Tips for Researchers Studying Youth with LGBTQ Parents

 Tips for Researchers Studying Youth with LGBTQ Parents   COLAGE receives hundreds of requests each year from teachers, professors, scholars, and other academic professionals, as well as secondary, undergraduate, and graduate students conducting research about different aspects of LGBTQ families. Many of these are folks wishing to do interviews or surveys with children of LGBTQ parents.   While research is not a primary focus of COLAGE’s work, we recognize the importance of objective and useful studies about our families and offer resources for researchers whenever possible. As children of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender, and/or queer people, our relationships to research and researchers are complex.  COLAGE recognizes the role that research has played in securing rights for LGBTQ individuals, families and communities.  Major institutions including the Supreme Court, state and federal legislatures, regional and district courts, schools, and professional associations have relied on research findings to counter commonly held biases and stereotypes.  At the same time, COLAGE recognizes that some researchers are themselves homophobic and conduct research attempting to verify commonly held biases and stereotypes.  Finally, although we applaud and welcome the expertise, support and validation of LGBTQ-friendly researchers and scholars, COLAGE also feels strongly that we, as children and adults with LGBTQ parents, are the ultimate authorities and experts on our own lives. Pleas also see our “Some Ideas for Further Research Relating to Children with LGBTQ Parents” for our suggestions on what further research would be beneficial to our community. To address some of these complexities, COLAGE has created “Tips for Researchers Studying Children of LGBTQ Parents.”  We hope this brief guide will strengthen not only your individual research project, but the state of research overall as it relates to our lives and families. We ask folks considering research projects about children of LGBTQ parents to keep in mind the following: Understand Our Language.  Some children of LGBTQ parents will use “COLAGEr” or “queerspawn” to refer to themselves and other children of LGBTQ parents.  Do not assume, however, that all children of LGBTQ parents use this terminology, like it, or are even aware of it. Move Beyond “How We Turn Out.”  COLAGErs are used to the feeling that they are being watched, studied, or otherwise treated as poster children of the LGBTQ movement. Alternately, we are acutely aware that we represent the greatest fears of opposition to LGBTQ equality, because we stand to either dispute or reinforce homophobic assumptions about LGBTQ families. The underlying goal of research often seems to be to determine how we as children of LGBTQ parents “turn out,” which is then supposed to somehow resolve the debate about whether LGBTQ people are capable of raising...

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Tips for Medical Professionals for Making Better/Safer Environments for Youth with LGBTQ Parents

Tips for Medical  Professionals for Making Better/Safer Environments for Youth with LGBTQ Parents   In the United States alone, there are millions of people with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent(s). While research shows that there are no significant developmental differences or negative effects on children of LGBTQ parents, these youth report facing significantly more prejudice and discrimination because of societal homophobia and transphobia. LGBTQ families, particularly families that include one or more non-biological parents, face a range of systemic impediments to care and custody of children, including exclusion from a spouse’s health insurance coverage and hostility in school systems and health care settings. Based on a Kaiser Permanente national survey of nursing students, 8-12 percent “despised” lesbian, gay and bisexual people, 5-12 percent found lesbian, gay and bisexual people “disgusting” and 40-43 percent thought lesbian, gay and bisexual people should keep their sexuality private. Homophobia and transphobia in health care fields impacts the ability of youth with LGBTQ parents and their families to access care. The Williams Institute published research in October 2006 that shows 20 percent of same-sex couples are uninsured, compared with only 10 percent of married people and 15 percent of the overall population. This means that a higher number of LGBTQ couples as well as their children do not have health coverage. LGBTQ people who are unable to access adequate health care are less able to care for children. Some LGBTQ parents are able to access health coverage through domestic partner benefits. Still, the majority of employers don’t offer domestic-partner benefits, and even among those that do, some people may not feel comfortable taking advantage of them, especially if they are not able to be “out” at work. Because of stigma and prejudice, and because people with LGBTQ parents and their families represent a minority of the U.S. population—a population that is still not a recognized category in the U.S. census—clinical and public health studies and program evaluation have been scarce in all sectors of health delivery and research. Medical professionals are the first responders when it comes to making sure people are treated equally, regardless of their differences—like sexual orientation, gender identity or family status. Patients should feel safe and confident when they are in hospitals, clinics, or even on the operating table. There are simple ways to make the practice environment safer and more welcoming for children of LGBTQ parent(s) and their families. Simple changes in everything from patient forms to office décor can have a significant impact on the comfort level and interactivity of a child of LGBTQ parent(s) of any age. Open communications between medical professional and...

