Sunday, April 22, 2018
Parenting & Relationships

LGBT community faces a special set of challenges

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month is celebrated every June in remembrance of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York's Greenwich Village neighborhood. The Stonewall riots are often known as a turning point for the LGBT movement in the United States. Since then, there have been state and federal efforts to increase equality and safety for the LGBT community. However, the community still faces many obstacles.

FINDING SAME-SEX PREMARITAL COUNSELING CAN BE A CHALLENGE

My partner and I are getting married this year and would like to receive premarital counseling. We're having some difficulty finding anyone who has the necessary curriculum for gay couples. Do you have any advice? We're feeling a little outcasted in our search for resources.

Up until 2013, marriage was not a federal right for gay couples. The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996 and in effect until 2013, stated same-sex marriages would not be recognized on a federal level, but every state could pass its own laws regarding the issue. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex marriage. It wasn't until 2015 that Florida began issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples. Because of this, services such as premarital counseling for same-sex couples are lacking.

While opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages face many of the same challenges, same-sex couples often face the added challenge of lacking familial or social support. A curriculum specifically designed to incorporate a discussion about such challenges is beneficial in same-sex premarital counseling. Premarital counseling is offered by a variety of people and organizations. Therapists often provide same-sex premarital counseling services as part of their practice. You may also be able to find workshops or community programs that use a same-sex premarital counseling curriculum. There are several churches that offer premarital counseling services to same-sex couples as well. Equality Florida (eqfl.org) has compiled a list of resources that may help in your search for therapists or churches. The Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg and King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church in St. Petersburg are known for offering a multitude of services to the LGBTQ community. The Unitarian Universalist Church has developed a same-sex premarital guide and has posted it on its website (bit.ly/2sqVCQh).

The LGBT movement has come far in the past several decades. Try not to feel discouraged; rather, make your needs known in the community so more services can be established.

PARENTS STRUGGLE WITH TEENAGE SON'S REVELATION

My 16-year-old son just came out to us as gay. His father and I are both very religious and are having some trouble aligning our beliefs about our religion with our beliefs about supporting our son. Can you help?

The Human Rights Campaign has gathered statistics on LGBT youths in America. Among the findings: LGBT youths who are "out" to their parents are more likely to report being happy than youths who are not out to their parents. The HRC also found that 92 percent of LGBT youths hear negative messages about their sexual-gender orientation. The top sources for these negative messages are school, the internet and peers. Further, 26 percent of LGBT youths say their biggest life problems are not feeling accepted by their family, being bullied at school and being fearful of being open about their orientation. When we compare this to non-LGBT youths, we see a big difference. Twenty-two percent of non-LGBT youths say their biggest life problems relate to classes, exams and grades. Last, 42 percent of LGBT youths say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT individuals.

For the reasons cited above, it is crucial you support your son regardless of your personal beliefs. Parental support is a huge protective factor for any teen, especially teens who lack social support. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) reported that teens who do not have familial acceptance are 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression compared with peers from families reporting no or low levels of familial rejection.

Your child's sexual orientation is not an attack on your beliefs. You son has likely known about his sexual orientation for several years. In my experiences as a therapist, teens and young adults generally come out to their parents last for fear of rejection.

There are many online resources to get you thorough this challenging time for your family. Further, PFLAG has support groups for families in the Tampa Bay area (pflag.org). There are also several local gender-sex therapists who will conduct family sessions with LGBTQ youths and their families to aid with communication.

Dr. Katie Schubert has master's and doctorate degrees in sociology and gender studies from the University of Florida and a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling from Adams State University in Colorado. She completed her postgraduate studies at Florida Postgraduate Sex Therapy Training Institute and is a certified sex therapist, providing therapy to individuals, couples and families on issues related to sexuality, sex and gender in St. Petersburg. She also is a professor of sociology at the University of Tampa. Contact her at drkatieschubert.com.

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