NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Family Estrangements Due to Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

It's unfortunate that many LGBTQIA adult children are estranged from at least one family member due to homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. 

Emotional Support to Cope With Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia

This article will explore the reasons for these types of estrangements and suggest ways to get emotional support if you have been ostracized by one or more family members (see my articles: Coming Out as LGBTQIA and Coping With Homophobia in Your Family).

What is Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia?
Family members often feel fear, discomfort and mistrust of other family members who are LGBTQIA adults (see my article: Being the "Different One" in Your Family).

Heterosexual, gay, lesbian and bisexual people can also be transphobic and there is often fear and mistrust of bisexual people among heterosexual, gay, lesbian and trans people.

What is Internalized Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia?
Internalized homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is feeling phobic toward one's own sexual orientation or gender identity. This can range from minor discomfort to internalized self hatred.

Emotional Support to Cope With Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

An internalized phobia about one's own sexual orientation or gender identity can lead to hiding and feeling the need to "prove" a heterosexual identity in order to fit in. 

This often involves concealing oneself from close family members, friends, colleagues and others. 

Internalized phobia can also lead to a pervasive fear of being outed by others or that people in their life will find out in some other way, which can create, fear, anxiety and loneliness.

Why Do Families Cut Off Their LGBTQIA Family Members?
The following are the most common reasons for cutting off an LGBTQIA family member:
  • Refusal to Accept an Identity That is Different From Their Own: Many family members refuse to accept that their adult LGBTQIA children or siblings have an identity that's different from what they consider acceptable. Family members who stray from what is perceived as the family identity are often ostracized.
  • Shame About How the Family is Perceived By Their Community: Shame and embarrassment about how the family will be perceived by their community is often a reason why family members cut off LGBTQIA family members. The community might include their church or house of worship, neighbors, other family members outside the immediate family work colleagues and others.
  • Fear of Deviating From Family Values or Religion: In many families any deviation from what is considered the heteronormative feels like a threat to the family. This is especially true in enmeshed families where family members are expected to follow established norms and values. Family values often includes strict adherence to intolerant religious and discriminatory views.
  • Insecurity About Their Own Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: People who are insecure about their own sexual identity or gender identity often fear that if one family member isn't heterosexual, their own sexual orientation and gender might be threatened.
  • Refusal to Deal With Their Own Secret Sexual Orientation and Identity: Family members who have internalized phobia about their own secret sexual orientation and gender identity might ostracize family members who have come out because they fear their own non-heterosexual identity might be discovered. By ostracizing the family member, who has come out, they hope to try to "prove" they are heterosexual and loyal to their family's values.
  • Refusal to Set Boundaries With Other Phobic Family Members: Even when the immediate family accepts their LGBTQIA family member, they might not set appropriate boundaries with other family members who make phobic remarks. Even though they might not agree with these negative remarks, they are too afraid to confront the offending family members.
How to Take Care of Yourself If You Are Estranged From Your Family Due to Homophobia, Biphobia or Transphobia
Coming out to family members, especially family members who tend to be phobic, is a brave act.

Being ostracized from your family due to your sexual orientation or gender identity is an emotionally painful experience. It can exacerbate internalized phobia at a time when you might not feel grounded and safe in your identity.

Hopefully there's at least one family member who is accepting and supportive but, if there isn't, it's important to find an LGBTQIA community in your area if it exists or online.

Just finding others who identify as you do can be affirming. Even if you talk to just one person who has the same sexual orientation and gender identity as you can be helpful.

Get Emotional Support: LGBTQIA Organizations in New York City:
As of the date of this article, the following organizations can provide support for the LGBTQ population in New York City:
  • LGBTQ Community Center: (212) 620-7310
  • Astrea Lesbian Foundation For Justice: (212) 529-8021
  • Identity House: Support Groups, Peer Counseling Therapy Referrals and Resources: (212) 243-8181
Self Care and Pride

  • Callen-Lorde Community Center: (212) 271-7200
  • GMHC (Gay Men's Health Crisis): (212) 367-1000
  • The Audre Lorde Project (Brooklyn): (718) 596-0342
  • Institute For Contemporary Psychotherapy (ICP) - Center For Gender and Sexuality: (212) 333-3444 (Affordable Psychotherapy)
  • Institute For Human Identity: (212) 243-2830 (Affordable Psychotherapy)
Get Emotional Support: LGBTQIA Organizations Outside New York City
Outside of New York City, you can contact the following hotline as of the date of this article:
  • LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564

Getting Help in Therapy
You are not alone.

Working with a licensed LGBTQIA affirmative mental health professional can provide you with the emotional support and tools you need to take care of yourself.

Get Help in Therapy

You might need to grieve family relationships and friends who are not supportive of your sexual orientation or gender identity before you can thrive in your life, but seeking help is the first step.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from an LGBTQIA allied psychotherapist so you can lead a more fulfilling life with pride and dignity.

My Other Articles About Family Estrangements

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples, including the LGBTQIA community.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.