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Tips for Making Classrooms Safer for Youth with LGBTQ Parents

Tips for Making Classrooms Safer for Students with LGBTQ Parents A guide created by the Youth Leadership Action Program “In middle school when I made my family tree, my teacher told me it couldn’t have two women. I was told it could either have one of my moms’ sides, or I could “make up a father.” The teacher chose to pass on ignorance and intolerance, instead of using the opportunity to teach my classmates about diversity.” -14 year old daughter of a lesbian mom “I wrote a report for school about my friend Stefan who has a lesbian mom and a gay dad.  While presenting my report to the class I mentioned his parents’ sexuality and everyone went into an uproar.  I slunk ashamedly back to my seat without finishing my report.” -16 year old daughter of lesbian moms    “When I was in 3rd grade, I was absent one day and my teacher decided to out me to the class. I came to school the next day and was horrified. I was teased for the next 4 years until I moved to a different district.”- 15 year old daughter of a lesbian mom “One time, some seniors who had seen the rainbow sticker on my mom’s car threw me into a garbage can and called me homophobic names.”- 17 year old son of lesbian moms and a gay dad In the United States alone, there are millions of people with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent(s). While research shows that there are no significant developmental differences or negative effects on children of LGBTQ parents, these youth do report facing significantly more prejudice and discrimination because of societal homophobia and transphobia. Youth report that schools are a key place where they face intolerance—from peers, teachers, school administration, and school systems that are affected by the homophobia in our society.  The following tips attempt to introduce teachers to the topic of safety and respect for youth with LGBTQ parents in schools. Developed by a group of youth with LGBTQ parents in the San Francisco Bay Area, these suggestions are first steps in making your classrooms and schools more affirming and safe for students from LGBTQ families, as well as all students affected by homophobia and oppression. 1. Always intervene whenever you hear or see anti-gay language or actions. At the beginning of the year, set classroom rules that include making it clear that racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. comments are not welcome in your classroom. Send a clear message that homophobia will never be tolerated. In addition, try to link homophobia to other types of oppression—teach students that hate in all...

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Some Ideas for Further Research Relating to Youth with LGBTQ Parents

Some Ideas for Further Research Relating to Youth with LGBTQ Parents   While some aspects of our lives have been over-analyzed, other aspects have been ignored.  COLAGE has identified some areas where we think more research (or in some cases better research) should be done. Study the Impact of Homophobia on Our Lives.  Many, many people have studied the impact our LGBTQ parents have had on our lives.  However, very few people have researched the impact of homophobia on our lives.  When schools debate how old students have to be before they can be “exposed” to gay people, how does this affect those of us who had LGBTQ parents when we were very young?  When states deny our families legal protections, how does this shape our access to resources we need to grow up strong, healthy, and safe?  If our teachers and classmates create hostile environments for us in school, how does this impact our educational achievement?  When society only recognizes biological ties as legitimate, how does this impact our relationships with non-biological parents?  There are hundreds of questions like this that have either not been asked at all, or not answered sufficiently.  Research on this subject will support COLAGE and other advocacy organizations by demonstrating the social harm of homophobia, thus adding incentives everyday people, as well as policy-makers, to step up and take the necessary steps for reducing this harm and protecting all members of society equally. Quantitative Analysis.    As awareness of diverse families spreads, more and more official agencies are expanding how they permit people to define their identities and family structures.  Up to now, there has been little quantifiable knowledge of children from LGBTQ families.  How many of us are there?  What are the demographics of our community, especially around race, income, gender, and geography?  COLAGE is often asked questions like this, and unfortunately the answer is often that we just don’t know.  The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s ground-breaking analysis of the 2000 census is a model for this type of research.  However, further advocacy is needed to make the census even more representative of our families, and there may be other methods that can answer some of these questions as well.  Quantitative analysis helps reporters, policy-makers, and ordinary people understand the diversity of our community.  It is easier to estimate the harm of local anti-gay initiatives if one is able to find out the number of LGBTQ people or families living locally.  Homophobic leaders cannot claim that our families don’t exist, or that we only exist in cities like San Francisco.  Practically speaking, quantitative research would be incredibly useful “on the ground”...

