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YOUTH DEVELOPMENT IN CONTEXT OF FAMILY

Coming Out: Parents


being able to Support
their LGB Child
Clemson University
Stojanna Hollis

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Introduction
Overview
Coming out can be a scary yet frightening thing for youth who seek the
support from their family and peers. A lot of times these youth find themselves
lonely, afraid, and depressed about the lifestyle that theyve chosen for themselves.
How can parents support their teenage child whos determined to choose an
alternative lifestyle? How can parents not only overlook but overcome the fact that
their child lives a different lifestyle then they do? Should parents still support and
love their child unconditionally? Or is it safe to send their child to a psychologist to
figure out if its a mental illness thats going on in their minds? As a graduate
assistant at Clemson University and a former collegiate student athlete the major
problem Ive been faced with is players being gay/lesbian and being afraid to reveal
their true selves to their parents? Contrary to that problem, a lot of my friends,
team mates, and players have come out to their parents and have had to deal with
the ultimate consequence of being kicked out of the home and resulting in them
becoming homeless. This topic is very interesting to me because of the emerging
awareness of gay/lesbian lifestyles in todays society. I think its imperative that
parents support and still love their child despite the lifestyle that their child chooses
to live. I dont think a way of living should determine if a parent will love or support
their child in helping them become a better person in this world.
Importance
Its important that parents support and encourage their child to live and be
who they are. I know this may not line up with many spiritual beliefs, however, as
parents wouldnt you want your child to be who they are instead of trying to follow

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the crowd and do what others do? I personally believe that GLB (gay, lesbians, and
bisexuals) individuals deal with enough harassment in society and to know that
their parents will support them is one weight that can be lifted from their shoulders.
It doesnt take a mental health professional to recognize the devastating effect that
unacceptance from a parent can have on the well-being of an individual. Parents,
Families, and Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) is a national organization that
provides support sessions in local chapters to help parents, family, and friends cope
and support their child with the decision they have made of being gay/lesbian.
Society has already placed a stigmatism on individuals that arent heterosexual,
therefore, GLB need all the support they can get emotionally.
Youth Development Theory
Youth development concepts and theories have emerged over the years.
There are numerous concepts and theories that I could use, however, for the sake of
this study Ive made a conscious decision to use the 5 Cs of Positive Youth
Development to use in relation to my topic of discussion. Grappling with the issue of
parental support for GLB could increase the emotional stability for GLB youth. As a
result, these youth will feel confident in their preferred lifestyle, as well as feeling
loved, and compelled to be who they are instead of deferring to other outlets such
as suicide, which is common when a child is not accepted in the home. These points
will clarify the 5 Cs and how they relate to parental support for their GLB youth.
1. Competence: Positive view of ones actions in specific areas,
including social, academic, cognitive, health, and vocational. Parents
as well as their child (youth) will develop social (interpersonal skills)
such as listening and emotional health such as expressing emotions

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appropriately and activities that can help reflect and recognize
emotional reactions.
2. Confidence: Having a sense of mastery and self-efficacy. Parents will
be able to listen affectively and give their child the confidence they
need to face the social norms that society has placed on the GLB
community. Parents will also give their child the motivation they need
to be who they are and build self- esteem within themselves.
3. Character: A sense of responsibility, self-awareness of ones own
personality or individuality. Parents will begin to understand their child
individuality through the lifestyle theyve decided to live. Parents will
also recognize that what they may like and view isnt the same thing
that their child may like and view. Youth will understand that they may
be different in societys perspective, but they still have value, morals,
and integrity. Parents providing support will also instill a sense of
respect to their child. Although in life we may not always agree with
each others individual decisions as humans we should always respect
them.
4. Connection: Membership and belonging, having a sense of safety
and structure. Within PFLAG parents will meet other parents that have
faced the same issues as them and learn how to cope with the existing
challenges that they may encounter. Also by the child being open to
their parent about their lifestyle that can provide a closer bond
between the child and parent that can allow an open line of
communication. Through open communication can allow strategic
planning to overcome the obstacle of learning how to support a child
when they are gay or lesbian.

