In 2002 Caitlin Ryan founded the Family Acceptance Project, an organization which, in part, studies the impact of family acceptance or rejection on the health and well-being of LGBT youth. As part of Utah State University’s Research Week, Ryan has been invited to present her own research, which includes a short, yet powerful film entitled “Families Are Forever.” The film follows the journey of the Montgomerys, a Mormon family, as they struggled then learned to support their gay 13-year-old son Jordan.
The following is a clip from the film, which has won 20 awards and has been screened at over 60 festivals worldwide. Wendy Montgomery, Jordan’s mother who you will hear in the clip, will also be speaking as part of Ryan's presentation in Logan.
“Our most important value as a church is the family. I was mortified by the idea by being disowned by my parents,” Jordan said. “He was like ‘what’s the point of my life?’ I didn’t have answers,” the mother Wendy said. “I was thinking I would just like get all the pills, take them all at once, and die right then,” Jordan said. “There’s something not right with a 13-year-old having to think that,” Wendy said.
Ryan is a clinical social worker who has worked in the area of LGBT health and mental health for over 40 years. She organized the Family Acceptance Project to include materials, based on research, which help families understand what sexual orientation and gender identity mean, as well as provide resources for discussion.
Ryan felt the need to develop faith-based materials that were specific to different denominations.
“I started with the Mormons because our findings were that families were central in the lives of their LGBT children either in promoting risk or promoting well-being," Ryan said. "Families are central to Mormon theology and culture. I felt that we could really help not only Mormon families support their LGBT children, but we could show that young people can stay connected to their families and stay connected to their culture and faith traditions even if parents disagree.”
Her main goals for this program have been to prevent homelessness, suicide, substance abuse and other serious health risks and support healthy self-esteem and well-being for LGBT youth. She said the main message is that parents, caregivers and families can support their LGBT children without accepting an identity they believe is wrong.
“So often in the media these issues are split into secularism on one side and religion on the other, and the discourse has been so negative. We bring a different framework and different approach, and one that I think has a very successful resolution in strengthening families in supporting their LGBT children’s well-being.”
The presentation and screening will be held Wednesday evening in the Taggart Student Center Ballroom.