Rejection has health effects on gay teens

December 29, 2008 10:12:06 PM PST
A major three year study by Bay Area researchers reveals that families who reject a gay, lesbian or transgender child can cause a devastating impact on their long- term health.

When Don Rice came out, he worried how his parents would react.

"Had built it up in my mind that it would be hard thing to do, that my parents would reject me, but actually it was easy," said Rice, a San Francisco resident.

Rice knows he's fortunate. A first of a kind study released on Monday shows how family rejection, from expressing shame to physical abuse can profoundly impact the physical and mental health of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender youth.

"Young people who experience high levels of rejection during adolescence were almost 8.5 times as likely to attempt suicide at least once, almost six times as likely to report high levels of depression, almost 3.4 times as likely to report illegal drug use and other high levels of risk," said Dr. Caitlin Ryan Ph.D., from San Francisco State University is lead author.

Those statistics resonate with Sherilyn Adams. She runs Larkin Street Youth Services, which helps homeless kids.

"Many of the reasons the youth are at Larkin Street is because when they came out to their parents as being transgendered or gay they were not accepted by their parents or community, so they ended up homeless," said Adams.

A tape provided by Larkin Street tells an all too familiar story of teens coming out to their parents and not being accepted. But Dr. Ryan has found a glimmer of hope with some parents in her study.

"We've seen many of them willing to modify their behavior," said Dr. Ryan.

Researchers say just a little change in attitude can have a big impact on the health of gay youth.


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