New Lifeline for LDS Families with LGBT Children

Bob Rees is a former bishop and has spent several decades reaching out to and working with LGBT Mormons, providing resources and support. He is currently teaching Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

LDS families have a new resource for supporting their LGBT children. The booklet, Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Children, published by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, is now available in printed and electronic form. Printed copies may be ordered in any quantity from fap@sfsu.edu. Proceeds from sales will go toward creating an LDS video and training materials.

The wonderful thing about this booklet is that it affirms core gospel principles and Church teachings about the importance of love in family relationships—the obligation we are all under to love not only our own children and other family members but all of God’s children. The solid body of research on which the pamphlet is based reveals that rejecting behaviors put LGBT youth at high risk for suicide, HIV infection, drug abuse and depression. Conversely, loving and accepting behaviors greatly reduce these risks. Even if parents can only manifest some of the accepting behaviors recommended in the booklet, it can make a dramatic difference.

As someone who has been working with LDS families, leaders and congregations on this issue for more than three decades, I can say that this research and the materials based on it offer hope that we can deal with this issue in a way that combines the best science, therapeutic practice and gospel principles. It has taken a long time, but this is a real breakthrough.

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For more than a decade, the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at SF State University has been studying the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health and well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people and developing research-based tools, resources and interventions to help diverse families support their LGBT children. This includes developing culturally and linguistically appropriate resources to prevent serious negative outcomes like suicide, HIV and homelessness and to promote well-being, and helping families balance deeply held values and beliefs with love for their LGBT children. The first of these faith-based family education resources is Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Latter-day Saint Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children.

One of the most challenging issues for many families is learning how to support their LGBT children in the context of religious and cultural values. The Family Acceptance Project has been working with families from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds to develop a series of family education materials based on FAP’s groundbreaking research which shows that family accepting and rejecting behaviors are linked with both serious health and mental health problems and well-being in young adulthood.

Written by FAP Director Dr. Caitlin Ryan, a clinical social worker with nearly 40 years of research and practice experience on LGBT health and mental health, and Dr. Bob Rees, a former Mormon Bishop who teaches Mormon Studies at Graduate Theological Union, this is the first research-based educational resource to help Mormon families support their LGBT children. As with other family education booklets from the Family Acceptance Project, Supportive Families, Healthy Children has been designated as the first “Best Practice” resource for suicide prevention for LGBT people by the national Best Practices Registry for Suicide Prevention and is the only such resource for Latter-day Saint (Mormon) families. The Best Practices Registry, coordinated by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), maintains an expert-reviewed compendium of approved “best practices” to prevent suicide that address specific aims of the national suicide prevention plan and have met objective review criteria.

“Many parents and families think they have to choose between a gay child and their deeply held beliefs – a choice no parent should ever have to make,” co-author Dr. Caitlyn Ryan said. “We wrote this booklet to show Mormon families what our compelling research has found — how families react to their LGBT children really matters. This booklet provides critical, specific information on how to support LGBT children and youth, how to build their self-esteem and well-being, reduce their risk for suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness and keep their faith. Our hope is that every Mormon parent, bishop, and religious leader reads it and uses it.”

Dr. Robert Rees, co-author and educator and former Mormon bishop, noted: “Supportive Families, Healthy Children will save lives, keep families together and give Church leaders a resource for helping families support their LGBT sons, daughters and other family members. This booklet and the research that supports it mark the dawning of a brighter day for Latter-day Saint families and congregations.”

FAP provides guidance and training on using these materials and FAP’s research-based supportive family intervention model and other resources and tools. Contact fap@sfsu.edu to obtain printed versions and for information on consultation and training.

Information on Supportive Families, Healthy Children’s “Best Practice” designation for suicide prevention is available on the Best Practices Registry’s webpage hosted by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at www.sprc.org.

About the Family Acceptance Project
The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that is designed to: 1) improve the health, mental health, and well-being of LGBT children and adolescents; 2) strengthen and help ethnically and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children; 3) help LGBT youth stay in their homes to prevent homelessness and the need for custodial care in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; 4) inform public policy and family policy; and 5) develop a new evidence-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care to promote well-being and decrease risk for LGBT youth. For more information, please visit: http://familyproject.sfsu.edu/

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