It may seem obvious to many of us: LGBT youth whose families are accepting of their LGBT identities are more likely to become happy, healthy adults, and less likely to have depression, suicide risk, substance abuse, and similar problems.
But Dr. Caitlin Ryan of the Marian Wright Edelman Institute at San Francisco State University, in a study appearing this month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, notes that most previous research has looked only at the negative aspects of the relationship between LGBT youth and their parents. And most health care providers, social workers, and educators who work with LGBT youth tend to serve them alone and through peer support, not by engaging their families.
Ryan and her team have provided strong evidence, however, that youth experience better outcomes when their families are involved in their lives and when they express acceptance through specific behaviors such as advocating for their children when they are teased about being LGBT.
The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) that Ryan and colleague Rafael Dìaz developed in 2001 aims to apply the results of their research. The FAP has worked with a variety of community organizations, care providers, and advocates to create culturally diverse educational materials, including a downloadable guide for parents, caregivers, and health care providers (in English and Spanish), and a video series showing the paths of an ethnically diverse group of families toward acceptance of their LGBT children. The FAP is also offering free family support services — from general information to crisis assistance — in English, Spanish, and Cantonese throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
LGBT youth have been much in the news lately because of the ills that may befall them. It is heartening to see someone not just telling them it will get better later in life, but that it can get better now, with their families—and providing tools to help them navigate the journey together.