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Sexual Communication Between Queer Partners  

Brandon T. Parrillo and Randal D. Brown

Effective communication is vital to any relationship, and sexual communication is no different. Given its importance, sexual communication and its relation to a variety of topics has been studied in recent years. Included among these are its relation to safer sex behaviors, sexual and relationship satisfaction, and fertility and family planning among heterosexual partners. Yet, for queer partners, the data reflect interest in sexual communication as it relates to safe sex behaviors such as condom use and HIV status. Further, the current base of published literature on sexual communication among queer partners focuses almost exclusively on men who have sex with men and leaves out other types of queer partnerships. To be truly inclusive, it is imperative that sexual communication research broaden its focus to include topics that do not medicalize queer couples, such as sexual pleasure, satisfaction, and relationship well-being.


Parenting of Queer Offspring  

Pamela J. Lannutti and Maria Butauski

Over recent decades, a growing body of research has consistently emphasized the importance of parental support of one’s queer (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary, etc.) identity to their mental health and overall well-being. Parent–queer child relationships have increasingly drawn scholarly attention, with particular interest in children’s coming out (i.e., disclosing their queer identity) to their parents. Scholars have also focused on understanding parents’ experiences. Although researchers emphasize the importance of parents’ responses to their children coming out, as well as the importance of how people communicate and make sense of queer identities, the nature of parent–child communication beyond the initial coming out event is also central to the personal and relational well-being of parents and their queer children.


Same-Sex Couple Relationship Maintenance  

Stephen M. Haas

Same-sex couple relationship maintenance involves the exchange of communication and relational behaviors to sustain these romantic relationships. In communication studies, same-sex couple relationship maintenance began in the late 1990s, and while it remains understudied, research in this area continues to grow and illuminate understanding of how communication plays a central role in the maintenance of same-sex couple relationships. Social exchange, along with minority stress, have been the predominant theoretical frameworks in studies of same-sex couple relationship maintenance. Overall, evidence suggests that relational maintenance behaviors (assurances, shared tasks, openness, positivity, conflict management, advice, and shared networks) are associated with positive relational functioning and quality in same-sex couple relationships. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer+ (LGBTQ+)-specific relational behaviors, such as being “out” as a couple and seeking out LGBTQ+-supportive environments, also have been highlighted. Research also points to the positive impact of partner social support and same-sex marriage on same-sex couple commitment and satisfaction, and a negative relational impact from concealing LGBTQ+ identity and same-sex relationship status. Future research is needed to continue to illuminate the evolving impact of increasing social legitimacy (e.g., same-sex marriage) on same-sex couple relationship maintenance.


Relational Communication and Consensual Nonmonogamy  

Valerie Rubinsky and Lucy C. Niess

Consensually nonmonogamous (CNM) relationships include a variety of relational types that allow for multiple sexual or romantic partners. Although many CNM dynamics occur, the most commonly addressed by both research and popular media include swinging relationships, open relationships, and polyamorous relationships. Many people practice some form of CNM at some point in time, with some estimates suggesting approximately one in five people will be involved in some kind of CNM relational dynamic at some point in their lifetime. At the core of their relational practices, many CNM relationships center communication, openness, and honesty. Despite this, CNM relationships have received less attention from communication researchers comparative to other social science disciplines. CNM relational practices are independent of other relational identities, but may intersect with other identities such as sexual orientation or those who practice kink or bondage, domination, and sadomasochism. The interdisciplinary research literature on relational communication and CNM examines relational maintenance behaviors in CNM relationships, primarily polyamorous relationships, relational communication and jealousy in multiple partner dynamics, polyamorous identity disclosure, and intercultural communication in polyamorous communities. CNM relational communication practices emphasize relational maintenance behavior in multiple-partner dynamics and how jealousy may be communicatively managed in CNM relationships.


Minority Stress and Relationships  

Robert Carroll

Minority stress for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) and African American communities has been well documented over the past 30 years. Generally speaking, being a member of a stigmatized community can lead to alienation from social structures, norms, and institutions, all of which can have negative implications for mental health, well-being, and relationships. When speaking about minority stress and its impact on LGBTQ+ relationships, the research is mixed. Although there are findings that show LGBTQ+ individuals face greater discrimination and more negative health impacts than heterosexual couples, other research notes the positive coping mechanisms that highlight the resilient nature of these couples. For African Americans and other racial minorities, the disparities are greater, with research showing that racial identity is linked to an increase in overall external stressors. However, over the last few years, discrimination toward sexual and racial minorities has reached a critical tipping point. Both within the United States and worldwide, social movements are drawing attention to the historical inequalities experienced by minority groups, and demanding change. Considering minority stress research, methods, and analyses are built on the connection between an individual and their social situations, the construct is due for an evolution, one that is representative of what our world looks like today. Although conceptualizations thus far have been productive in understanding the stressors of the LGBTQ+ and African American communities, there is a need to incorporate critical concepts of intersectionality and expand understanding of what it means to be a member of a minority group.