Pathway to Acceptance Panel: Supportive Families Help Build Healthy Communities
August 13, 2011 by Sharon Groves, Director, Religion and Faith Program
We’re on the ground in Salt Lake City as part of the “On the Road to Equality” tour. HRC and Utah Price Center partnered on a panel discussion today, called Pathways to Acceptance. It is a conversation about the difference acceptance makes in the lives of our kids. It is a family oriented discussion that asks how members of the community can help make acceptance a core family value, one that is encouraged and strengthened in our churches, in our schools, and in our homes.
This conversation offers a fresh approach that moves us beyond the worn out and unproductive religious frame that puts God on one side and LGBT people on another. This is not the conversation we need to be having at a time when the number of homeless kids in Utah who identify as LGBT is over 40% and suicide is the leading cause of death for adolescent males between the ages of 15 and 19– nearly double the national average with many of these young men identifying as LGBT.
But homelessness, depression, and suicidal behavior does not have to be a rite of passage for LGBT youth in Utah. This is where Dr. Caitlin Ryan and her work at the Family Acceptance Project comes in. Dr. Ryan starts with the premise that we all love our kids. Whether fundamentalist or Unitarian, parents by and large are keenly concerned that their children develop into happy, healthy adults.
Dr. Ryan doesn’t place moral judgments on the choices parents have made about raising LGBT kids. She understands that the impulse to refuse to talk about sexuality in the home, or to forbid kids from associating with other LGBT friends is often an attempt to protect kids from the brutality of our culture.
Yet her research clearly shows that increased levels of acceptance overwhelmingly decrease risky behavior in young adults. She doesn’t shake her fist at parents, but offers them strategies for acceptance. Seemingly simple things like inviting your kid’s gay friend over to dinner can go an enormous way in helping kids transition through adolescence into well adjusted, vibrant adults.
Thanks to the great work of the Utah Pride Center and organizations like Volunteers for America that work directly with homelessness youth in Utah of all sexual orientations and gender identities, Dr. Ryan’s work is having an impact throughout the state. We at HRC are proud to partner with these great groups as they get the word out about the power of acceptance in changing lives.
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