TransNorm is a research project on the reception and perception of same-sex families in different institutional contexts (2017-2019). The study was funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship and conducted by Tanja Vuckovic Juros at Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain).

CORDIS - Results in Brief (DE, EN, ES, FR, IT, PL)

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TransNorm research project examined transformations of family norms through cross-border exposure to different family models. It focused on the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) migrants from selected Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries with a constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman (Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary), but who now live in same-sex families in Belgium or in the Netherlands, the first two countries to legalize same-sex marriage and adoption.

This case study explored how intercultural contact can improve reception of an institutional innovation such as same-sex family. This project was based on in-depth interviews with two groups sustaining ties across borders: (1) the CEE LGB migrants in same-sex marriage or raising children with a same-sex partner in Belgium or in the Netherlands, and (2) their non-migrant family members, friends and neighbours in home communities.


Audio presentation of project's results

[in Croatian] Shortened version of the lecture organized by the Croatian Sociological Association, and broadcasted by the Third Program of the Croatian Radio. Zagreb, 06.06.2019.

Summary of findings

In the first stage of the project, the research has focused on the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), who are married and/or are raising children with a same-sex partner in Belgium or the Netherlands – the first two countries in the world that recognized same-sex marriage and that currently provide full parental rights to same-sex couples. While CEE is a region encompassing many countries with different traditions and histories, the project focused on those that were both EU members and that constitutionally defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. During 2017-2019, these were Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. One of the goals of this project was to examine how moving from a country with restrictive LGB legislation to a country that had achieved greater LGB equality influenced the everyday lives of LGB individuals and their families. Pursuing this goal, the project set out two research objectives: 1) identification of individual consequences of establishing same-sex families for CEE LGB migrants, both in their countries of origin and in their receiving countries; 2) identification of interpersonal consequences of establishing same-sex families for the CEE gays and lesbians, with a particular focus on the changes in the evaluation of their LGB identity as a result of their new family status.

In the second stage of the project, the research focus shifted to LGB migrants’ family members and close friends still residing in CEE communities in which same-sex marriage was not possible and same-sex families often faced great difficulties in achieving societal and legal recognition and protection of their families. The goal of the second stage was to examine how intercultural contact between LGB transnational migrants living in same-sex families and their family members and friends in CEE home communities exposes tensions between various family models and underlies transformations of traditional family practices. The research objective underlying this goal focused on the identification of possible changes and shifts in family members and friends’ values and opinions on same-sex families and normative models of family in general. With this, the project sought to enhance understanding of how intercultural contact and bottom-up exposure to new institutional family models might change perceptions of what is imaginable and thus possibly serve to initiate a long-term socio-cultural change.

In terms of the first two objectives – the identification of CEE LGB migrants’ individual and interpersonal consequences of establishing same-sex families in a LGB-friendly socio-institutional context – the project’s results suggests that migration to Belgium or the Netherlands was deeply transformative both for the LGB individuals’ life trajectories and for their relationships across a transnational social field connecting them to family members and friends in CEE home countries. First, the participants experienced moving to Belgium or the Netherlands as a liberation at the level of everyday life, which was primarily observable through a profound change in nature of disclosing their LGB identity. This migration, furthermore, allowed them to realize the dreams of a family life which, for some of them, had not been possible or even imaginable in their home countries. Second, these changes were reflected in the changing nature of the relationships with family members, and with the parents in particular, in their home countries. Specifically, while their same-sex marriages prompted LGB migrants to demand stronger parental acknowledgement of their non-heterosexual lives, they still compromised on the visibility of their marriages in the CEE context. In contrast, with the birth of children, such compromises stopped, and LGB migrants took control over the visibility of their family structure back from their parents. Finally, in the relation to the third objective, the study’s results suggest that, while the acceptance of same-sex marriage remains very gradual and difficult, children play an important role in facilitating the integration of LGB-headed families into the extended families-of-origin. Both these patterns, nevertheless, point to the ground-level gradual shifting of family models, and thus they indicate the transformative potential of visibility and exposure to same-sex marriage and non-heterosexual reproductivity.

Comics in other languages

TransNorm booklet (8 languages)

Permanent link available from Open Science Framework (OSF):

Events organized by the TransNorm project

Conferences and events

June 2020

Presentation at Panel "Enabling inclusiveness and participation"at MSCA2020 Presidency Conference.

August 2019

Presentation 'Transational Families of LGB Migrants: Negotiating Familyhood across Different Socio-Institutional Contexts', European Sociological Association's conference, Manchester, UK

June 2019

TransNorm Final Event - Presentation of the project's results at the stakeholders seminar 'Rainbow Couples and Families in Europe. Laws, Norms and Attitudes', Bruxelles, Belgium

Lecture organized by the Croatian Sociological Association (HSD) 'Transformation of Family Norms in a Transnational World. Presentation of Results of the TransNorm Project', Zagreb, Croatia

May 2019

Invited presentation 'Kako kontekst oblikuje iskustva LGB roditeljstva', Rainbow Families Conference, Zagreb, Croatia

September 2018

Presentation 'Balancing the Personal and the Public across Borders: How LGB Migrants Manage ‘Otherness’ in Different Institutional Contexts', ESA Midterm Conference: Theoretical and empirical reflections on social disorganisation and “otherness” in modern European societies. Łódź, Poland

June 2018

Invited Workshop 'Emotionality and Moral Struggles of Everyday Life: The Case of Transnational Families of Same-Sex Partners', IUC Course ‘Social Work & Social Policies‘ - Politics of intersectionality and emotions, Dubrovnik, Croatia

April 2018

Organization of the international conference: The Political in the Personal: Families and Sexualities in Times of Social Change in Europe, with Ken Plummer and Judit Takács as keynote speakers.

February 2018

Presentation 'The Burden of the Blank Slate. Reflecting on the Methodological Challenges of an Outsider', 2nd European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Leuven, Belgium

August 2017

Presentation 'The Promise of Transnational Europe for the LGB Migrants: The Management of Stigmatized Identities and the Transformation of Family Norms', European Sociological Association's conference, Athens, Greece

March 2017