Pastoral Counseling for LGBT Youth and Their Families

The Greater Boston Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are hosting a conference next week focusing on the role of religious professionals in fostering family acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, supporting congregants and building safe, welcoming and supportive communities for LGBT people and allies.

The conference will focus on parental acceptance in a religious context by asking such questions as:

  • How do parents reconcile their religious beliefs with acceptance of an LGBT child?
  • How can religious professionals support the critical role of parental love and acceptance to the health and mental health of LGBT youth?

The conference meets at Bentley University in Waltham, MA from 8:30 am to 4:15 pm. Information and registration materials are available at the Greater Boston PFLAG website.

What Statistics About LGBT Homeless Youth Reveal

Statistics about LGBT homeless youth shine light on the critical importance of this conference and about how important it is to expand this work in the Church. The study Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth: An Epidemic of Homelessness reveals that 20 percent to 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the number of homeless and runaway youth ranges from 575,000 to 1.6 million per year. Our analysis of the available research suggests that between 20 percent and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as LGBT. Given that between 3 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual, it is clear that LGBT youth experience homelessness at a disproportionate rate…

Family conflict is the primary cause of homelessness for all youth, LGBT or straight. Specifically, familial conflict over a youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a significant factor that leads to homelessness or the need for out-of-home care. According to one study, 50 percent of gay teens experienced a negative reaction from their parents when they came out and 26 percent were kicked out of their homes. Another study found that more than one-third of youth who are homeless or in the care of social services experienced a violent physical assault when they came out, which can lead to youth leaving a shelter or foster home because they actually feel safer on the streets…

Particularly for LGBT youth, religious beliefs at home can be a motivator for leaving if parents or other family members are unable or unwilling to accept their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity because of their faith.

The Family Acceptance Project

This conference features the work of The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University. The project is the only community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease major health and related risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, such as suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness – in the context of their families. The project uses a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children.

Watch this powerful story from The Family Acceptance Project about one family struggle to accept their gay son.