Positive Family Response to LGBTQ+ Members Makes All The Difference
Family reactions towards those sharing their identities range from postivity to negativity, all having effects on the individuals feeling of acceptance and growth.
By Caelan Woryk
Families React to Transgender Folks with Affection, Support
“I am gay.”
“I am lesbian.”
“I am not comfortable in my body.”
“I am not living as my true self.”
These phrases are often said to the parents or guardians of LGBTQ+ individuals. Adults reactions to these statements can be painless or often discouraging to their children.
Many parents or guardians accept and support their child for who they are, no matter how they want to gender identify. According to the Human Rights Campaign’s guide, Caring for LGBTQ Children & Youth, 49 percent of LGBTQ+ youth have an adult in their family that they trust to turn to for help.
“I came out to my mom first,” Morris said. “No one in my family identifies under the transgender umbrella. It’s not that I worried that my mom wouldn’t accept me or that my family wouldn’t accept me, it was just something that my mom didn’t know. So it’s something like I said that I’m trying to teach her, which is not a bad thing because she’s totally willing to learn.”
The Family Acceptance Project, a group that focuses on research, intervention, education and policy for at risk LGBTQ+ youth, found in their study, “the average age that youth realized they were gay was a little over age 13. Many of them knew they were gay at even younger ages – such as age seven or nine.”
The organization also conducted a survey and found, “When they first learned that their children were gay or transgender, these parents and foster parents reacted with affection. They told their children they loved them, and showed their care in many other ways.”
“He told me he had something to tell me. He sat me down and he told me that he was a boy trapped in a girl’s body. He did not know the word transgender yet,” Lauren Hart, a mother of a transgender child, said. “We did some research. I explained what transgender meant, that he wasn’t alone and that there was nothing wrong with him saying this. [I told him] some people are born this way because he thought there was something wrong with him. I told him I was going to love him no matter what and that we were going to figure it out.”
The Family Acceptance Project came to one conclusion – that youth whose parents or guardians supported their new identities had better health and mental health, higher self-esteem and less likely to be depressed, use drugs or were suicidal.
Many parents or guardians do not accept or support their child for who they are and how they want to identify. Caring for LGBTQ Children & Youth guide found 29 percent of LGBTQ+ youth do not have an adult they can talk to about personal problems compared to 17 percent of straight youth.
“I did not tell my family [that I was lesbian] but my mom found out and unfortunately she didn’t react the way I was hoping she would,” an anonymous LGBTQ+ student said. “In the back of my head, I knew she would react. She was very negative towards it. Not very accepting. It really just broke me.”
“As of right now, my mom thinks that I am going to ‘get back on the right path’ soon,” the anonymous individual said. “My parents believe if you are in a relationship, same-sex, then you will go to hell.”
According to The Williams Institute, LGBTQ+ youth that are rejected by their parents feel neglected, run away, are forced out of their home, experience physical, emotional or sexual abuse in their home or are too old to find another family within the foster care system. These issues often result in LGBTQ+ youth homelessness.
“[My mom] threw me this wonderful birthday, [and during] she kind of told me that if I do not break up with my girlfriend, I wouldn’t be allowed home again,” the anonymous individual continued. “I felt so loved and all of sudden I’m out and I can’t go back home.”
“40 percent of the United States youth homeless population identifies within the LGBTQ+ community.”
Being rejected from family and left to figure things out by oneself is troublesome. Some kids who find themselves in this situation turn to resources outside of their family.
“In the recent years, there has been an uptake in the number of people who are experiencing homelessness,” Sister Mary Scullion, co-founder of Project Home in Philadelphia, said. “We went to True Colors in New York and spoke with them to better understand how to respond to the plight of these young men and women.”
Scullion did focus groups to ask the the LGBTQ+ youth community what would work best for them if they were to stay with Project Home. One outcome found was that some wanted to be in a more integrated setting that incorporated people of all genders living under one roof.
“Other youth who identified and wanted to identify more publicly with the LGBTQ community wanted an LGBTQ-friendly place to live,” Scullion said. “We try at Project Home, not perfectly, but we try to welcome people home and be culturally sensitive and welcoming because we want people to be home.”
Family rejection takes a toll on both parents or guardians and the child at hand.
The Family Acceptance Project found that when it comes to avoiding fully rejecting one’s child that “a little change – being a little less rejecting and a little more accepting – can make an important difference in reducing a young person’s risk for serious issues.”
To prevent the child or young adult from feeling abandoned or at risk for issues like ending up out of the home, The Family Acceptance Project suggests that parents should be cautious of their behavior.
Finding the pieces to rebuild strained relationships between a parent and child may be hard. Support and love are the key.
“It has just been rough ever since [my party]. [My mom] has kind of been cold towards me, saying that I bring her shame and I am not who I used to be: ‘The loving daughter,’ even though I am. I love and respect her despite all the stuff she said to hurt me. It is kind of like a work in progress,” anonymous said.
By Marissa Roberto