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5. Caring/Compassion: A sense of sympathy and empathy for others. In
efforts to show support, just by being there can show that they are
warm-hearted. Although the parent may be startled at first, just by
providing support and compassion the youth will feel loved and
welcomed to express their emotions.
Empirical Studies
Description of Criteria
After many profound articles and intense research I underwent and
analyzed three empirical studies that provided evidence and an
applicable amount of knowledge relevant to my topic. First, the study
from the Journal of Clinical Psychology entitled: The Importance of
Parental Support in the Lives of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Individuals by
Marvin Goldfried and Anita Goldfried. This research was motivated by
this couple having two sons and one being gay from the age of seven. I
think this article was so profound because it gave the perspective of a
family that knew that their son was gay from the age of seven and they
waited for him to come out to them. They didnt mistreat or pressure
him into telling them. I think this is imperative because it gives
examples and a realistic viewpoint on how to handle the situation of
having a gay, lesbian, or bisexual child. Michael LaSala article, Lesbians,
Gay Men, and Their Parents: Family Therapy for the Coming-Out Crisis,
main objective was to provide families with a therapeutic way to help
parents understand their gay/lesbian child stand point of coming out and
ways that they could cope and handle the situation without making their
child feel guilty, lonely, depressed, or rejected. I personally believe that
this article gave a different viewpoint because a lot of times families

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view therapy as a way for other people to be in their family issues
instead of a way for seeking help with family issues. I believe that this
article will help give parents a different viewpoint and perspective about
the things that their child may go through or feel. Also by including a
family therapist this could help with confidence, connection, and caring
(three of the five Cs). Finally, I discovered that this was a nation issue
and not just a Christian problem or issue that everyone didnt agree with
in the journal of GLBT Family Studies: Suffering as the Path to
Acceptance: Parents of Gay and Lesbian Young People Negotiating
Catholicism in Italy. While there havent been a set age range for this
particular issue this article involved a study with 46 participants (parents
of gay and lesbian youth) who were heavily involved in the religious
community and how it lined up with the Catholic discourse.
Finding/Information
Marvin and Anita discovered that families are more commonly homophobic
which leads to youth spending and sharing important days such as holidays,
birthdays, etc. with lovers or friends that are more acceptable to this lifestyle. This
article also concluded that the most frequently asked questions among gay
/lesbians individuals is: Are you openly out to your family and if so were they
receptive to it? This article conveys messages on how to change the attitudes
towards gay and lesbians to a more positive acceptance. One conclusion is by
joining support groups. Research shows that youth that are gay and lesbian are
more prone to commit suicide than those are straight youth (Goldfried, 2001).

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Michael LaSala had a different approach to his theory in gaining parents
support. Mr. LaSala felt that gaining therapeutic intervention was a key component
with helping the parents adjusts to the news initially. Meeting separately and
helping parents and the gay son or lesbian daughter express and clarify feelings is a
way to begin to diffuse emotions (LaSala, 2000). This article explained how
acknowledging emotions and re-educating parents will help them cope better with
their child homosexual lifestyle. Although there is a possibility that the parent may
never accept their child lifestyle this article advise the youth to lean on their partner
and friends for support while their parents struggled with the news. However,
through this time the parents were gaining knowledge and advice on how to better
support and help their child.
The Journal of GLBT Family Studies offered some valuable information and
from a different perspective. While Catholics frown upon homosexuality and view it
as a sin, its stated that love should be the path to acceptance. This journal implies
that love and the Christian notion of mercy is what should make this notion
compatible for parents acceptance. Although there were numerous reasons as to
why homosexuality is a sin the principle behind love and mercy is a powerful
and convincing reason as to why parents should be able to accept their child.

Limitations
While reading these articles I felt very compelled and knowledgeable
on research that supported my topic I found a limitation within the Journal of GLBT
Family Studies. Although love and mercy is the path to acceptance, this article
didnt explain in great detail how parents could convey the love and support needed

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for these youth that are undergoing the coming out process. Although parents
should love their child regardless of their lifestyle many individuals dont know how
to love individuals. Therefore, for the sake of this article I feel as though if there
couldve been a clear and concise explanation of things that parents could do to
better help these youth then the article wouldve been complete.
Information for Youth Serving Professionals
Parents becoming receptive, understanding, and supportive in their child
lifestyle will only help motivate, encourage, and enhance the child level of respect,
compassion and decrease their mental stress levels. Marvin and Anita Goldfried
concluded that despite the advances made in recent years, homophobia, unlike
overt racism and sexism, continues to openly exist as a social and legal
phenomenon (Marvin and Anita Goldfried, 2001). However, through joining support
groups such as PFLAG, parents can become an intricate part in helping and their
child feel love and support with their decision to come out.
Strategies to Suggest

Parent Counseling Sessions! Having a parental counseling session


could give parents the time to meet and interact with other parents
that are undergoing the same issues and learn new ways to cope with

the news to better benefit their child and family.


