Family Acceptance Is Key
According to multiple studies, family acceptance can make all the difference to GLBT children. If rejected by families during adolescence, these youth were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex. LGBT teens who are kicked out of their homes account for nearly 40% of the homeless population.
Family acceptance provides a buffer for kids and helps them resist pressures leading to unprotected sex, substance abuse, and suicide. LGBT people, as you would imagine, whose parents support them show much higher rates of self-esteem and greater well-being.
Helpful Tips for Straight Parents
The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University http://www/family project.sfsu.edu, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health, and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, has identified more than 100 ways that parents and caregivers respond to their child’s LGBT identity. Each of those family reactions links to their LGBT adolescent’s health and mental health in adulthood.
Some Positive Family Behaviors: Guidelines
From “Supportive Families, Healthy Children,” by Caitlin Ryan, Ph.D., Family Acceptance Project, San Francisco State University:
• Talk with your child or foster child about their LGBT identity.
• Express affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is LGBT.
• Support your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable.
• Advocate for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity.
• Require that other family members respect your LGBT child.
• Bring your child to an LGBT organization or event.
• Connect your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future.
• Work to make your faith community supportive of LGBT members or find a supportive faith community that welcomes your family and LGBT child.
• Welcome your child’s LGBT friends and partner to your home and to family events and activities.
• Support your child’s gender expression.
• Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult.
• If your child is being harassed at school (LGBT kids often are), document the aggression with names, incidents, and dates. Report it first to the teacher and then the principal. If you don’t get satisfaction, then notify the Superintendent of Schools.
• Order a Safe Space Kit from GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GlSEN), http://glsen.org. for your school and participate in such national events such as “No Name Calling Week.” Start a Gay-Straight Alliance at the school for greater understanding between the school’s straight population and gay community.
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.