The aim of this Ph.D. thesis is to contribute to a critical understanding of lesbian and gay parented families in relation to their travel motivations and destination choice. While these families have gained increased visibility particularly in Western societies, they are still largely neglected in tourism research. Thus, this thesis helps fill a three-fold gap in academic scholarship. Firstly, it adds to knowledge about gay and lesbian tourism, thereby challenging the heteronormativity that dominates tourism research. Secondly, it helps fill the lacuna about family travel as tourism studies mainly emphasise individual choices and largely neglect the perspectives of the family as a decision-making unit. Thirdly, it helps complete the gap in tourism research about families whose configurations do not fit the heteronormative model, namely, the ‘mother-father-children’ trinomial.
In line with the interpretivist paradigm and phenomenological strategy adopted, qualitative interviews were utilised as the data collection method. Twenty-two interviews were held, involving sixteen mothers, thirteen fathers and six children.
Findings reveal the multiple significances of holidays for these families. Family tourism is prompted by a search for escape, familiarity and novelty while forging and enhancing multiple levels of connections and reconnections. Holidays are also opportunities to construct and strengthen family identity, with the rituals and memories they create helping preserve the past and guarantee the future of the family unit. While holiday decisions prioritise children’s needs, they are jointly made between partners. Moreover, on family holidays, gay and lesbian parents minimise the role of sexuality, which is ‘left to the background’ of other identities; yet, sexuality impacts on destination avoidance. Sexuality-related shame can further cause lesbigay parents to shun social interaction on holiday and / or avoid gay-centred destinations due to a concern of exposing children to demonstrations of ‘gayness.’
This thesis offers several unique contributions to knowledge. It demonstrates same-sex parented families are, with regard to their holiday motivations and choices, more similar than different from the ‘traditional’ heteronormative family studied in the past. This contributes to extending the understanding of the family in tourism research. In addition, it reveals how gay and lesbian parents’ somewhat paradoxical relationship with their sexualities informs their families’ travel choices. In doing so, this thesis adds to knowledge about the influence of pride / shame in tourism studies. It also highlights these families’ desire to blend in and reinforce their ‘averageness’ rather than difference in relation to heteronormative families. This finding contributes to an understanding of the ‘assimilationist’ nature of same-sex parented families. Finally, further contribution to research on family tourism stems from the new and unique light this study sheds on the interplay between holidays, togetherness and family identity.
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