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Transition Tips for Parents

Transition Tips for Parents   “See the transition as not being about the [parent] going through change, but the whole family going through change. Everyone needs support.” – Steve Vinay G., age 48 Since there are very few parenting resources available to transgender people, we have included these best practices for transitioning parents. Of course, there are other issues involved in transgender parenting. See our Transgender Family Resources List for publications, websites, and parenting organizations. If you haven’t already, please request a copy of our Kids of Trans Resource Guide, read it over, and give it to your children. Coming out to family is a major issue for transgender people and can be a difficult process. Please keep in mind that the entire family transitions, not just the transgender parent. Every member of the family needs time and support to adjust to the changes of a gender transition. The process of acceptance can take a while and is often ongoing. You can let your children know – through language and action – that, no matter what, you will still be their parent. As a parent, remember that your children come first and your transition comes second. Transition is an inherently self-focused process, as you align your body and appearance with your gender identity. The best way to be a responsible parent during transition is to make your children a major priority throughout the process. Sometimes this means that you have to compromise your ideal time frame for your transition in order to keep relationships with your family healthy. We suggest working with a transgender-competent therapist to deal with your own issues before coming out to your kids. The more comfortable you are with your decision, the easier it will be to answer their questions and support them through your transition. How you tell your children is critical. Try to avoid coming out around the holidays or major family events, when there is often extra pressure and expectations. You can have the conversation in a safe space with plenty of time, where the conversation can’t be overheard and where they will feel comfortable continuing the conversation. Knowing your kids and the way they process will help you decide just what to say. If you are nervous, you can write it down first or practice with a friend. Come out to them in an age-appropriate way that fits with their personality. It’s best to keep your sentences short and concise to avoid overwhelming them with too much information (such as details about surgeries or hormones). People’s responses will vary – some children will ask a million questions and others will have...

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Tips for “Coming Out” to Your Kids About Your Sexual Orientation

The first thing to note is that it is really terrific that you are taking time to consider how to sensitively approach “coming out” to your kids.* Here at COLAGE we have found that as children, we really want to know the truth about our parents’ sexual orientation, and usually we have some idea before you even tell us! But just because we want to know doesn’t mean that we always are thrilled about the situation, especially initially. It can signify a big change in the family, especially when accompanied with all the transitions that come with a divorce or break-up. These tips can also be helpful even if you were already “out” when your kid(s) were born. * Note: This guide primarily focuses on the issue of parents “coming out” to their children about their sexual orientation and discussing questions and challenges that come up in that “coming out” process. COLAGE also acknowledges that “coming out” is not a onetime thing (which is why it is in quotes) and that this resource may apply in different ways throughout a parent and their child’s life.  For information, resources, and support for parents coming out about their gender identity and for transgender family resources, visit http://www.colage.org/programs/trans/resources.htm or contact COLAGE at (855) 4-COLAGE. Here are some tips to keep in mind that might help: It’s never too early to come out to your child/ren. Kids understand love. What they don’t understand is deception or hiding. And it’s never too late to come out to your child. COLAGE has met folks in their forties whose parents are just now coming out to them. A lot of mysteries are being solved, and missing puzzle pieces falling into place for these families. Often knowing the truth will be a relief for kids of all ages Tell your child/ren in a private space where the conversation can’t be overheard and will be completely confidential. Telling them at your regular Saturday night dinner at your favorite restaurant will be overwhelming.  Make sure you tell them when there will be plenty of time for the conversation to continue if it needs to. If they are staying with you for the weekend, for example, talk with the kids on Saturday morning instead of waiting ’til the drive back to their other home on Sunday night.  If you are agonizing over exactly what to say, try writing it down first or practicing with a friend.  Kids’ responses are going to vary. Some may need some time and space to process the information on their own. Some might have a million questions. Others may barely react at all. No matter how your...

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