Coming Out, Coming Home

Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child

Michael C. LaSala
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/lasa14382
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  • Book Info
    Coming Out, Coming Home
    Book Description:

    The discovery that a child is lesbian or gay can send shockwaves through a family. A mother will question how she's raised her son; a father will worry that his daughter will experience discrimination. From the child's perspective, gay and lesbian youth fear their families will reject them and that they will lose financial and emotional support. All in all, learning a child is gay challenges long-held views about sexuality and relationships, and the resulting uncertainty can produce feelings of anger, resentment, and concern.

    Through a qualitative, multicultural study of sixty-five gay and lesbian children and their parents, Michael LaSala, a leading expert on this issue, outlines effective, practice-tested interventions for families in transition. His research reveals surprising outcomes, such as learning that a child is homosexual can improve familial relationships, including father-child relationships, even if a parent reacts strongly or negatively to the revelation. By confronting feelings of depression, anxiety, and grief head on, LaSala formulates the best approach for practitioners who hope to reestablish intimacy among family members and preserve family connections-as well as individual autonomy-well into the child's maturation. By restricting his study to parents and children of the same family, LaSala accurately captures the reciprocal effects of family interactions, identifying them as targets for effective treatment. Coming Out, Coming Home is also a valuable text for families, enabling adjustment through relatable scenarios and analyses.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51299-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Psychology, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Monica McGoldrick

    Michael lasala has written a landmark study of the experiences and relationships of parents and their children in the coming-out process. It is a moving exploration of families working through the disruption of finding out their children are homosexual. Parents, as LaSala describes, “agonize that their children will be unsafe as they launch them into a world where gay and lesbian youth are discriminated against, assaulted, even murdered.” The important news is that parents can buffer the effects of these harsh realities, so LaSala’s book is essential reading for all clinicians working to facilitate family development and connectedness.

    LaSala’s narrative...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Family Sensitization
    (pp. 1-48)

    For some girls, it might begin with a crush on an older sister’s best friend or a strange physical sensation that occurs while watching Xena, the Warrior Princess on television. For a boy, it might be a fantasy to take a bath with a buddy or a strong urge to run his hand across his gym teacher’s bearded cheek. At first, these children might not pay much attention to these early stirrings—when they first appear boys and girls are usually too young to know what they mean. However, at some point as they get older they come to realize...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Family Discovery: The Youth Come Out
    (pp. 49-80)

    Like a runaway train, once the young men and women in this study realized they were gay, something was set in motion that they felt they could not stop. Sooner or later they knew they would have to let others know, and this prospect was terrifying. Many of the youth already got a taste of what can happen when peers suspect someone is “different.” What would the world do to them once it was known for sure?

    Most important, what would their parents do? The young gay and lesbian respondents were more than familiar with stories of sons and daughters...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Family Discovery: Parents React
    (pp. 81-133)

    Imagine how it must feel to be a parent and suspect there is something horribly wrong with your child, something that is your fault that will rob you both of all your hopes and dreams. Because what you suspected was so awful, you tried desperately not to think of it and to talk yourself out of believing it—but it seemed to stay with you, always there in the back of your mind, like an ever present shadow.

    Then imagine finding out that what you dreaded was actually true. Suddenly, your son or daughter is not who you think. You...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Family Recovery
    (pp. 134-182)

    Anyone who has ever been caught in a violent storm knows what it is like to be pummeled by pounding rain and roaring wind as the skies crackle with lightning and explode with thunder. Fortunately, there always comes a point when the skies start to lighten, the thunder begins to sound a little more distant, and the downpour slows ever so slightly—the storm is not yet over, but soon it will pass.

    Virtually all models of family crisis identify a stage in the process during which the family is just beginning to recover. As described earlier, a family crisis...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Family Renewal: The Gift of the Gay/Lesbian Child
    (pp. 183-215)

    A wise colleague of mine, whose job it was to counsel people in crisis, would tell her clients the following story. When Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 it left a path of destruction. Rivers of molten rock incinerated the once lush forests that grew on the mountain, leaving it covered in ashes and barren of any life. However, after a few weeks, something surprising began to happen on the bleak mountainside. Small green plants began to sprout, nourished by the fertile new soil. Within a few months the mountain was covered with lush new plant life that would eventually...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Race and Ethnicity
    (pp. 216-230)

    At an American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) conference several years ago, Nancy Boyd-Franklin, a leading expert on therapy with black families, told a personal story that brought to life one of the many complex challenges faced by these families. One afternoon she came upon her teenaged sons and their friends playfully tossing a realistic-looking toy gun around her living room. She became terrified as she imagined what would happen if these black teenagers were seen engaging in the same behavior in certain neighborhoods near their home, and so she gave them a very stern, if somewhat anxious,...

  12. CHAPTER 7 Areas for Future Research and Concluding Thoughts
    (pp. 231-246)

    One book or piece of research never answers all the questions about a particular topic. As a matter of fact, findings from the best studies often leave additional, more sophisticated questions in their wake. As illustrated in the last chapter, there is much more we need to know about the families of lesbian and gay youth of various ethnic groups. Furthermore, clinicians need more information on families of bisexual and transgender people. The focus of this study was not on families of daughters and sons who identified as bisexual or transgender. However, when the net was cast for gay and...

  13. Appendix: Research Methodology
    (pp. 247-252)
  14. REFERENCES
    (pp. 253-264)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 265-282)