Keeping Families Together
The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog
March 9, 2012
How Do We Construct A Message That Keeps API Families With LGBT Youth Together?
By BELINDA AND JOHN DRONKERS-LAURETA
To prepare for our upcoming Queer & Asian workshop at UC-Berkeley in April, we reread some of the research projects we conducted that are the basis for many of our workshops. Some of the material goes back seven years and we wondered how relevant the research results still are. No doubt, we should do new research, but the information we have is still solid. This despite the progress toward acceptance and the quantum leap in visibility. Maybe, it has to do with the intensely personal considerations that go into “coming out” for both parent and child.
We Try To Find Out Why Some API LGBT Families Stay Together
Our research focus is API parents who struggled with the reality of having an LGBT child but accepted and eventually honored their child. While it may be useful to ask parents who reject their LGBT child what their motivation is, they are loath to talk to us and when they do, they cite religion or culture or both. but rarely themselves.
Our purpose is to keep Asian families with LGBT children together and we want to know the experiences of those parents who achieved that. Our Banquet (more on that in our next blog) honors those parents and holds them up as examples that the religious and cultural obstacles are not as insurmountable as they seem. Our workshops call attention to processes that work for API parents, and LGBT children are often surprised that their parents, too, have a difficult coming out process.
A Question For Parents
We asked: “What made it difficult for you to come to terms with your child’s sexuality?” The number one answer: “Concern about what our extended family would think. Concern about what our friends and coworkers would think. Not just what they think about our LGBT child, but also about us as parents.” Many parents believe that they must have done something wrong and that they are to blame for their child “turning out” an LGBT person. They dread the judgment of their peers.
Another Question For Parents
We also asked: “What did your child understand least about your coming to terms with his or her sexuality?” The number one answer: “That we needed time to understand.” Asian families don’t normally discuss sex with their children, and homosexuality with its attendant shame and dishonor, is even more a taboo subject. When we add the lack of information and role models, the subject becomes still more fraught with conflict. And conflict resolution is also not something done well in Asian families.
Unconditional Love Sustains The Family Bond
Many parents we asked said that despite their struggles, they loved their LGBT child and disowning him or her was never an alternative. This, then, is what sets these parents apart from those who reject their LGBTQ child: unconditional love.
We try to translate that into a message that our workshop attendants can own: hold fast to the reality that this is your child, the one you raised, the one who would not hurt you. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is marvelous to see.
Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride www.apifamilypride.org