International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT)
International Family Equality Day (IFED)
“LOVE MAKES A FAMILY”
Families are at the heart of all of our lives. Whether it’s the family we grew up with or the families we have built as adults. Whether they are families of biology or families of choice. We are all part of “families”, and those families, however we define them, influence all aspects of our lives.
In 2017, the focus on ”families” will particularly spotlight
- The role of families in the physical and emotional well-being of LGBTIQ* people
- The social and legal recognition of Rainbow Families, the families where at least one parent is LGBTQI
Families of LGBTQI people
The family constitutes the very first environment of any person, including members of the LGBTQI community. This is the place where values are shaped and transmitted, where security and safety is provided, and the place where self-esteem and confidence are constructed.
Families, therefore, have great powers … and great responsibilities in the moral and physical well being of their members.
Family is especially critical in environments where members face rejection, stigmatisation and sometimes bullying in the “outside” world, in which cases the family constitutes the only available “safe haven”.
This sense of family happens “naturally” when the cause of stigma is shared by all members, such as in instances of race or other ethnic identity and economic status.
Unfortunately, when the sexual orientation and/or the gender identity of a family member differs from the rest of the family and/or their perceived “social norms”, the overall family experiences a conflict between the loyalty to the family member and the compliance of the norm.
When the balance strikes in favor of the norm, the family might become the first perpetrator of rejection and violence where members meet non-conformant gender expression or sexual orientation with rejection. Children are of course the prime victims of this violence. All too often parents become their children’s first bully, allow or even support bullying by siblings, and even expel young people from the family home, exposing them to homelessness and all the dangers a young person is confronted to on the streets.
In Canada for example, the association of Parents and Friends of LGBTQI people P-Flag reveals that 26% of LGBTQI youth were told to leave home.
Families, especially those under the influence of radical religious movements, might chose to impose so called ‘conversion therapies’, which not only constitute a human rights violation in themselves as they constitute forced treatment, but often include degrading and harmful practices, both psychologically (aversion therapies, humiliations, etc.) and physically (deprivation of food and sleep, electroshocks, etc.)
While children are of course the main targets of this family violence, exclusion also hits other members, for example when family members who come out are being excluded from family gatherings, denied contacts with other family members like nephews and nieces or grandchildren, expelled from family property, etc.
Elders who are LGBT are also particularly vulnerable to abandonment, mistreatment, isolation and abuse.
Families with progressive social values, while they will not display hostile attitudes directly, often lack the necessary tools to discuss sexual and gender diversity. The silence surrounding the issue contributes to creating a climate of exclusion and, in any case, does nothing to alleviate stigma and discrimination endured outside of the family setting.
Like anybody confronted with unknown or unusual circumstances, families who include members with non-conformant sexual orientation and/or gender identity need support, education and resources.
Attention to the needs of families must be given by social and educational authorities, by LGBTQI organisations and their supporters, and by mainstream family organisations.
Families must be able to access correct and unbiased information, psychological support and adequate resources to help them deal with the situation in the respect of all their members.
For May 17, possible actions include:
For LGBTQI organisations to ensure that
- Voices of parents, friends and allies are given special attention
- Specific resources for parents, friends and allies are developed
For parents, friends and allies of LGBTQI people to
- Join an existing organisation
- Form an organisation of parents, friends and allies of sexual and gender minorities
For educational authorities to
- Develop a specific educational pamphlet on sexual and gender diversity for parents, or to include sexual and gender diversity in existing resources
- Provide adequate support to families in dealing with sexual and gender diversities.
For legislators, to
- Introduce bills that respond to the specific needs of families, friends, and allies of LGBTQI people.
Resources on LGBTI Children
A selection, amongst many:
By FFLAG UK
By PFLAG USA
By HRC and PFLAG
By Straight for Equality
By the LGBT Foundation
An article of advice to parents of gender non conforming children by JULIE TARNEY the author of “My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey From Clueless to Kickass.”
In many countries, Rainbow Families, that is families where members are LGBTIQ, are faced with unsuitable domestic laws, if not a total legal void.
This lack of proper recognition of Rainbow Families exposes their members and especially their children to all sorts of legal risks. These families live with the thought that if a tragedy touches their life, for instance, the death or accident of the legal parent, the bond of the social parent to the child may not be recognised by the Law and basically their family life can be severely disrupted.
