The Importance of Supporting LGBTQ+ Kids
June is LGBTQ+ Awareness and Pride Month, and we are proud to be share more about how this topic relates to child well-being and child abuse prevention on our blogs this month.
Guest post by: Pamela White, Children’s Center Development and Communications Director
Children’s Center’s vision is to build a world where all children feel safe, valued, and heard. Regardless of where a person stands on issues of gender identity and sexual orientation, we know that everyone who supports Children’s Center cares about the safety of the children in our community. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to educate our community about what we can do to offer protection, healing, and wholeness to all children.
As a result of academic studies like the groundbreaking Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, we have ample documentation of the impacts that child abuse and neglect have on the health and well-being of child survivors across their lifespan. The data tells us that the physical and emotional scars of abuse or neglect can be lasting and often lead to risky behaviors, chronic health conditions, mental health issues, substance use, low academic achievement, limited life potential, and even early death. It’s not difficult then to imagine that parental rejection or abandonment, school/community discrimination, or bullying might create adverse experiences that strongly impact kids who identify as LGBTQ+.
There is emerging research that indicates that when children who identify as LGBTQ+ experience rejection and/or abandonment from caregivers and families they may be strongly impacted. In the booklet, Supportive Parents, Healthy Children, Caitlin Ryan, PhD of San Francisco State University and her study team state that LGBTQ+ adults who reported that they experienced high rates of parental rejection in their teens were: 8.4 times more likely to report that they had attempted suicide, 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs, and 3.4 times more likely to have had unprotected sex than LGBQT+ peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.*
Chapin Hill at University Chicago stated in their brief Missed Opportunities: LGBTQ Youth Homelessness in America that “LGBTQ+ youth are at more than double the risk of homelessness compared to non-LGBTQ+ homeless peers”. What’s more, when LGBTQ+ youth are homeless, they died “at more than twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ+ peers” and “reported higher rates of trauma and adversity.” This trauma includes being physically harmed, being forced into sex, exchanging sex for basic needs, and experiencing stigmatization and discrimination. The Chapin Hill Brief also noted that 67% of LGBTQ homeless youth compared to 37% of their non-LGBTQ+ peers experienced discrimination and stigmatization within their family. **
The Trevor Project is an organization that focuses on LGBTQ+ suicide prevention, and worked with leading experts to publish the first nation-wide estimate of LGBTQ youth considering suicide. Their online resource, Facts About Suicide, says that LGBTQ youth are five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth and that,
“Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse compared to their straight peers.”***
So, what then can you do to support your child if they come to you and share that they are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer, or questioning? The simple answer is tell them that you love them. Then, assure them that you will not ask them to leave the home or otherwise abandon them. Supportive Parents, Healthy Children also suggests that even if you believe that being LGBTQ+ is a sin or are in some way conflicted about having a gay child, you should be honest about your feelings. Sharing your own beliefs, fears and/or concerns in a way that is honest but not demeaning will build trust and understanding as you navigate this journey.
The American Academy of Pediatrics article Coming Out: Information for Parents of LGBTQ Teens repeatedly suggests that responding in loving, honest manner towards your child is the absolute best way to ensure the well-being of that child. *** HealthyChildren.org has myriads of other information to support and educate all parents and is worth checking out. Another resource available to caregivers, friends, and families of LGBTQ+ children is the organization Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Please see their website for more information, resources, and to find a group near you.
Supporting the physical and mental health of LGBTQ+ youth is an issue that all of us should get involved with. If someone in your family or circle of friends has a LGBTQ+ child, take the time to let them know you accept and support them and their child. Even if you don’t know anyone in your immediate circle, we encourage everyone to read materials about the process and experience of coming out, the challenges faced by individuals who identify as LGBTQ+, and the ways you can be involved in keeping LGBTQ+ kids safe.
Finally, gratitude to each of you for reading this blog. Regardless, of the age, gender identity, or sexual orientation of your own child or the children in your life, please join us in creating an environment that is nurturing and supportive so that every child who comes into our community feels safe, valued, and heard.
Additional Online Resources:
The Family Acceptance Project
“The Family Acceptance Project® is a research, intervention, education, and policy initiative to prevent health and mental health risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified (LGBTQ) children and youth, including suicide, homelessness, drug use and HIV — in the context of their families, cultures, and faith communities. We use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, racially, and religiously diverse families learn to support their LGBTQ children.”
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
“Founded in 1973 after the simple act of a mother publicly supporting her gay son, PFLAG is the nation’s largest family and ally organization. PFLAG is the first and largest organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people, their parents and families, and allies.” (Also: PFLAG offers an online academy for PFLAG Members: see more information here.”)
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
“Championing LGBTQ issues in K-12 education since 1990, GLSEN works to ensure that LGBTQ students are able to learn and grow in a school environment free from bullying and harassment. Together we can transform our nation’s schools into the safe and affirming environment all youth deserve.”
The Trevor Project
“Founded in 1998 by the creators of the Academy Award-winning short film TREVOR, the Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.”