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Social Workers finds film ideal way to gain acceptance of Youth who are LGBT

Jordan in a scene from Families Are Forever.

Jordan in a scene from Families Are Forever.

National Association of Social Workers member Caitlin Ryan for years has been a leading advocate in helping families around the nation and the world accept children who are LGBT.

Ryan, PhD, ACSW, who is director of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, has used research, educational materials, and family oriented-services to help such families. She has also discovered film is a powerful way to reach people and encourage them to accept LGBT children.

The Family Acceptance Project’s short film “Families Are Forever,” shows a Mormon husband and wife who actively supported California’s Proposition 8 to stop same-sex marriages, even taking part in demonstrations in support of the ballot initiative. However, their actions hurt their 13-year-old son Jordan, who hid the fact he is gay.

Caitlin Ryan (left) and Maryland transgender activist Dana Beyer at a Cosmos Club reception for Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project.

Caitlin Ryan (left) and Maryland transgender activist Dana Beyer at a Cosmos Club reception for Ryan and the Family Acceptance Project.

The film shows how the family came to accept Jordan’s sexuality. “This is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of your world,” his father said in the film.

“Families Are Forever” has screened at film festivals around the world and won 20 awards. The Family Acceptance Project also has another short film, “Always My Son,” about a Latino family that learned to accept their son who is gay.

“Our focus has been on changing one little corner of the world, one family at a time,” said Ryan, who got to showcase the Family Acceptance Project’s films and research at a Cosmos Club reception in Washington, D.C. on September 17.

Why did Ryan choose to use film?

Ryan has a background in the arts and was a musician and singer. Her first major was in art and she attended film school for awhile.

She realized films were a good way to highlight Family Acceptance Project research, which shows children who are LGBT are less likely to commit suicide, contract HIV or become homeless if their families accept them.

Eugenia Taylor, a social worker from Birmingham, Ala., who is working with churches and other faith-based organizations to increase acceptance of LGBT youth, attended the reception. She said the film on the Mormon family has well received in her area, which tends to be more conservative.

Ryan said she is now trying to find other families from various faiths and ethnic groups, including African Americans, to do more films.

“I know the power of using art to show a shared truth,” Ryan said.

To learn more about the Family Acceptance Project films and how to use them visit this website. And to learn more about how social workers support equal rights for all, including people who are LGBT, visit the National Association of Social Workers Diversity and Equity website and 1,000 Experts LGBT Month Media Toolkit.

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