Renna Communications has the pleasure and honor of working with the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, a community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health and mental health of LGBT youth. Given the national conversation we are having about LGBT youth suicide and bullying, this research is a vital part of how we could all be better informed and armed to help youth and families
In addition to recent trips to Mexico and Spain, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, the Director of FAP, was invited to China to speak at various conferences, universities and community agencies on the importance of family acceptance for the well-being and health of LGBT youth and their families.
You read that correctly. China.
Read on for her take on the beginning of the trip and look for more postings as she continues her amazing journey to an unlikely and sometimes dangerous place to be LGBT or even an LGBT ally.
Dr. Ryan's itinerary includes presentations at Renmin University in Guangzhou and Beijing; a conference in Beijing for parents of LGBT children; meetings with Beijing's Anti-Domestic Violence Network and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS); and a presentation at Hong Kong University, "The Critical Role of Families in Reducing Risk & Promoting Well-being for LGBT Youth & Young Adults."
Ryan has some pretty terrific company: Shannon Minter, the Legal Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and Luis Perelman, sexuality educator and founder of the Asociación Internacional de Familias por la Diversidad Sexual.
Here is what she had to say in a recent email:
When we arrive in Guangzhou, LGB students from the LesGay student group from 10 surrounding universities meet us at the train station. They are 19 -20 years old and are studying languages, science and film. They all speak some English - one extremely well - are excited, very polite and look like students anywhere minus piercings and tattoos.
They are eager to share their experiences of being LGB students and allies at a range of schools in this province in southern China. It's quite a change from my first visit to Guanzhou 20 years ago when we emphatically were told by our guides, "There are no gay people here."
Like other societies undergoing massive change, China is a study in contradictions. Our visit is a few days before a major sexual product expo, where sex toys and sexual aids will be touted and displayed at a large trade fair. Yet very few LGB young people are out to their families, and we are cautioned that the events where I will be speaking, especially the national conference for parents with gay and transgender children in Beijing may be stopped by the police.
Unlike my first visit to this large trade city, technology is evident everywhere from the wifi in our hotel to the cell phone markets for used, new and knockoff phones. Yet, I find that some webpages I try to access are blank while others are fully accessible. I'm eager to learn about how LGBT people are living in China today and this will be a large part of my observations and learning on this trip.
The conference for parents with LGBT children was also a huge success - despite our fears that the police could shut us down at any moment. Over 100 people attended, a mix of parents with LGBT children to LGBT people eager to find a safe space, from late teens to adults. They came from all over China - and Mongolia - and from all walks of life. Farmers, military, urban and small towns Chinese people eager to get information and better understand the issues related to having LGBT people in their lives.
The conference inspired a piece in China Daily, significant in reaching millions of others.
I look forward to sharing more about this trip, which demonstrates the global nature of all of our work and the extraordinary commonalities I see we share as families, individuals and as a community.
Dr. Caitlin Ryan is the Director of the Family Acceptance Project. Dr Ryan and her team are developing the first research-based family model to prevent suicide, substance abuse, HIV, homelessness, and placement in custodial care for LGBT children and adolescents. This new family intervention model builds self-esteem, well-being and social support for ethnically and religiously diverse LGBT young people in the context of their families. She has been working with providers, families and community groups to develop an international movement of family acceptance to promote wellness and healthy futures for LGBT children, youth and young adults.