Chapter 6: Narrative practice with families

In the 6th chapter of this course, we delve deeper into the relational. We learn about narrative practices for and with families and loved ones of sexually and gender expansive folk. And we will learn from the skills, practices, hopes, dreams and resistance of queer families.

In the 6th chapter of this course, we delve deeper into the relational. We learn about narrative practices for and with families and loved ones of sexually and gender expansive folk. And we will learn from the skills, practices, hopes, dreams and resistance of queer families.

 


In this video Zan (who previously went by Rosie) shares narrative practices they rely on in work with queer and trans young people and their loved ones including: resisting pathologisation of gender diverse young people; letters and documents; and externalising.

 

Note: Rosie now goes by Zan and they/them.


David Nylund (he/him) describes his non-binary approach to supporting cisgender parents of transgender young people including resisting the dichotomy of supportive/unsupportive, finding pathways for parents to stay connected to faith while affirming their child’s gender and honoring fear and loss while being accountable to the safety of trans young people. 

Moments to treasure: Narrative family therapy with trans children and cisgender parents — David Nylund.


By now, we’ve exposed the operation of gender binaries and some of their effects. Julie Tilsen (she/her) uses deconstruction of gender binaries in her work with non-trans-identified partners of transmen. This article explores the complicated themes of identity co-construction and corporeal realities as they relate to queer bodies and relationships.

The Gender Binary: Theory and Lived Experience — Julie Tilsen, David Nylund, Lorraine Grieves


Kath Reid (she/her) co-researches local skills and knowledges of queer families in her community and introduces us to alternative meanings of ‘family’, ‘family’ as a verb, ways of resisting the invisibalising of queer families.

Dancing Our Own Steps: A Queer Families’ Project — Kath Reid


 
 

Reflection questions:

  • What are the ideas of what ‘family’ is that inform your work or that are prevalent in the context you work in? Are these ideas that you find useful or not useful? 
  • What effect do these ideas have on the people you work with? 
  • How might you collaborate with the people you work with to sponsor diverse understandings of ‘family’?

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Avatar

    abbytimmy13@gmail.com

    Family is unique to every individual situation. Who people identify as family varies based on their culture, experiences and influences on their life as well as many other factors. By being inquisitive about family it allows a person to tell their story and identify who they see as family rather than an assumption or feeling forced into a box.

    By being open and not having a preconceived idea on who a persons family is, then clients feel they can describe it for themselves in their own way and say who is significant. I find young people appreciate this and being able to specify for themselves.

  2. Avatar

    sylphillipsayre@yahoo.com.au

    What are the ideas of what ‘family’ is that inform your work or that are prevalent in the context you work in? Are these ideas that you find useful or not useful?
    Unique to individual people, can vary in diverseness of structures, cultural roles, religious / spiritual values, views, expectations and where these come from, that influence people. Acknowledging the power/ systems/ politic’s / Activists/ Elders/Leaders/ Peers.

    What effect do these ideas have on the people you work with?
    Understanding /processing how the external environment has a dominance of normatives that influence people on how people / family / communities/ societies “should be”. For some this gels ok/ well for them and for some people, families and communities, (not gelling much, if at all) and this can be a discourse in how family works, connects, re-connects, heals, is strengthened and the collaborative nuturing / bonds that create and continue healthy relationships.

    How might you collaborate with the people you work with to sponsor diverse understandings of ‘family’?
    Illicit consent to invite conversations listen / hear what people say.
    Process this.
    Ask if it ok to ask questions to gain more of an understanding / picture of people’s stories.
    Thank people for sharing / teaching me
    Reflect on these stories / learning
    Heal, Grow and continue Development

  3. Avatar

    Megan M. Matthews

    Hi, I’m Megan (say it, “MEE-gan”) Matthews, writing from greater Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

    – What are the ideas of what ‘family’ is that inform your work or that are prevalent in the context you work in? Are these ideas that you find useful or not useful?
    From the time I was eight years old (when my maternal grandmother came to live with my parents and myself) up to the present moment, I have spent my life living in transgressive family contexts: some multigenerational, some polyamorous, some resisting of normativity in other ways. These experiences have informed my practices in my agency work with low socioeconomic status folks living with addiction, as well as with my private practice clients, many of whom identify as transgressive in multiple ways and often feel isolated or rejected because of it. The concept around family and “family-ing” that I have consistently worked to share with them is simply this: If a member of your family-of-origin, a blood relation, or any other person who might in a normative context be considered a family member isn’t treating you the way you believe family members have the right to be treated by one another… you have the right not to designate them as family in your context, because your family is who you say it is.

    – What effect do these ideas have on the people you work with?
    I believe the core concept I present regarding family, encapsulated above, has been very freeing for many of my clients living with addiction, many of whom begin by feeling “stuck” in a living situation with “family” who may be enabling of the addiction; abusive; or both. As well, my identity-transgressor clients seem to have used this concept of “family-ing” to come to peace with any rejection by families-of-origin, and to begin to build a community of their own.

  4. Avatar

    Kelsi Semeschuk

    I also find this definition of ‘queer’ very helpful: ‘The word queer is a complex one, and right now, I’m not using it as an umbrella term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender. But to describe people and acts which transgress, fail at, reject, and resist norms around sex, gender, sexuality, relationships, family, and bodies. So, this, is less about identity and more about experience of and relationship with norms…’ (Zan Maeder)

  5. Avatar

    Kelsi Semeschuk

    In watching Zan’s video: ‘Queer Invitations’ I was especially drawn to the following quote: ‘My suspicion is that what is often more valuable than my queerness is my awareness of and attention to the discourses that touch the lives of queer folks’. I was particularly interested in this comment from Zan because I have personally felt a bit daunted with the idea of working with LGBTIQ+ folks as a heterosexual, gender-conforming, cis-woman. However, this comment, and Zan’s description of what it means to ‘queer our practice’ has me thinking about this very differently. When I consider Zan’s description of what it means to ‘queer our practice’ as having to do with describing ‘people and acts which transgress, fail at, reject, and resist norms around sex, gender, sexuality, relationships, family, and bodies’ – then, the leap from narrative practice to ‘queering my practice’ does not seem so big.

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