Intentional Mothering: A Black Feminist-Informed Thematic Analysis of How Black Queer Mothers Engage in Motherwork, Navigate Informal Support, and Access Community Resources

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Virginia Tech

Recent literature suggests that LGBTQ+ women of color are more likely to raise children or have children in the home compared to White LGBTQ+ women (Gates, 2013, 2015). Most of the LGBTQ+ motherhood research has focused narrowly on one domain of queer motherhood, lesbian mothers' experience of mothering (Bible et al., 2018) and centered on the experiences of White, middle-class, cisgender mothers (Brainer et al., 2020; Manley and Ross, 2020; Reczek, 2020). The interlocking nature of multiple marginalized identities places Black queer mothers at a unique intersection of oppression (Crenshaw, 1991). Exploring the complexity of lived experience among Black mothers who identify with a plurisexual identity (i.e., bi, queer, pan, or fluid; Galupo, 2018) provides family scientists and scholar-practitioners an opportunity to analyze the internal, relational, and institutional influences that reinforce or challenge racism, sexism, and homophobia. The present study sought to understand how Black queer mothers experience motherwork as queer mothers, how they build and navigate networks of support, and how they use community resources. The study was guided by intersectionality rooted within the theoretical framework of Black Feminist Thought, as well as an emphasis on motherwork as both a theoretical framework and a concept explored. Using reflexive thematic analysis, semi- structured interviews (Mtime = 79.63 minutes), photovoice submissions, and photovoice interviews (Mtime = 38.32 minutes) were conducted with 10 participants (8 of the 10 participants completed photovoice). Four key themes were identified (a) Attentiveness and Resistance to Discrimination (subtheme: Active Reflectivity in Parenting Strategies); (b) Promoting Openness of Self-Expression in Child(ren) (subtheme: Queer Identity Helps Foster Acceptance and Intentionality); (c) Negotiating Informal Support (three subthemes: Barriers to Support, Desiring Like-Minded Social Groups, and Boundaries in Close Relationships Are Critical); and (d) Emphasis on Finding the "Right" Environment to Meet Family Needs (subtheme: Utilizing Individual or Couples Therapy). Findings have implications for the family science literature by providing an in-depth, Black feminist understanding of how Black queer mothers engage in queer motherwork, navigate informal support, and strategically access community resources.

motherwork, LGBTQ+, informal support, reflexive thematic analysis, photovoice