Communication LGBTQ+ Family Communication
matthew heinz
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 June 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0294


Family communication is an area of studies within communication studies dedicated to the processes that occur as part of the family system. Common family communication research topics stem from social psychological perspectives and include the relationships between and among family members, the manifestation of conflict, dialectical tensions, and the constitution of family models themselves. However, a recent critical turn of interpersonal and family communication scholarship is shifting the theoretical and applied orientation of work in this area somewhat. Much of initial family communication work grew out of interpersonal communication scholarship in the 1970s and 1980s; in 1989, the family communication division of the then–Speech Communication Association in the United States was formed. The launch of the Journal of GLBT Family Communication in 2005 (known as the LGBTQ+ Family: An Interdisciplinary Journal since 2021) was significant. Scholarship on communication about and within LGBTQ families in media and mass communication often manifests as a critical/cultural approach offering queer critiques of traditional family discourses. The inclusion of LGBTQ+ family members and families in family communication research was gradual and sporadic until the last decade. This phenomenon mirrors the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in interpersonal communication research, which initially focused on gay men and lesbians in the United States. Changes in the visibility of LGBTQ+ families led to expanded cultural and legal definitions of families, which are now beginning to be reflected in the literature. As scholars in the field began to interrogate the cultural logics of whiteness, ableism, and cisnormativity, scholarship broadened in regard to ethnic demographic and gender identity representation. Scholarship on LGBTQ+ family communication in nations other than the United States began to appear in English language journals. As US family communication scholars have noted, the number of scholars focusing on LGBTQ+ families is limited. Much of social science research on LGBTQ+ families that addresses communication processes appears to be generated by scholars in fields other than communication, which means that much of this work does not appear in disciplinary communication journals or use communication within the title, abstract, or keywords. However, the concepts explored in such work often stem from communication studies, such as self-disclosure or family identity. Communication scholars also often publish LGBTQ+ family communication work in journals from other fields or collaborate with scholars from other disciplines. LGBTQ+ families constitute a vibrant area of inter- and transdisciplinary research but communication processes within these families are often implied or studied from other perspectives. This makes it difficult to assess collective knowledge on LGBTQ+ family communication. Most recently, LGBTQ+ family communication scholars have been seeking to surface the transformative potential of queer families to challenge heteronormative constructions of family communication theories, typically under the umbrella of queer family communication. This article only includes work that explicitly addresses communication dynamics, concepts, or theories.


Research and scholarship on LGBTQ+ family communication is published in communication journals with a focus on interpersonal and/or family communication; it also appears in journals of related disciplines or inter- and transdisciplinary journals focusing on family or LGBTQ+ issues. Most significant perhaps is the Journal of GLBT Family Studies, which was launched as the “first journal to address the unique experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals in the context of the family.” The Journal of Family Communication also constitutes an important source of scholarship on this topic.

  • International Journal of Transgender Health. 2020–.

    Formerly known as the International Journal of Transgenderism (2005 to 2019), this multidisciplinary journal is published in partnership with WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) and has an explicit international focus. It is broadly dedicated to the field of transgender health and publishes articles from the disciplines of endocrinology to psychology and family therapy. In recent years, articles in the realm of LGBTQ+ family communication have focused on transgender family members and addressed family member experiences of gender dysphoria, family support, family discrimination, family rejection, and support of gender expansive adolescents.

  • Journal of Family Communication. 2001–.

    This journal is dedicated to scholarship on communication processes within or about families and research on family communication and social systems. The journal is open to multidisciplinary work and publishes research guided by quantitative, qualitative, critical, and rhetorical methodologies.

  • Journal of Family Psychology. 1987–.

    This journal is published by the American Psychological Association and focuses on societal challenges faced by families. The journal’s scope statement highlights studies on strengthening family relationships, studies that use sophisticated and longitudinal research designs, and studies that offer knowledge about effective therapy and prevention programs.

  • Journal of Homosexuality. 1976–.

    This journal offers disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship on sexuality and gender. The journal emphasizes methodological diversity and encourages articles from not just scholars but community activists and practitioners as well.

  • Journal of GLBT Family Studies. 2005–.

    This journal is interdisciplinary and international in orientation and features scholarship from researchers and practitioners.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.