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Paine, Emily Allen. 2018. Embodied Disruption: “Sorting out” Gender and Nonconformity in the Doctor’s Office. Social Science & Medicine, 211: 352 – 358.

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Among LGBTQ people, those who are gender nonconforming (GNC) may be at heightened risk of both discrimination and underutilization of healthcare—yet little is known about what happens during healthcare encounters to compel GNC individuals to continue or avoid seeking future care. This study qualitatively examines the healthcare experiences of a racially diverse sample of 34 adult LGBTQ cis women, transgender men, and nonbinary individuals in a metropolitan area of the United States who do not conform to dominant biomedical schemas of sex and gender. GNC individuals experience embodied disruption in medical settings when patients are mis/recognized; providers respond to disruption in ways that further distress patients. Broadly, participants report similar experiences across racial and gender identities, but patients manage disruption somewhat differently depending on their embodied positions to gender norms. This study contributes to literatures of stress, stigma, and sex, gender, and sexuality within medicine by illuminating how stigmatizing healthcare interactions deter LGBTQ individuals from seeking healthcare. Findings point to the importance of considering both structural factors and embodied visibility in future research addressing how stigma and discrimination manifest within health settings to disadvantage LGBTQ groups.

Paine, Emily Allen, Debra Umberson & Corinne Reczek. 2019. Sex in Midlife: Women’s Sexual Experiences in Lesbian and Straight Marriages, Journal of Marriage and Family, 81 (1): 7-23.

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Objective: This study examines how married straight and lesbian women understand sexual changes in midlife.

Background: Sexual satisfaction is key to marital quality, yet marital sex typically diminishes in midlife. Little is known, however, about how married straight and lesbian women make sense of midlife sexuality. Comparing the narratives of lesbian and straight women can reveal how midlife events, relational contexts, and gender norms drive women’s experiences of and responses to diminishing sex.

Method: Inductive and deductive analyses were performed on interviews with a convenience sample of 16 straight and 16 lesbian mostly high-status married couples in Massachusetts.

Results: Lesbian and straight women suggest that sexual activity and desire diminish over time due to health, aging, and caregiving events, yet lesbian women additionally emphasize the importance of weight gain, caregiving for adult parents, and shared experiences of menopause. Women further describe distress when their sex lives diverge from norms specific to marriage and their sexual identities. Moreover, women report relationship work designed to maintain or reignite sex; when compared with straight women, lesbians describe more work and a stronger sense of duty to keep sex alive and uniquely describe medical providers as unhelpful in addressing sexual challenges.

Conclusion: The results suggest that relational contexts and cultural discourses shape straight and lesbian women’s experiences of distress and comfort about diminishing sex in marriage.


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Research consistently demonstrates that family relationships are key determinants of health, but most research on health and families focuses on a heterosexual and cisgender context. Sexual and gender identities often are overlooked or erased in family and health research. We present an overview of the current state of research on LGBT families and health, using a life course approach and pointing to the ways that LGBT people’s experiences of families occur within a broader social structural context, with implications for their health and the health of their family members. We focus on parenthood, parent–child ties, intimate relationships, and care- giving. We also identify two theoretical obstacles for studies of LGBT families and health as well as important research areas for moving forward, such as the inclusion of non‐binary and queer identities in our studies of family and health. Incorporation of LGBT and other queer families and family forms into our health research interrogates assumptions within family and health research and offers insight into how to move the field forward.