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Gay Black Men Often Face Added Family Hurdles When Coming Out

FRIDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Coming out as gay to their families can be particularly difficult for young, black males, according to a small new study.

Young, black men have to cope with many challenges, including racism and sexism, according to the study. In the case of those who are gay, they also have to deal with homophobia and family disapproval or disappointment, the study suggested.

"Parents and youths alike worry that gay men cannot meet the rigid expectations of exaggerated masculinity maintained by their families and communities," study author Michael LaSala, director of the master's degree program at Rutgers University School of Social Work in New Brunswick, N.J., said in a university news release.

Male relatives can have particularly negative reactions when a young black man reveals that he is gay, the researchers found.

A common reaction among the male relatives of the black, gay youth in the study was that, "The world already sees you as less than others. By being gay, you're further hurting the image of African-American men," LaSala said.

His research included gay, black males, aged 19 to 25, and their families. The findings were published recently in the Journal of GLBT Family Studies.

Counseling, especially if it includes a young, gay man's biological father or a father figure, can help black families cope with what for many is an unexpected and troubling situation, LaSala said.

He found that many black parents feel guilty when they learn their son is gay and that many black, gay youths distance themselves from their parents before they reveal that they're gay.

The study also revealed that many parents found that having a confidante with whom they could share their emotions helped them realize their sons' sexual orientation was not the result of faulty parenting, and that they risked losing their son if they could not accept his being gay.

LaSala also found that black parents may be less likely than white parents to "mourn the loss of a normal life" for their gay sons. This may be because black parents understand that a "normal life" is less of a sure thing for their sons.

"I found that parents of African-American, gay youth said: 'You have everything going against you as a black man. This is one more strike against you.' Conversely, parents of white, gay youth stated: 'You have everything going for you -- and now this,'" LaSala said.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains the four stages of coming out.

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