LGBTQ is an abbreviation that gives society a label for people who are attracted to the same sex. Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transsexual, and Queer. These are labels to identify who these individual people may be attracted to. Rather annoying, in my opinion, as I don’t have to have a label as a straight heterosexual male. This marginalized group receives discrimination and oppression simply for their sexual preference. But sexual preference is not the only aspect of their lives in which these individuals may be marginalized. Are some enduring extra pressures based on their race, family’s religious preference, societal norms, and other identifiable cultural pressures? The answer to this is a resounding yes.
As social workers, one of our inherent duties is to advocate and stand up for the social injustices of marginalized groups. The value of social justice and the ethical principle of social workers challenging social injustice clearly outline the pursuit of social change for oppressed individuals. In this instance, the discrimination against LGBTQ people and social institutions. (NASW 2021)
LGBTQ vs. Social Institutions
American social institutions have a long history of discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Instances include the right to serve in the military, employer-based discrimination, families exiling their family members for sexual preference, religious institutions denying membership or worship, and the right to marriage. This article focuses on the discrimination faced by LGBTQ individuals from unaccepting families.
Cutting Family Ties
Members of the LGBTQ community become isolated when their families choose not to accept their sexual preference. It is hard to imagine not supporting a child or family member based on their sexual orientation. Still, it is a major social issue that this community faces. According to new research, parents often reject their children’s LGBTQ gender and sexuality, sometimes leading to relationship dissolution.
In this study, 76 LGBTQ adult children and 43 parental figures were interviewed in the mid-west to determine how this population maintains ties to their families. This study identifies conflict work as one possible resource for the family relationship to be somewhat restored (Reczek & Bosley‐Smith, 2021). A direct correlation between these family issues has resulted in a disproportionate amount of the LGBTQ youth population being homeless. As LGBTQ youth comprise 5%-8% of the U.S. youth population, they make up nearly 40% of homeless youth. Of this population, 68% reported family rejection as a primary factor of their homelessness (Robinson, 2018).
The severing of family ties based on sexual orientation also has led to adverse health concerns. The direct link of family acceptance and health risk data is very interesting. Statistically, LGBTQ individuals rejected by their families were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide, 5.9 times more likely to suffer from depression, and 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs and have unprotected sex. (Ryan et al. 2009) In 2017, 10.7 million people in the U.S. identified as LGBTQ, that is a large population in need of support. (Gallup Poll 2017)
Support and Services
There are a number of ways to support and serve the LGBTQ community, including:
- Educating families on the actual risk and statistical data of rejecting their LGBTQ family members through resources such as pamphlets, brochures, and educational videos. (SAMHSA, 2014)
- Utilizing a family conflict work approach when working with our clients to lessen the emotional toll this conflict inflicts on this population. (Reczek & Bosley‐Smith, 2021).
- Meeting families “Where they are” and providing the resources of consequence based on the assumption that they are attempting to protect their family from societal pressures on LGBTQ people.
- Do outreach work to invite families and caregivers of LGBT children and youth and their LGBTQ children to recreational, social, and community activities and events offered by practitioners, programs, and agencies that serve children, youth, and families. (SAMHSA, 2014)
- Restore some aspects of the “Feast on Equality.” This was an event designed and administrated by a close friend who happens to be gay. The event started based on his own family rejecting him based on his orientation. This was a place where the LGBTQ community could gather and celebrate the Holidays together, as they had lost this opportunity through their family’s rejection.
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By: Jason F. Way
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Jones, J. B. M. (2021, June 4). In U.S., 10.2% of LGBT Adults Now Married to Same-Sex Spouse. Gallup.com. https://news.gallup.com/poll/212702/lgbt-adults-married-sex-spouse.aspx
Code of Ethics: English. (2021). https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
SAMHSA. (2014, February). A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children [Press release]. https://store.samhsa.gov/product/A-Practitioner-s-Resource-Guide-Helping-Families-to-Support-Their-LGBT-Children/PEP14-LGBTKIDS
Reczek, R., & Smith, E. B. (2021). How LGBTQ Adults Maintain Ties with Rejecting Parents: Theorizing “Conflict Work” as Family Work. Journal of marriage and the family, 83(4), 1134–1153. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12765
Robinson, B. A. (2018). Conditional Families and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth Homelessness: Gender, Sexuality, Family Instability, and Rejection. Journal of Marriage and Family, 80(2), 383–396. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12466
Ryan, C. (2004). Families of lesbian, gay and bisexual adolescents. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 34(10), 369-375.