“Lead with Love” is a new educational resource for parents whose children have recently come out to them as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. The documentary tells the true stories of various parents’ reactions to their child’s identity, answers frequently asked questions about sexual orientation, and offers positive advice to families that are struggling. It is directed by Jenny Mackenzie and can be viewed on the “Lead with Love” website.
The film incorporates both personal and informative elements to educate the loved ones of LGB youth. In interviews with the filmmakers, parents expressed concern about both their child’s future and their own feelings. “My child is a minority now. She’s going to be discriminated against in this world, and not all people will understand her,” said the mother of a girl named Lauren. “There’s a difference all of a sudden when it comes home,” Lauren’s father pointed out. “I was disappointed because I just didn’t want that,” said another mother of a boy named Tré.
Dr. David Huebner is a clinical psychologist who has done research on the effects of discrimination on mental and physical health, and is also the film’s writer and executive producer. He offers several important explanations throughout the documentary about why parents react in different ways:
“It’s no wonder that parents struggle when their children come out to them, because they care about them and they want what’s best for them. And unfortunately, all most parents know about being gay or lesbian is the misinformation they’ve learned throughout their lives. … There are so many cultural forces that contribute to making this a hard time for parents.”
“Lead with Love” also makes the points that being LGB is not a choice, nor is it a mental illness, and that it is harmful to try to change anyone’s sexual orientation. It describes research that shows that parental rejection can lead youth to substance abuse, suicide, low self-esteem and depression. In one study, youth who were rejected by their parents for being LGB were 3 times more likely to engage in substance abuse and 8 times more likely to attempt suicide. Furthermore, parental support affects LGB educational progress. “When parents are supportive, gay kids, in fact, can have a wonderful experience in school. They can grow, they can thrive, they can become academic scholars,” says George W. Henry Jr., who has been a high school teacher for 35 years.
The film also notes that being LGB is not necessarily at odds with one’s faith. Many religions embrace all people, regardless of their sexual orientation; and many religions consider being LGB a gift from God. Bishop Yvette Flunder of the City of Refuge United Church of Christ comments:
“I think it is critically important that all Christians and all people of faith show their love, not by making access to God and to good exclusionary, but to seek to be inclusionary—essentially, to make the table of the Lord, as we say in the Christian church, available to everyone. And when we don’t exactly know what to do, then let’s err on the side of putting more chairs at the table.”
Lauren’s mother agrees, saying, “The God I know and love would never turn his back on my kid.”
Finally, the film asks parents to “lead” in order to support their children. This includes letting their affections show that they still love them; expressing their pain away from their child through a different outlet so that it does not hurt him or her; avoiding rejecting behaviors, including subtle ones that may make their child feel unaccepted; and doing good before feeling good, such as supporting their child even if they don’t completely understand. As the mother of a boy named Rico explains, “When I realized that either my son was going to be gay or my son was going to be dead, it just clicked.”
GLAAD believes “Lead with Love” is a significant resource in the mission of amplifying the voices of LGBT people and their allies. We encourage everyone to watch or purchase the documentary and share it with their friends, family and colleagues.