The Importance of Family Support of LGBTQQ+ Youth
We live in this society where the second part of the December is intended to be spent in a happy coexistence with family, friends, and everyone else in the world. However, this time of the year can be really hard for a lot of people because of lost loved ones, financial burdens, mental health struggles, and even strained familial relationships (just to name a few holiday season stressors). When it comes to the lives of LGBTQQ+ youth, this time of year can be especially hard.
Families are such a crucial part of our development as healthy people, and this is especially true for LGBTQQ+ youth. Navigating familial spaces Queer or Transgender can be tricky because of all the varying degrees of acceptance from family members. According to the Family Acceptance Project, familial rejection of an “LGBT child contribute[s] to serious health concerns and inhibit[s] the child’s development and well-being” (Ryan, 2). The Family Acceptance Project found that even if parents don’t accept their LGBTQQ+ youth, the simple act of choosing to be supportive, not rejecting their child’s queerness, can greatly reduce risky and unhealthy behaviors by youth.
As a facilitator to many of Outlet’s groups, we hear stories illustrating the spectrum of both familial support and rejection within our local youth’s families. I can happily report that most of the youth receiving regular Outlet services report having positive familial support. Additionally, these youths tend to thrive in support groups, in their academic endeavors, and out in the “real” world. We also come across youth who describe a less supportive family environment, and they primarily reach out the the homey, comforting, healing space at Outlet. I’ve noticed through work in Outlet’s support groups that young adults whose parents do not necessarily support but do not outright reject their Queer or Transgender identity are able to develop healthier coping mechanisms. The common theme I see listening to youth stories is a simple one: for families of LGBTQQ+ youth, being supportive and loving can make a significant difference.
Here are some tips on how to increase familial support for an LGBTQQ+ child:
- Engage in conversations with your LGBTQQ+ youth about their identity
- Express affection when they tell you about their experiences as LGBTQQ+
- Advocate for your child if they are being bullied or mistreated in school because of their identity
- Bring your child to LGBTQQ+ organizations, events, and programs
- Believe your child can and will have a happy future as an LGBTQQ+ Adult
* For more information about how to be a supportive family member to an LGBTQQ+ youth, please check out the amazing evidence-based research and literature from the Family Acceptance Project (familyproject.sfsu.edu) and Gender Spectrum (genderspectrum.org).
Ryan, C. Supportive families, healthy children: Helping Families with lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender children. San Francisco, CA: Family Acceptance Project, Marian Write Edelman Institute, San Francisco State University, 2009.
 Queer refer as an umbrella term for the sexuality spectrum, and is used as such in this short piece.
 Transgender will also be used as an umbrella term for all gender expansive youth. Be mindful that not all gender expansive youth identify as Transgender.