Supporting Our LGBT Loved Ones

Last month the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) won a “best practice” award from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for its educational booklet, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Children,” available at over 10 years, the Family Acceptance Project has studied how parents’ reactions to their children being LGBT affected those children’s risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV and sexually-transmitted diseases, plus how those family behaviors affected their children’s self-esteem, sense of the future, life satisfaction and social support.  The research has found that some behaviors parents think are protecting and caring for their children are actually perceived by those children as rejection or abuse, leading them to poor health outcomes.  Their research found, for instance, that LGBT youth twho felt rejected by their families had much lower self-esteem, fewer people to turn to for help, and were more isolated.  Those who felt highly rejected were also:

  • 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 risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

The publication urges parents of LGBT youth to:

  • Talk with their child or foster child about their LGBT identity
  • Express affection when your child tells you or you learn that your child is gay or transgender
  • 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 LGBT organizations or events
  • Connect your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future
  • Welcome your child’s LGBT friends & partners to your home
  • Support your child’s gender expression
  • Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult.

What does all this have to do with LGBT elders?  It’s not clear, but it is intriguing to note that LGBT elders, like their youthful counterparts, also have higher rates of suicidality, depression, substance abuse, and HIV risk.  Perhaps it’s time for some researchers to repeat the Family Acceptance Project research with LGBT elders to see if there are parallel lessons.

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