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Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Why is it important to understand coming out?

A: All people are unique. As every individual grows up, they learn and come to embrace what is different and special about themselves. For LGBTQ individuals and their families, this process may not always be easy. Society is changing but the recent tragic suicides of several adolescents, bullied for their sexual orientation or gender identity, reveal that change in society is slow. The pressures on youth and families when a family member comes out can sometimes seem insurmountable. We think it is important to give voice to the experiences that families have as they navigate the coming out process.

Q: What are the goals of the Coming Out Project?"

A: The mission of the Coming Out Project at the University of Miami is to recognize the unique strengths and challenges of LGBTQ youth and their families. As researchers, we are trying to learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ youth and families, including:

  • What it means to be “out”
  • Factors related to ethnic, religious, and cultural values and beliefs
  • Factors related to parent acceptance over time
  • How the family system changes when an LGBTQ youth comes out
  • Coping with gay-related stress
  • Mental health

Q: What are the questions that the project is trying to answer?

A: Some of the questions we are trying to answer include:

  • How do we understand what influences parents in accepting or rejecting their children’s sexual orientation?
  • To what extent does parental acceptance of their LGBTQ change over time?
  • When a youth comes out as LGBTQ, how does this affect the family system? What strengths exist in families to help them stay close and communicate through the coming out process?
  • Does religious conflict affect sexual identity development?
  • How do families of various ethnic/cultural backgrounds respond when a youth comes out, and what helps families deal with the coming out process in a healthy way?
  • How can we improve mental health and family functioning for families with LGB youth?
  • What factors are related to romantic relationships for LGB youth, and how are they important?

Q: How can I get involved in The Coming Out Project?

A: We have now reached our participants limit for our current research project, Project COPES. However, if you are interested in future research projects, please email us!

You can also get involved by sharing with us your story, whether you are an LGBTQ individual or have an LGBTQ family member. We are currently collecting stories, in either written or video form, to share with other LGBTQ youth and families. It is our hope that by sharing these stories, other LGB youth and their families may find support, community, and answers to their questions. If you are interested in sharing your story, please email us!

Q: My child just came out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. What should I do?

A: Many parents do not have an easy time finding out that their child is LGBTQ. They may have a variety of reactions, and questions about what it means to be LGBTQ, what it means to come out, how concerned should they be, and how they can manage to show their child support. Drs. Neena Malik and Kristin Lindahl answer some of these questions in the chapter, “Coming Out as Gay or Lesbian.” There are many other resources for parents, and we have recommended some materials as well as the websites of several national and local LGBTQ organizations.

University of Miami Department of Psychology ComingOut