When My Parents Came to the Gay Ball: Comfort Work in Adult Child–Parent Relationships
In addition to the emotion work that occurs in families, I theorize that adult children also engage in comfort work with their parents, navigations, and strategies to reduce the discomfort of parents with their adult children’s lives. This study analyzes how gay and lesbian adults navigate the participation of their parents at events run by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) clubs or “krewes” in the Gulf South during Carnival season. I conducted over 50 days of ethnographic fieldwork during Mardi Gras events and 26 interviews with gay and lesbian members of krewes in Mobile, Alabama, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I argue that gay and lesbian adults negotiate their parents’ attendance in gay spaces by comfort work, mostly by creating comfort for their parents and managing disreputability through education. Ultimately, I conclude that parents’ attendance at LGBTQ events results in supportive reciprocation, “payoffs” of acceptance that are rich in emotional and symbolic significance for adult children.
Stone, A. L. (2020). When my parents came to the gay ball: Comfort work in adult child–parent relationships. Journal of Family Issues, 42(5), 1116-1137. doi: 10.1177/0192513X20935497
Journal of Family Issues