Non-Binary Parents and Carers: Naming the Specific Detriment Faced




Non-binary, Trans, Parent, carer, Adoption, Fostering


This empirical qualitative study reports a subset of findings derived from a wider narrative inquiry conducted in the UK. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were undertaken with six participants: four who self-define as non-binary or neutrois and have lived experience of adoption, fostering or birth parenting and two social workers with experience assessing and supporting non-binary carers. Purposive followed by snowball sampling sought to include participants with a range of identities from this hard to access sample. A thematic analysis was employed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) six stages and utilising an analysis framework integrating elements of cisgenderism, stigma theory and Foucauldian analysis of discourse and power. Findings showed three key themes emerged: 1). Barriers for non-binary carers, 2) Prejudice in adoption and fostering matching processes, 3). Intersectional disadvantage. Cisgenderism was found to affect non-binary carers at micro, meso and macro levels, ranging from the interactions people had with individual family members, friends and professionals, to organisational policies, procedures and responses, to overarching ways in which wider cisgenderist ideas have infused and influenced society. The stigma attached to non-binary identities is unearthed and unpacked to contribute to a developing conversation aiming to promote inclusion of non-binary identities within social and family life. The key finding of this study that non-binary people do experience specific detriment when trying to start or grow their families adds to a burgeoning conversation on the wider specific detriment that non-binary identity faces within contemporary society. This paper speaks to the ways in which cisgenderism can subtly and pervasively influence a devaluing of identities that sit outside of entrenched binary gender norms. The findings of this exploratory study are as such relevant not only to professionals and academics working with non-binary carers, but more widely to gender theorists and sociologists across the globe.