One of the great privileges of 2012 is the time I recently spent with clinical social worker and researcher, Dr. Caitlin Ryan (co-founder of Family Acceptance Project at SFSU). She has worked to minimize family rejection and suicidality in LGBT+ youth for nearly 4 decades. 

I invited Caitlin to speak at Lead Them Home’s annual The Church That Saves Lives seminar. This educational and research-based forum works to prevent bullying and gay teen suicide by increasing church leader involvement in the care of families with LGBT+ teens. Hurricane Sandy may have ruined our event, but two days later Dr. Ryan and I were able to spend a whole day together.

Beyond being deeply impressed with her research, I made a new friend. Actually, we have had a budding friendship for a while now but this was the first extensive time we were able to spend together. Her work offers a bridge between teens and their conservative faith parents. 

There are many who refuse to “do work” on the bridge across the belief gap, because their mission is an all-or-nothing approach. This leaves many teens being encouraged to limit involvement with their parents – and it also leaves many parents who are attempting to love their child out in the dark. 

The sad backdrop to this common situation is that lower family connectedness actually increases the suicidal risk factors for gay teens. I so appreciate not only Dr. Ryan’s willingness but her unflinching commitment to “do work” bridging the belief gap between parents and gay teens. 

Her approach is a model. and she has been a great mentor to me. I am thankful for my friendship with her, and the ways she has positively influenced Lead Them Home. Thank you, Caitlin!

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