Recent work by Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW, Director of the Family Acceptance Project, shows that a family’s behavior and actions have long term impact on LGBT children and teens. Her work has found that LGBT youth from loving, supportive families have drastically fewer suicide attempts and are much less likely to become addicted to drugs and alcohol. Conversely, LGBT youth who were rejected by family suffer much higher rates of suicide and addiction.
According to the Family Acceptance Project research, there is a staggering difference between the health and wellbeing of LGBT youth who felt supported and those who felt rejected. Gay and transgender teens who were highly rejected by their parents and caregivers were at very high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults (ages 21-25).
Let’s look at some of the findings:
Family Rejection Has Long-Lasting effects
Highly rejected young LGBT people were:
- More than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide
- Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
- More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs, and
- More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases
Use of Illegal Drugs:
These two images show the serious impact of high levels of family rejection on gay or transgender young adults. Their parents tried to change who they were. Their parents or caregivers tried to prevent them from being gay or transgender. Or they showed their disappointment or shame in having a gay or transgender child in other ways.
So if you love your child, it is important that your entire family, friends and larger community (such as churches and schools) not subject your child to rejecting behavior, but instead show acceptance and support. It is also important to stand up for your child and not allow others to reject, bully or act hostile toward your child.
What Behaviors Should a Family Avoid?
According to Dr. Ryan, families should avoid the following behaviors:
- Hitting, slapping or physically hurting your child because of their LGBT identity
- Verbal harassing or name-calling because of your child’s LGBT identity
- Excluding LGBT youth from family and family activities
- Blocking access to LGBT friends, events & resources
- Blaming your child when they are discriminated against, harassed or bullied because of their LGBT identity
- Pressuring your child to be more (or less) masculine or feminine
- Telling your child that God will punish them because they are gay
- Telling your child that you are ashamed of them or that how they look or act will shame the family
- Making your child keep their LGBT identity a secret in the family and not letting them talk about it
What Behaviors Should a Family Embrace For the Long Term Health of Their LGBT Child?
Dr. Ryan found the following family behaviors enhanced the long term health and wellbeing of LGBT children and young adults:
- Talking with your child or foster child about their LGBT identity
- Expressing affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is gay or transgender
- Supporting your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable
- Advocating for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity
- Requiring that other family members respect your LGBT child
- Bringing your child to LGBT organizations or events
- Talking with clergy and helping your faith community to support LGBT people
- Connecting your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future
- Welcoming your child’s LGBT friends & partners to your home
- Supporting your child’s gender expression
- Believing your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult
You can make a huge difference in an LGBT person's life, by showing them acceptance and demanding that others in their life do the same!
Acts of acceptance, caring and support can have an enormous impact on an LGBT individual years after they reach adulthood. LGBT young adults who felt accepted have a more positive future outlook.
Please visit the Family Acceptance Project to learn more and to see how you can help LGBT youth in your life and in your area. As you can see, the stakes are high with long term consequences. Whether you are a family member or a concerned adult, showing acceptance and support can truly change someone’s life. The sad statistics of LGBT homeless youth show that up to 40% of homeless youth are LGBT, even though it is estimated LGBT youth make up less than 10% of the population. These young children and teens are often thrown out of their family homes and need support and acceptance from other than their families, or they will likely face serious lifelong physical and mental health issues.
Please do what you can to help.
Written By: New Hope Recovery Center
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