Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) individuals are considered sexual minorities. However, just like any minority group, they have developed their own community within the larger community of heterosexuals. LGBTQ communities participate in activities and events and associate with other LGBT groups in social environments similar to any other group of culturally diverse individuals. In the past several years, there has been a wealth of research demonstrating the psychological value that LGBTQ individuals receive when they are able to identify with other people who are like them. But little attention has been given to the sense of community felt by the children of LGBTQ parents. More than ever, sexual minority couples are raising children together. The difficulties that can accompany that lifestyle are felt by the parents and the children. Discrimination, prejudice, violence, and fear can be issues that children of LGBTQ parents struggle with. For them, the sense of belonging to a LGBTQ community could have significant psychological benefits.
To better understand how these children identify, or don’t identify, with sexual minority communities, and the effects these have on them, Abbie E. Goldberg of the Department of Psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts interviewed 42 emerging adult children of LGBTQ parents, ranging in age from 18 to 29. She asked them how they identified with the LGBTQ communities and how their identification with these communities had changed throughout their lifetimes. She found that the majority of the participants felt a sense of connection to the LGBTQ groups when they were young because of their parents’ affiliations. They reported feeling supported and less stigmatized as a result. However, as they entered adulthood, the highest levels of engaging in LGBTQ communities were exhibited by the participants who had been in a LGBTQ family since birth or shortly thereafter.
Additionally, those participants (nearly half) who identified as being LGBTQ were also most likely to feel very connected to the LGBTQ communities in adulthood. And some of the participants felt a stronger sense of being connected to the community in adulthood than in childhood. For these individuals, the enhanced openness of their parents’ sexuality over time and their own acceptance of their family may have increased their willingness to identify with their communities. Goldberg believes these findings could be helpful to clinicians working with young adults who come from LGBTQ families. She added, “As LGBTQ families are increasingly validated legally and socially by the society at large, the meanings and values regarding LGBTQ community connection will continue to change and emerge in novel ways.”
Goldberg, A. G., Kinkler, L. A., Richardson, H. B., Downing, J. B. (2012). On the border: Young adults with LGBQ parents navigate LGBTQ communities. Journal of Counseling Psychology 59.1, 71-85.
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