You May Not Know Her Name, But Her Work Has Enlightened Parents
Caitlin Ryan is a clinical social worker with a Ph.D. She lives in San Francisco and is a lesbian. If her name sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because she, an Irish Catholic, was the focus of an article in the New York Times, September 13, 2014, entitled “ A Social Worker Helps Mormon Families to Accept Gay Children” by Samuel G. Freedman.
Field Work Among LGBT Homeless and Parents of Gay Children
In 2008, she started a program called the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State. The first of its kind, this project studied the effect of family acceptance and rejection on the mental health and well-being of LGBT youth including HIV/AIDS, homelessness, and suicide.
The research found that how a parent responds to the coming out of their LGBT children had a profound impact on the child’s psyche, even years later. What the Family Acceptance Project found that LGBT youths who experience high rejection from their families(when compared with those young people who experienced little or no rejection from their families):
· Were 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide.
· More than 6 times likely to report high levels of depression.
· Were more than 3 times likely to use illegal drugs and more than 3 times likely to be at high risk for HIV or other STDs by the time they reach their early 20s.
· In addition, 40% of America’s homeless youth are LGBT.
How does a parent avoid all these undesirable outcomes for their LGBT child? Unconditional love, without it, the hurt lingers. Ryan and her colleagues spread that message through handbooks, films, research papers, to name a few outlets.
For tips on how you can be more accepting of your child’s sexual orientation, see http://www.family acceptance project @sfs.edu.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.