• bisexual;
  • family nursing;
  • gay;
  • homosexual;
  • lavender;
  • lesbian;
  • nursing

Aim.  To explore and describe lesbian, gay and bisexual people’s families of origin and families of choice.

Background.  As a family group lesbian, gay and bisexual people engage with nurses when they interface with any health care service. All health practitioners need to be aware of the existence and constitution of lesbian, gay and bisexual families to provide appropriate health care, including health promotion and education.

Design.  Survey.

Method.  From April to July 2004 a national survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons was carried out. Participants were recruited through mainstream and lesbian, gay and bisexual media and venues. A total of 2269 participants completed the survey instrument either electronically or via hard copy. The 133-item instrument included a range of closed-response questions in a variety of domains of interest. The article reports on results from the family and relationships domain.

Results.  Findings identified that lesbian, gay and bisexual families present with a variety of both constructed and biological kinship ties and relationships. These relationships vary from supported to estranged in terms of biological family and exclusivity through to non-exclusivity with regard to partners. Variations also exist in relation to the presence or absence of children and whether these were born before or after ‘coming out’.

Conclusions.  Lesbian, gay and bisexual families bring with them to health care services a wide array of life experiences. Therefore it is vital that when interacting with this group of people nurses avoid making assumptions about how gay, lesbian and bisexual people construct their identities and relationships. Furthermore, it may be difficult to ascertain a person’s sexual identity when meeting them for the first time.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Nurses need to ensure that they do not assume families seeking healthcare are heterosexual. Providing lesbian, gay and bisexual families with opportunities to disclose sexual identity without fear of disapproval or prejudice is integral to providing a quality and appropriate health service.