of the Sexual Violent Predator (SVP) category and the implementation of contemporary SVP laws.

Abigail Saguy is UCLA Professor of Sociology with a courtesy appointment in Gender Studies. She holds a PhD from the EHESS (Paris, France-1999) and from Princeton University (2000). Her research interests include sociology of gender, cultural sociology, political sociology, and sociology of law. She is the author of What is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (California, 2003), What’s Wrong with Fat (Oxford, 2013); Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are (Oxford, Forthcoming), as well as multiple scientific journal articles and op-eds.