Monday, February 14, 2011

The Power of Acceptance in Families

Two groundbreaking reports were released earlier this month demonstrating the power of family acceptance in the lives of LGBTQ youth. The first report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Injustice at Every Turn, reveals a comprehensive understanding of the extent of pervasive discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans nationwide. Despite extreme institutional discrimination in almost every aspect of life - including education, health care, employment and housing – the report confirmed that “family acceptance had a protective affect” against many threats to a transgender or gender non-conforming person’s well-being including health risks like HIV infection, substance abuse and suicide. According to the report, “families were more likely to remain together and provide support for transgender and gender non-conforming family members than stereotypes suggest.”

Another report highlighting the power of family acceptance is "Families Matter -- New Research Calls for a Revolution in Public Policy for LGBT Children and Youth," by Shannon Minter and Jeff Krehely. The report features the research of Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her team at the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, which highlights the impact of family acceptance and rejection on LGBTQ youth. The findings affirm what PFLAG members have known from personal experience for decades: that family acceptance leads to positive long-term outcomes for health and development, and impacts families as well as LGBTQ young people. These outcomes include higher high school graduation rates, lower rates of substance abuse and fewer suicide attempts. The report’s findings affect virtually every public policy matter impacting LGBTQ youth and their families, and offer organizations like PFLAG a powerful advocacy tool that may compel policy makers to introduce new and innovative ways for public and private agencies to better service this population.

Most important to PFLAG families is that the findings from both reports clearly demonstrate that when parents engage in accepting and supportive behavior, their children are more likely to lead healthy and happy lives. PFLAG chapters have a unique perspective on how to educate existing service providers and policy makers on ways to incorporate parents and guardians into their existing programs and services, and these providers don’t often incorporate parenting organizations in their existing programs. As we continue to educate our communities about our unique family acceptance work, we encourage you to partner with youth-serving organizations to develop innovative ways to involve accepting parents and guardians into this critical work. If you need support or guidance on how to approach this advocacy work, please don’t hesitate to contact us for ideas. And if you have examples of how these partnerships between PFLAG and service agencies are working to have a positive effect in your community, please share them with us!

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