SF State News {University Communications}

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Partnership bolsters LGBT research

March 3, 2008 -- The Family Acceptance Project (FAP) at San Francisco State University's Cesar E. Chavez Institute will team with Asian Pacific Island (API) Equality and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) to develop the first tools and resources for Chinese families with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) children.

Image of Family Acceptance Project logo.Developed by SF State's Caitlin Ryan in 2002, this initiative is the only one of its kind in the country to study the effects of acceptance and rejection on LGBT adolescents. The research has demonstrated a connection between family acceptance and rejection and the well being of LGBT youth.

The partnership with CAA will give the project valuable inroads into the Chinese community, where homosexuality is considered shameful and often not openly discussed. "This is a special outreach to Chinese and Asian Pacific Islander families. They get left out because of language barriers and the barriers in their communities to talking about these issues," said Ryan, director of adolescent health initiatives at the Cesar E. Chavez Institute. "That's why we've formed this partnership and reached deep into the communities to hear their concerns -- because on the human level, families are all the same. They love their children and they want the best for them."

As part of the project, the FAP will consult with Chinese families of LGBT adolescents to gather advice to produce education materials for the Chinese community. Sandra Lee Fewer, a Chinese-American mother of a gay teenage son, said providing information to Chinese parents and families is an important step in ensuring safety for their LGBT children. Fewer said she has talked to gay Asian men who still bare the scars of coming out to their families and friends.

"Still 30 to 40 years later they're in such pain about how their parents reacted to them," Fewer said. "Learning from that, I didn't want that to happen to my son. Hearing the stories from people who are gay, we can't underestimate the impact we have on our teenagers. As parents we need to learn that how we react is huge."

Moving into Asian communities is the next step for the Family Acceptance Project, which has already conducted extensive research into acceptance and rejection of Latino and non-Latino white LGBT adolescents, conducting in-depth interviews in English and Spanish. Interviews with families from a wide-range of backgrounds, experiences and geographical areas provided extensive data on families with LGBT children. Follow up sessions with ethnically diverse families is providing a framework for developing interventions to increase family support to promote well-being and reduce their LGBT children’s risk for health and mental health problems. "We found families have a significant impact on their children," Ryan said. "We have many, many findings. Our research shows how families can best support their children so that they can live happy, successful lives."

The partnership begins a busy spring and summer for Ryan, who will present her findings at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City in August, with more research to be published in the fall.

For more information, visit the Family Acceptance Project Web Site or contact fap@sfsu.edu. Chinese families wishing to speak with the Family Acceptance Project and API Equality can email alim@caasf.org or call (415) 274-6750 for more information.

-- Michael Bruntz


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