Research Findings

A thematic analysis of our data revealed five major themes. Since we share many of the stories we heard in our data, our findings are written in a collective voice.

Theme 1: We want radical recognition and unconditional love.
We want to be valued and embraced for who we are, and we want space and support to name and discuss our identities on our own terms. Acceptance may be a starting point, but it is not enough.

Theme 2: We want solidarity.
Dignity for LGBTQ+/GE people is an ongoing struggle that requires social, community, and policy change. We want our families to challenge the assumption that everyone is born straight (heteronormativity) or that everyone is born within the gender binary (cisgenderism). We want our families to fight against and end violence and discrimination against all LGBTQ+/GE people.

The LGBTQ+/GE young people we interviewed described critical, liberatory, and socio-historical frameworks for making sense of their identities and the dynamics they experience in their families. Youth consistently brought up the intersectionality of their identities – considering and sharing how their gender and sexuality intersected with race, ethnicity, class, education, regional experience, immigration, housing, and (dis)ability.

Young people described an overall desire to share analyses and experiences of these intersections with their families and recognized that this requires family members reach beyond acceptance, towards understanding. Our interviews suggest that acceptance is too often conceptualized as an either/or binary – either an LGBTQ+/GE child is accepted by their family, or they are rejected – which denies significant nuance in a family’s relational dynamics. With this in mind, we see the five themes outlined below as interconnected ideas that can help families move beyond acceptance, to support, understand, validate, and love their LGBTQ+/GE youth in all their complexity.

Theme 3: We want families to educate themselves about gender and sexuality.
We want people in our family to take responsibility for learning about gender, sexuality, and queerness on their own. Knowledge is powerful. While it can be fulfilling to help our families learn about gender and/or sexuality, it is also a lot of work! We want families to seek out other sources of information in addition to what they can learn from us.

Theme 4: We want family members to reflect on their own gender, sexuality, and intersectional identities.
We want families to critically explore gender and sexual identity development, and ideas about how gender and sexuality intersect with their own histories, race, class, religion, nationality, and privilege. The way families handle issues of gender and sexuality often reflect already existing family dynamics.

Theme 5: We want to be celebrated.
Being LGBTQA+ and gender expansive is a wonderful thing — we get to be a part of an amazing community of fabulous people throughout history who have shown the world how multifaceted, complex, and beautiful gender, sexuality, desire, identity, and humanity really is! We want to see ourselves reflected in the world – in art, books, movies, politics, history, etc. — and share these representations with our families and the people we love.

Quotes from young people in our interviews

“When I came out [as trans] they still tried to put me in the hetero kind of thing…they raised me as a guy who likes girls, and I’m like ‘that doesn’t feel right’…they still tried to put me in that box…but I don’t want to be in a box.”

“It’s not radical, it’s not conservative, it’s not liberal. It’s just loving your child and making the effort to learn.”

“I want my parents to take their cis-heteronormativity and throw it out the window…but I know this is harder than it looks and that there are challenges and experiences in their past that make it difficult.”

“My queerness is also about being anti-capitalist…my main thing is liberation…strength is knowledge, truth, ancestors, decolonization, liberation.”

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 Supported by the CUNY Doctoral Students Council.