We are parents and educators committed to a just and equitable society. This blog is a forum to share ideas and resources to help us teach our children and ourselves about social equity issues.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Family Acceptance Project

Dr. Caitlin Ryan from the Family Acceptance Project came to our school in 2012 and screened the documentary, "Always My Son," about the parents in a Latino-American family accepting their son's gay identity. The FAP uses "a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children." Dr. Ryan has examined the interactions within hundreds of families with LGBTQ children, identified accepting or rejecting patterns, and linked those interactions to health and well-being outcomes for the LGBTQ children. Using this information, the project counsels and supports families who need help in accepting their LGBTQ child.

A wonderful and profound thing about the Family Acceptance Project is the manner in which it respects the cultural, religious and ethnic framework of each family, and helps each family accept its child's LGBTQ identity within that framework. Because of this, the group has had great success with families from traditionally conservative backgrounds which are not accepting of LGBTQ identity. Dr.Ryan begins with the assumption that families act out of love and a desire to protect their children. For families joined to faith or cultural communities in which LGBTQ identities are shunned, acknowledging a child as LGBTQ opens the child and family to social and spiritual exclusion. The FAP understands this fear and places the family's actions of rejection of the child in the context of a desire to protect the child. Then by educating the family about the malevolent effects of LGBTQ rejection on the child, and supporting their desire to protect the child from those bad outcomes, they nudge the family towards acceptance.

One of the statistics which Dr. Ryan presented which struck me was that 11-13% of middle school students, across a broad range of ethnic and racial identities, identify as lesbian, gay, transgender or questioning. If you have, see or teach middle school aged children, this means about 1 out of every 10 children you know is questioning or coming to terms with a LGBTQ identity for which there is relatively little support in our larger heterocentric culture.