Identity Versus Identification: How LGBTQ Parents Identify Their Children on Census Surveys


  • This article was edited by Kelly Raley.


Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals often rely on conceptions of family that fall outside of heteronormative definitions regarding blood or legal ties. As a consequence, there is a greater potential for conflict between family identities and identification options on survey instruments. Drawing on interviews with 100 LGBTQ parents, the authors examined conflicts between identity and identification faced by LGBTQ parents who must describe their parent–child relationships on census surveys. They found that in cases where parents lack biological or legal ties or where the legal relationship is established after the parent–child relationship (e.g., with second-parent adoption), parents often rely on alternative definitions of family when completing surveys. When navigating identification options, participants consider the survey intent and structure, heteronormative legal and biological frameworks of family, and emotional kinship ties. The findings suggest the need for researchers to consider the heterogeneity within each category of parent–child relationship captured on surveys.