Research carried out for the shOUT Report (published by YouthNet) has shown that 77% of the young gay, lesbian or bisexual people interviewed realised their own sexual orientation before the age of 17. Sadly the research also showed that 63% of the young people did not feel they could tell their parents when they first came out, and 29% had attempted suicide.
This is a shocking and alarming statistic! To face up to the fact that almost a third of young lesbian, gay or bisexual people have attempted suicide truely is a wake up call.
What is family?
Who do you think of as your family? Is it only your relatives? Most people have a lot of friends and colleagues, and would consider these as important to them as their immediate relatives!
Family is important! We all need our families, large and small. We rely on each other, care for each other, love one another. Family is precious to everyone, even to LGB people. Unfortunately, many LGB people feel that they cannot share an important part of their identity with their families.
Clearly, the feeling that your child, friend, relative or colleague is not who you thought is distressing, for all concerned. No-one can be fully prepared for such an event, however, the aim of the Family Ties Project is to try to prepare parents, children, relatives, friends, colleagues and just about anyone for what might happen, or to help you come to terms with it if it already has.
The Family Ties Project has produced a variety of literature, available on this website in both PDF and Microsoft Word format. The link is at the top of every page on this website. Inside, you will find a thought-provoking document, discussing the issues of family, particularly of parents, when someone tells you they are LGB. Personal testimony from the families of LGB people is included.
Please read, consider, distribute, talk about, do basically whatever with the booklet! It was written to help those who need it!
Taken from the Family Ties booklet:
"For any parent, hearing their child say the words ‘Mum, Dad – I’m gay’ may not be easy. Parents may be upset or worried; they may feel guilty or ashamed. These reactions are understandable. Northern Ireland is changing, with advanced equality legislation now in place. But society will take longer to change, and sometimes attitudes in Northern Ireland remain intolerant of people who are gay, lesbian or bisexual.
Parents may have fears about what will happen to their child. They might have heard, or believe, some of the myths about sexual orientation. They might have concerns about the reaction of others, in the family and outside, and there is no doubt that young gay, lesbian and bisexual people may have a difficult time. Schools are often still reluctant to acknowledge that they have gay and lesbian students. There is still an unacceptable level of open prejudice from religious and political bodies. There is still a higher rate of suicide among young people who identify as gay or lesbian; there are mental health issues resulting from the stress and lack of affirmation experienced by many gay and lesbian young people. But there are also signs of a hopeful future for these young people. There are dedicated organisations that can and do help the gay and lesbian community.
Cara-Friend, The Rainbow Project, and Gay & Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland (GLYNI) all advocate for these young people. The new equality laws ensure fair treatment in the workplace and in public life. And attitudes are slowly changing."
"Young people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual are increasingly confiding in their parents. As new equality legislation and signs of changing attitudes in Northern Ireland have given confidence to young people in this situation, organisations such as Cara-Friend and The Rainbow Project have encountered more young people who are struggling with their sexual identity. Groups such as Gay & Lesbian Youth Northern Ireland (GLYNI) are helping to empower these young people. Usually these young people want to confide in their parents, but fear the possible reactions.
LGBT organisations are also contacted by parents and carers who think their child might be gay or lesbian, or by those whose child has already ‘come out’. Some parents react with shock, some with concern, and others with acceptance. But a common feeling is not knowing how best to handle the situation, and how best to support their child. Practical information for parents and carers in Northern Ireland has not, so far, been widely available. We hope that this booklet will help parents in this situation find some of their answers.
Every parent’s experiences and reactions will be different when their child ‘comes out’. The primary aim of this booklet is to look at some of the most common questions and concerns raised by the parents of gay and lesbian young people who have already made contact with the organisations mentioned above."
Steven Williamson, Co-ordinator for Cara-Friend says:
“For many young people being open with themselves and others about their sexual orientation can be a huge deal , especially when faced with the homophobia and ignorance which surrounds them, from politicians, clergy, media, at their schools, and even amongst their own friends and family. Often this homophobia is simply down to ignorance of the facts but too often it goes unchallenged.
It is at this emotionally challenging time that young people need the love, affirmation and support from their parents the most. Yet parents themselves often do not have access to information or support resources of their own which could help guide them in how they can best help their child as well as helping them understand their own emotional responses to this aspect of their child’s life.
Both Cara-Friend and The Rainbow Project receive many calls from parents whose child has just come out; these parents are often worried about their child’s safety and well-being, whilst at the same time feeling ashamed or confused themselves by the myths that exist about sexual orientation or the stereotypes still shown in the media.
This new Family Ties guide, and the Family Ties Parents Peer Support group which will meet regularly from May onwards, will be a huge step forward in helping these parents to help themselves and to help their child.”
Mirjam Bader, Manager for The Rainbow Project says:
“Straight or gay, young people need love and support from their parents. With financial support from the Southern and Eastern Health and Social Services Boards, The Rainbow Project and Cara-Friend have produced this guide which aims to provide some practical information and guidance for parents whose child has just come out”.