Short and Long-Term Effects of Family Rejection on LGBTQ Youth

A family’s most basic functions include support, both emotional and financial. Our family are the first relationships we develop and are usually the ones that we hold onto the longest, from birth to death. These bonds are not only meant to integrate us into society but prepare us for our own families when the time or choice comes (Hammond & Cheney, 2009). What happens when these family units do not fulfill their most basic functions and cast out their family members for things that are often not a choice, such as gender or sexual orientation?

Family rejection can happen for a number of reasons from personal differences, religious problems, alcohol/drug use, arguments, and so forth. However, many times families can settle their differences and still continue to act as a unit, even if they do not necessarily get along. However there are occasions where this rejection is lifelong from the moment it happens. This can lead to short and long-term health effects, both mentally and physically, regardless of age. The impact is most significant if this rejection happens during youth and is over things that cannot be changed, such as gender or sexuality (Lowrey, 2010).

These effects can range from homelessness, increased depression, increased suicidal thoughts and tendencies, to higher accounts of HIV/AIDS and drug use/alcoholism (Ryan, Russell, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2010). This rejection can also lead to being in and out of the criminal justice system due to the criminalization of homelessness as well as survival tactics such as the survival sex trade (Valentino, 2011). These problems are also affected by experiencing racism, transmisogyny (misogyny directed specifically at trans women), as well as sexism, heterosexism, and other institutional oppressions. For example, a Black trans women will face more problems on the streets than a White cisgender (meaning non-transgender) gay male (Grant, Mottet, Tanis, Harrison, & Herman, 2011). These impacts are both short and long-term, impacting a person’s life from the moment the rejection happens and beyond.

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The Families We Create

Blood is thicker than water is something we are taught from birth. We are taught that our families are made of blood as opposed to the relationships that we form with those closest to us. For many queer people, we know the reality of this statement. Blood is just as thin as water, if not thinner. Families may cut ties at the drop of a hat due to a child or relative coming out. If they do not immediately cut the relative out, they may harass, assault, abuse, the person mentally, physically, and even sexually in an attempt to change them or chase them from the family.

Often our families are those who support and love us for who we are. If there is one thing queer people know about, its how to make families from scratch. We create our families from the friends who accept up after we have seemingly lost everything for simply existing. We make patchwork families, held together by legitimate love, something that may be lacking from our family of origin, whether they are truly related by blood, legal documents, or formalities. Among these families we create, we create safety and comfort.

 

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The Internet Saved My Life

And countless others. In fact, the internet saved my life repeatedly and continues to do so. I’m not alone either. I can safely say that millions of people have had their lives deeply and personally touched by those whose faces they may never see, voices they may never hear, and bodies they may never touch. People constantly disregard internet relationships (both intimate and friend) because of the lack of physical. While some of us may eventually meet these people, some of them we may not for whatever reason. Does that diminish the value, love, acceptance, and so on we feel in these relationships? Absolutely not. People criticize how people often have their heads in their phones, tablets, or other devices, as opposed to interacting with those around them. They talk about how people are always on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or other forms of…SOCIAL… media. These people are being social. In fact, they are possibly being more social than they could be with those around them.

I met both of my partners online, relatively. Most of my friends I have met through the internet. I have friends who have been my friends for almost ten years. These are people who experienced me at my worst, people who were at my side when I was going through the most troubling and traumatic times in my life. People who were there for me and cared for me when others were not. When I first tried to come out to my family as trans*, I was rejected. I was mocked. I was humiliated. I found solace in those who loved me online. Even before then, I was able to quell my loneliness with the internet. Before the internet, I didn’t think people like me existed. I’m not talking about just trans*, but trans* people LIKE me. In media, there were no femme trans guys. There were no cross-dressing men who had happened to be assigned female at birth. I didn’t exist. I was a freak among freaks in my head. That all changed when I found people like me online, not just one, or two, but communities FILLED with them.

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