Remember the Andrews University researchers who wanted to hear from LGBT+ Adventist young adults last summer? Nearly 500 people responded, and 310 young adults completed the survey. The researchers are reporting early findings now.
On the Spectrum blog this week, Drs. Nancy Carbonell, Curtis VanderWaal, Shannon Trecartin, and David Sedlacek talked with Alita Byrd about what they’re learning from their study of family acceptance:
Research shows that around 9% of teens in the U.S. are kicked out of their homes when they tell parents about their orientation or identity. We wondered how that statistic compared to the Adventist church (we found the same rate in our study)…
Although we knew from the research literature that suicidal thinking and suicide attempts were much higher among LGBT+ individuals than the general population, we were shocked to find this level of despair among those who had grown up as Adventists… Conversely, we were quite surprised by how many respondents have remained deeply spiritual and have continued their involvement in religious activities.” —Curtis VanderWaal
There is no doubt that LGBT+ adults often see their parents, homes, and churches as very rejecting places, making coming out or understanding their sexual orientation or gender identity extremely difficult for the majority of these young people…
While many of our LGBT+ youth reported having a friend that they could share their joys and sorrows with (70%), less found this support from their parents (34.2%), few found support from their pastor (11.9%), and even fewer found their congregation [to be an] important source of support (9.3%).” — Nancy Carbonell
In survey responses, LGBT+ young adults explained parents’ and caregivers’ responses to their coming out. Forty percent disclosed their gender or sexual orientation to their families during their 20s, 20% haven’t come out at all yet, and a full three-quarters of the respondents reported anti-LGBT prejudice among their relatives that made the disclosure process more difficult.
As well as drawing implications for Adventist church workers and educators, Carbonell, VanderWaal, Trecartin, and Sedlacek are also placing reports in professional publications like the journal of the North American Association of Christians in Social Work, Social Work and Christianity (Spring 2017).
One of these articles, “The Impact of Family Rejection or Acceptance among LGBT+ Millennials in the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (VanderWaal, Sedlacek, & Lane), focuses on young LGBT+ Adventists’ experiences and what caring professions can do to support members of this population who might cross their office thresholds for individual or family/social systems counselling.
“Caregivers, clergy, and religious congregations,” the researchers write, “were generally not considered to be good sources of social support for respondents.” But many of us hope that can change.
If you want to learn more about the subset of social work research that Carbonell, VanderWaal, Trecartin, and Sedlacek are contributing to, check out the work of the Family Acceptance Project, based at San Francisco State University.