Minority stress describes the particular stress to which sexual and gender minorities are exposed, due to homophobia and heterosexism. The current study explores whether or not lesbian mothers still experience minority stress in a relatively accepting and inclusive community. Forty women living in planned lesbian families in Tel Aviv were interviewed. An analysis of their narratives indicates that these women struggle with an additional stress factor not mentioned in the original minority stress model: the pressure to prove to themselves and to the majority heterosexual society that they are capable and worthy mothers. We termed this pressure the burden of proof. The burden of proof was manifested by a need to prove excellence in mothering; hypervigilance and standing guard; the pressure to raise children who are both exceptional and “normal” (i.e., heterosexual and cisgender); and the burden of serving as role models for the GLBTQ community. The findings suggest that minority stress continues to operate as an essential and integral experience for same-sex families in an improved social environment. What served to distinguish lesbian from heterosexual families was not any defect in same-sex parenting but the experience of minority stress itself, including as it does the burden of proof.
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- Lesbian mother
- qualitative research
- same-sex families
- same-sex parenting