Children being raised in LGBTIQ families are denied legal ties to their parents, putting them at risk. For example, when LGBTIQ parents are prevented by law from creating legal ties to their children, these parents may be unable to pick up their children at day care, may be unable to advocate for their children at school, and can be denied the ability to make critical healthcare decisions for their children.
The lack of legal ties also creates undue financial burdens for LGBTIQ families, and can place children at economic risk when parents’ relationships dissolve, when a parent dies or becomes disabled or when seeking access to government safety net programs during times of economic crisis.
Formal recognition of same-sex relationships gives couples the tools and the security they need to build a life together. For committed same-sex couples with children, relationship recognition provides both legal and economic security for the entire family. Denying this recognition robs children of crucial support and stability, and ultimately leaves families unprotected, which makes creating and raising a family even more difficult.
Adoption is one of the primary ways that parents who are LGBTQI create families, whether through the public foster care system, a private agency, or simply a second-parent adoption of a partner or spouse’s child. However, in many countries LGBTQI individuals and couples still face barriers to adoption, making it difficult or sometimes impossible for these loving, qualified people to create families.
Studies show that alarming numbers of students with parents who are LGBTQI report experiencing bullying, harassment, and discrimination at school because of who their parents are and how their families were formed. As a result, these students are deprived of equal educational opportunities and are too often left with few or no avenues for recourse. Research shows that unchecked bullying and harassment negatively impact student achievement by decreasing interest in school, increasing absenteeism, and decreasing concentration levels for students. Leaders in the fields of education and child welfare agree that positive school climate and culture is a critical condition for promoting students’ academic success.
In addition, lack of recognition of LGBTIQ families leads to second parents often having to conceal their parenthood at work, creating untenable tensions between their careers and their parental life. In case of professional moving of a person in an LGBTIQ family, the needs of their family members will not be taken into account. Uniting LGBTIQ families is even more of a challenge when these families have been formed across borders. The lack of recognition leads to families being unable to unite, or having to leave existing homes, which means uprooting children from their schools, friends, communities, and extended families.
The non-recognition of LGBTIQ families also means that their housing needs cannot be properly addressed, especially in the case of families who are on welfare programmes. In the private sector, LGBTIQ families are prone to discrimination in access to rental or property, with hardly any protective measures effectively in place worldwide
Social stigmatisation and legal discrimination of LGBTQ families forces children to stay in a closet that is not even their own. One of the greatest challenges reported by youth with LGBTQ parents is a sense of isolation, lonelyness, or feeling that “they are the only one”.
Furthermore, for Trans people, the family encompasses also other issues, like forced divorce that Trans people have to undergo to gain legal gender recognition in many countries. Another crucial issue is of course the forced sterilization still imposed by almost all countries in the world for legal gender recognition, that takes away opportunity and choice to have biological children and family.
- Ensure that children with a same-sex parent have the same protections as children with married heterosexual parents, including the security of legal ties to both parents.
- To remove existing barriers by defeating legislation, policies, and practices that restrict parenting by those who identify as LGBTQI; promoting and passing new laws that promote LGBTQI parenting such as second parent adoption; and promoting policies and practices that are inclusive of LGBTQI parents.
- To gain recognition of same-sex relationships and to fight off attempts to deny recognition to families who are LGBTQI.
- To ensure that all children have the same opportunity to thrive – which requires that they feel safe, supported and valued in school and are able to attend without fear of bullying, violence, harassment, and discrimination because of who their parents are or how their families were created
Many interesting tips for actions you can take, provided by the Family Equality Council
IFED annual report 2015 is a precious source of inspiration for local community events.
Ressources on Rainbow Families
A great video by Angelica Team and Stonewall interviewing kids of LGBT parents. Irresistible ! A great way to open a conversation on Rainbow Families
Right 2 Love, released in 2012, is a documentary, which follows the daily lives and struggles of seven LGBT families in the following seven different European countries: The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Greece, Switzerland and in Catalonia: http://www.familieslg.org/familieslgtb/premiere-of-right-2-love/
Gayby Baby is a unique film / documentary told from the perspective of the kids. Among other things, the kids in the film discuss what it’s like to have same-sex parents: http://thegaybyproject.com/
In my Shoes (2005), initiated by the organization COLAGE, is a youth-produced documentary film by and about children of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents: http://www.colage.org/resources/in-my-shoes/
More information on organisers
IFED Facebook Creative Network:
IDAHOT Facebook page
IDAHOT Twitter account
IDAHOT Creative Protest working group
(Network of creative activists)