Stigma Busting for Families of Lesbian and Gay Youth
When parents learn they have a gay or lesbian child, they very quickly realize they are now living in a world that stigmatizes not only their children but also themselves. Suddenly, these parents are involuntarily drafted into a club whose members are disparaged. For the 76 parents I interviewed for the book: Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child (www.comingoutcominghome.com), this was their first bitter taste of the injustice of stigma--and it was eye-opening in ways that were painful and frightening.
Courtesy stigma is experienced by those who are friends or family of the stigmatized and according to stigma expert Patrick Corrigan, there are two types of courtesy stigma: vicarious stigma, or the suffering parents feel empathically because their loved one is suffering, and public stigma, which is the stigma family members experience because they are thought to be to blame for their loved one's stigmatizing condition. These two types of stigma were actively in play for the parents I interviewed. When asked "What was the most difficult thing about having a gay or lesbian child?" most parents (close to 2/3 of the parent sample) gave replies that described their struggles with stigma. Read more: