New Report: How Parents Would React to Gay Children

June 29th 2015

Sarah Gray

Friday was a landmark day for LGBT rights. The Supreme Court of the United States extended the constitutional right to marriage to same-sex couples throughout the nation. The ruling was released not only on the anniversary of two major LGBT rights cases -- Lawrence v. Texas and United States v. Windsor -- and before the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, but it also happened when a whopping 57 percent of the country supports same-sex marriage. Support for LGBT issues isn't limited to marriage. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center also found that a greater number of parents are accepting if a child comes out as gay or lesbian.

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Three decades ago in 1985, a Los Angeles Times survey found that only 9 percent of parents would not be upset if their child came out as gay, while 89 percent of parents would be upset. The number of upset parents has slowly decreased over time, and the number of accepting parents has increased, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2004, 36 percent of parents would not be upset, and as of a survey done in May 57 percent of parents would not be upset if their child was gay or lesbian. (Thirty-nine percent said they would be upset, a 50 percentage point drop from three decades prior.)

Changing Reactions to Gay Child

The survey question asked back in May of 2015 was a hypothetical question asked to those with and without children. Millennials were least likely to be upset if their child came out as gay or lesbian -- only 29 percent said they would be upset. Gen Xers Boomers and Silents are less likely to be accepting -- responding they'd be upset 36 percent, 47 percent, 55 percent respectively.

In 2013, Pew Research Center asked a similar question from a different perspective: They surveyed lesbians and gays on whether or not it was difficult to come out to their parents. As of two years ago, it was still a tough for gay Americans to come out to their parents: 74 percent of gay men said it was tough to come out to their father and 64 percent said it was tough to come out to their mother. For lesbians, 63 percent said it was tough to come out to their father, while 65 percent said it was tough to come out to their mother. Overall however, not many respondents said it weakened their relationship, a greater majority said it either strengthened their relationship or their relationship with their parents had no change.

Coming Out to Parents Difficult for Gay Men and Lesbians

LGBT youth however, still face high rates of homelessness -- many of them due to the fact that they are not accepted by family. A report released in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth, and Families found the following after conducting a survey of youth on the streets in 11 different cities:

"FYSB recently conducted a first-of-its kind study of young people living on the streets in 11 cities. Street outreach workers in those cities interviewed and conducted focus groups with a total of 656 street youth ages 14 to 21. In this study, nearly half had been kicked out or abandoned by their parents or guardians and nearly 30& percent of participants reported being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Almost 7 percent reported being transgender. Moreover, 60 percent had been raped, beaten up, or robbed, among other things. The data from this study is consistent with findings in other research. For example, other research suggests youth come from families who struggle with poverty and mental health or other behavioral disorders and corroborates that a substantial proportion of homeless youth (some researchers estimate between 20 and 40 percent) are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender."

The Pew Research Center survey did not look at transgender Americans, or parents of transgender Americans.