Creating a pop-up blog that could reach out to parents. Through this
parents will be able to receive information about a city and state where
they can meet and become a member of different organizations that
tackle the issue or homosexual children and how to support them. Also

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this is a great way to hear other individual testimonies and receive

information for events that may be in their local area.


You-tube videos that inform parents step by step how to overcome
news about children coming out to them. Although everyone emotions
are different and in the heat of the moment a parent may not consider
a video maybe once theyve calm down this video can be used a tool
for things that they should and shouldnt do when dealing with this

particular situation.
Providing Support Group. During an even like this support groups are
very important because no one wants to feel like theyre going through
something alone. Therefore, a support group for the parent as well as

the child is necessary.


Conveying a message to the parent that their support is necessary.
Helping the parent realize that just because their child may live a
different lifestyle from them doesnt mean that they should receive
less support, love, and/or nourishment. Parents must realize and
understand that their love and support is a necessity and no one can
replace that. Parents must understand that they need to empower their
child and let them know that regardless of their lifestyle theyre going
to be there for support.

References
Bertone, C., & Franchi, M. (2014). Suffering as the path to acceptance: Parents of
gay and lesbian young people negotiating Catholicism in Italy. Journal of GLBT
Family Studies, 10(1-2).

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Goldfried, M. R., & Goldfried, A. P. (2001). The importance of parental support in the
lives of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals. Journal of Clinical Psychology,
57(5), 681-693.
LaSala, M. C. (2000). Lesbians, Gay Men, and Their Parents: Family Therapy for the
ComingOut Crisis*. Family Process, 39(1), 67-81.

Abstracts
Journal of GLBT Family Studies: Suffering as the path to acceptance: Parents of Gay
and Lesbian Young People Negotiating Catholicism in Italy

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This article investigates the experiences of parents of gay men and lesbians
(GL) as they negotiate the influential Catholic discourse on homosexuality in Italy,
and their Catholic belonging and practice. The analysis is based upon in-depth
interviews with 46 parents of gay and lesbian people. We explore how parents who
are heavily involved in the religious community negotiate their role within it, but
also how, more generally, parents frame their notions of what it means to be lesbian
or gay in relation to Catholic discourse. Parents draw upon different, and often
seemingly contradictory, cultural repertoires in order to combine, negotiate, or
integrate what public discourse constructs as irreconcilable positions: acceptance of
gay and lesbian lives and identities and Catholic belonging. The notion of the
homosexual as being destined to undergo suffering provides room for acceptance of
their child's sexual identity whilst preserving heteronormative assumptions. This
frame constitutes an alternative to rejection, which is at odds with parents ideas of
the family as being based on unconditional love. It also provides a bridge with
therapeutic culture and narratives of liberation from suffering that inform,
especially, middle-class family relations and the cultural resources available to
them.
The Importance of Parental Support in the Lives of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual
Individuals
This article underscores the very important role that parental acceptance and
support plays in furthering the psychological well-being of gay, lesbian, and bisexual
individuals. Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), an
organization dedicated to this goal, has as its mission the support for family
members, education of the public, and advocacy for equal rights for lesbians, gay
men, and bisexuals. By coming out themselves, straight parents and relatives

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including those in the mental health fieldnot only can extend the support they
offer to their gay/lesbian/bisexual children and relatives but also play a significant
role in reducing the stigma of being gay, lesbian, or bisexual and in mainstreaming
gay, lesbian, and bisexual issues. 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Clin Psychol/In
Session 57: 681693, 2001.
Lesbians, Gay Men, and Their Parents: Family Therapy for the Coming-Out Crisis
It is considered psychologically healthy for lesbians and gay men to come out
and live outside of the closet. However, parents tend to react with shock,
disappointment, and shame when they learn of a son's or daughters gay sexual
orientation. Disclosure often precipitates a painful family crisis, which can lead to
cutoffs between members. This article describes family therapy theories and
interventions that can aid therapists in sheparding families through the initial stages
of the coming-out crisis. Family therapists are advised to acknowledge and address
the distinct emotional needs of coming-out individuals and their parents. Parents
must grieve and obtain accurate information about gay lifestyles. Lesbians and gay
men need support as they struggle to cope with their parents' negative reactions.
Family members should be coached to maintain noncombative communication
following the disclosure, even if contacts are initially brief and superficial. Case
examples, drawn from the author's clinical work, will demonstrate how to address
the separate needs of lesbians, gay men, and their parents while maintaining (or
rebuilding) family relationships and ultimately guiding families toward successful
resolution of this crisis.

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