Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Creating Healthy LGBT (Mormon) Youth: The Family Acceptance Project

A few weeks ago, I met Caitlin Ryan, Director of The Family Acceptance Project. Because of my own work within the Mormon community to build the bridge between the LGBT and the LDS communities, I was keenly interested knowing more about her research and work.

I was—in a word—amazed.

Caitlin and her colleagues have proven what many of us as gay Mormons already know: the kind of support (or lack thereof) we experience from our families and church communities has long-term and resounding consequences for our physical and emotional health.

An action plan for parents and church leaders
In this first-of-a-kind study, The Family Acceptance Project not only empirically links unsupportive environments with LGBT suicide, depression, drug/alcohol abuse, and risk for HIV infection—but they also explain to parents and communities actions they can take to reduce these risks—even if they disagree with being gay or transgender. 

“Many parents believe that the best way to help their gay children thrive…is to help them fit in with their heterosexual (Mormon) peers. Because parents see these behaviors as loving or caring for their gay children, they’re often shocked to learn that gay children experience these behaviors as rejection. Young people feel that by rejecting (or trying to alter) their gay identity—a very core part of who they are—their parents are rejecting all of who they are.”

This is not simply another academic research study: it’s a pragmatic, useful tool kit for parents and communities of our LGBT youth, independent of faith. It crosses socio-economic and religious boundaries, and is a real-world means to help create an environment that nurtures positive, healthy LGBT youth to adulthood. 

How I’ll work with Caitlin and The Family Acceptance Project
In the following months, it is my goal to leverage Caitlin’s research as part of the continuing work with the LDS Church.  Hearts inside the church have begun to soften on this topic, and many inside the Mormon community stand ready and eager to learn more. Our next logical step after helping achieve awareness within the flanks of the church, is inspiring them to action. Caitlin’s work provides an approach to do so in a way that honors one of the core tenets of the Mormon faith: commitment to our families first.

One Mormon mother said it best: “The Church teaches us that no success can compensate for failure in the home, and when we realized that included our relationship with our gay son, we knew that, with God’s help, we could do whatever was necessary to make our home a safe and loving one.”

What you can do now
Download a copy of "Supportive Families, Healthy Children" today.
·        If you’re a gay Mormon, share this with your parents and your family, regardless of your age. Changed attitudes and healthier relationships can begin now.
·        If you’re a straight ally, internalize this material and bring what you know to bear in your conversations with those you meet—both in and outside the church. You can help increase awareness and affect change.
·        If you’re an LDS church leader, use this information to guide conversations with LGBT youth and their parents in a helpful, loving, Christ-like manner that fosters a nurturing environment for everyone.
·        If you’re a parent, use this information to help shape your child’s future and provide a loving, healthy home for your son or daughter.
·        Regardless of your individual role, watch the documentary “AlwaysMy Son.” This short film tells a powerful tale of how one family overcame old attitudes and misperceptions to build an inspiring relationship with their gay son.

For more information about The Family Acceptance Project