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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 13
Family Acceptance Project explores acceptance in Always My Son
Section One
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Family Acceptance Project explores acceptance in Always My Son

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

Part two of a two-part series exploring the link between a healthy family acceptance of LGBT children and preventing homelessness and suicide. For part one, visit http://sgn.org/sgnnews39_12/.

Can a father accept his Gay son? What does it take to change the heart and mind of a mother who would rather kick her Lesbian daughter out of the house than love her? Through a very ambitious video project by the California-based Family Acceptance Project (FAP), some of these questions are being answered. Intervention and education are key.

Helping diverse families understand how to support their LGBT children takes resources that touch the heart - like a sample video found on the FAP website, www.familyproject.sfsu.edu. FAP is working to produce a series of eight short documentary videos that show the journey from struggle to support of ethnically and religiously diverse families with LGBT children.

The videos are based on years of research and relationships with diverse LGBT youth and their families.

The current video - and the others they plan to make - includes some of the family accepting and rejecting behaviors that FAP has studied.

'Our research shows for the first time how these family accepting and rejecting behaviors affect an LGBT young person's health and mental health, including risk for suicide, substance abuse, HIV, self-esteem, etc.,' say FAP officials. 'These attitudes and behaviors also affect the whole family.'

The 15-minute Always My Son video follows the lives of a family that resides in Modesto, California, and their struggle to understand and accept their Gay son. In the LGBT anti-bullying/suicide movement, the Plata family are about as much of a success story as you can find.

Ed Plata, a former Marine, realized that his son E.J. was Gay when he began to play with a Little Mermaid Barbie as a child. While Elizabeth Plata was more accepting, she never spoke with her son about his sexuality. The silence made E.J. not accept himself and he began to fall in with the bad crowd and hate school. He became depressed and isolated from the eighth grade on. When E.J. finally came out as Gay to his family, Elizabeth and Ed knew they had to reach out and find out how to best deal with their son's homosexuality in order to stop the downward spiral that E.J. was falling into. They thought they might lose their son to suicide.

That is when the Plata family met Caitlin Ryan and enrolled in the Family Acceptance Project. The family dynamic changed forever. The help and education the Platas received propelled them to start The PLACE: People Learning Acceptance Creating Equality in Modesto. The PLACE is a safe space for LGBT and questioning youth ages 14-20. The group holds a meeting every second and fourth Thursday where Gay kids and their families come together to support each other.

To watch Always My Son, go to www.familyproject.sfsu.edu/family-videos.

'We use these videos in our work to educate and support diverse families with LGBT children,' say FAP officials. 'We also use them to train health and mental health providers and to help providers understand the critical role of families in supporting their LGBT children.'

'These stories of transformation, hope, and love show how very diverse families integrate deeply held religious and personal values with love for their LGBT children,' said FAP leaders.

There are a number of ways the organization plans to distribute the videos: online distribution to reach families and LGBT youth to decrease isolation, give them hope, and briefly show the process that helps families grow and learn to support their LGBT children; DVDs for school counselors, social workers, nurses, pediatricians, clergy, and family service workers to use in education and counseling with LGBT youth and with families; training in medical schools, nursing, social work, psychology, and other professional training programs to help providers understand the journey to family acceptance and how specific family attitudes and behaviors affect their LGBT children's health and mental health; and educating the general public to humanize the lives of ethnically and religiously diverse LGBT young people and their families.

To make an online contribution, go to www.applyweb.com/public/contribute?s=sfudonat

(Under 'About Your Gift,' select 'Family Acceptance Project' from the drop-down menu).

For more information on donating to the project, contact the organization at fap@sfsu.edu or call (415) 522-5558.

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