Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Church notes from your local atheist

Those of you who have hung here for awhile know that yours truly is an (the?) atheist blogger in the Episcopal blogosphere. My wife, BP, the Roman Catholic continues to test the waters of TEC over the last few weeks since her church is not exactly welcoming her/us (and since there is a lot of post-Prop8 pain to boot). I am supporting BP in this which means I have attended church more in the last 6 weeks than in the previous 20 years, as BP tries out Episcopal churches. So far, in every church we have attended, everyone has been welcoming to this lesbian couple, which says a lot for TEC's inclusion and welcome. Give yourselves a good pat on the back.

We are visiting family in the Bay Area this week and went to church at All Souls Berkeley on Sunday, which was my Mom's parish in her youth. I'm a sucker for singing Christmas carols! A shout out to Fr Philip and the folks at All Souls for being such a welcoming community and to all of you wishing you warmth and peace for the coming new year.


James said...

I've been waiting for your post, IT. I am glad that your TEC experiences have been positive thus far. And I'm glad that your Christmas Eve experience was great, too. I am with you on being a sucker for Carols. I don't believe all the story as handed down to us, but i love the carols!

Now we need to hear from JCF.

dr.primrose said...

A bit OT (but then, maybe not). Today, there's an AP article that sums up for me why what we do for equality and inclusion of gay and lesbian people is so important. Parents' response key to health of gay youth: Kids with parents who reacted negatively 8 times more likely to try suicide. This is what it says:

SAN FRANCISCO - Young gay people whose parents or guardians responded negatively when they revealed their sexual orientation were more likely to attempt suicide, experience severe depression and use drugs than those whose families accepted the news, according to a new study.

The way in which parents or guardians respond to a youth's sexual orientation profoundly influences the child's mental health as an adult, say researchers at San Francisco State University. The findings appear in the January issue of Pediatrics and are being released Monday.

"Parents love their children and want the best for them," said lead researcher Caitlin Ryan, a social worker who directs the university's Family Acceptance Project. "Now that we have measured all these behaviors, we can see that some of them put youth at extremely high risk and others are wellness-promoting."

Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.

More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with composure instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth's mental health outlook.

One of the most startling findings was that being forbidden to associate with gay peers was as damaging as being physically beaten or verbally abused by their parents in terms of negative feedback, Ryan said.

In the two-part study, Ryan and her colleagues first interviewed 53 families with gay teenagers to identify 106 specific behaviors that could be considered "accepting" or "rejecting." For example, blaming a youth for being bullied at school, shielding him from other relatives or belittling her appearance for not conforming to social expectations fell into the rejecting category.

Next, they surveyed 224 white and Latino gay people between ages 21 and 25 to see which of the behaviors they had experienced growing up. The responses then were matched against the participants' recent histories of severe depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and unsafe sexual behavior.

While the results might seem intuitive, Ryan said the study, funded by the California Endowment, was the first to establish a link between health problems in gay youths and their home environments.

She has used the information in workshops with parents and other caregivers who have strained relationships with their gay teenagers, and said many were alarmed enough to make immediate changes in their interactions.

In her paper for Pediatrics, Ryan recommends that medical professionals ask young patients how their families have reacted to their sexual orientations and tell parents that negative reactions may prove harmful even if well-intentioned.

Young people coming out earlier
Such conversations are necessary because young people have been coming out at younger ages. Consistent with other studies, the youths in Ryan's study were on average younger than 11 when they first experienced a same-sex attraction, were just over 14 when they realized they were gay and came out to their families before they had turned 16.

Sten Vermund, a Vanderbilt University pediatrician who became interested in Ryan's work this summer when she presented her research at the international AIDS conference in Mexico City, agrees that doctors should be encouraged to talk with parents about responding to a child's sexual orientation in a supportive way.

"So many families of children who are gay, bisexual or transgender, particularly families of gay male youth, think that if they are tough on the kid and tell him how unsatisfactory his gay lifestyle is to the family, he will have it knocked out of him," Vermund said.

Vermund said he also was impressed by Ryan's finding that a little bit of familial acceptance could go a long way in increasing a child's chances for future happiness.

"The Southern Baptist doesn't have to become a Unitarian," he said. "Someone can still be uncomfortable with their child's sexual orientation, but if they are somewhat more accepting and do the best the can, they will do the youth a lot of good. That to me is an important message."

JCF said...

Is that article, Primrose, the "Duh!!!" story of this late year, or what?

Shout-out to James. Though I missed Xmas Midnight Mass while snowed in this year, I've attended Advent4, Lessons&Carols, and Christmas1, all at the parish I grew up in (St. Michael's, Carmichael, CA), w/ my dad.

I ask your prayers for him: he's still grieving the loss of my mom (we visited her grave yesterday), and mentally, starting to slip. Not badly (yet), but it's there. He really needs to stop driving (In his case "Olds 88" isn't a car, but merely a description of the driver ;-/). And please continue to pray for my job-search, with which my dad's sitch is intertwined...

TheraP said...

I just listened to the same research on NPR - that gay youth are so affected by the positive (or negative) response particularly of family. Makes total sense to me.

You may be familiar with this article by a young gay man whose (totally accepting) parents I know well. His dad literally called his mom in tears, when he read the article - which was this man's public "coming out" (at 18):

Currently, now aged 19, this young man (raised with no religious training at all!) is spending his Christmas break working at a leper colony in China - instead of going on a skiing vacation with his family in the Canadian Rockies. Not only is he thriving, but he is contributing to others less fortunate than himself. That is in powerful contrast to to the suicide attempts described in the research (for those teens who are rejected by families).

Acceptance, understanding, and encouragement are so important. Not just for youth, but as IT can attest, at any age.

Blessings upon you, IT, and upon your wife in this search for a parish. And upon your family as well.

fear not/TheraP

Padre Mickey said...

Have fun in Berkeley, my home when I am in los Estados Unidos y la casa de Miss Bebé, the World's Most Beautiful Granchile™. I'm glad you visited All Soul's, IT, but next time check out St. Mark's. That's where I was seminarian and later part of the associate clergy. They can sing dem Krimble Karoles, too!

Scott Hankins said...

Blessed Christmas, BP and IT.

Erp said...

And a good new year from a fellow atheist.

Unfortunately I'm not too up on the Peninsula Episcopalian churches but University Church in Palo Alto should be fairly friendly (I haven't attended but I've met some of the ministers and congregation).

JCF said...

next time check out St. Mark's

Heh: small world, Padre! St. Mark's Ber(zer)keley is where my parents met and married (in 1956, a year or three before your seminarian/curacy stage, I expect *g*)

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Very nifty post...thanks IT!

James said...

JCF, I would so have driven up to take you to lunch! Next time, let me know.

Prayers arising for your employment and taht is works out correctly regarding your dear ol' dad, too.

Say a prayer for my employment. I have another state interview on Epiphany [ that's 6 January for the low church among us :) ]

Counterlight said...

A Happy and Prosperous New Year to IT and BP!

Anonymous said...

And a happy healthy 2009 to all of the Friends of Jake!