Often when a gay member of the family comes out of the closet, the family heads in. That's a trend a group of more than 300 psychologists is trying to change.
The group, Psychologists Affirming Their Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Family (AFFIRM), was organized more than two years ago to encourage "open" family support of gay, lesbian and bisexual relatives.
"As professionals we can say, 'Look, we have kids, cousins, brothers, etc., and we're not going to deny it,'" says Donald Freedheim, PhD, who has a family member who is gay. "We're not going to wave a flag on it, but we can be open about it."
AFFIRM member Marvin Goldfried, PhD, says that studies estimate between 50 million to 100 million people have gay, lesbian or bisexual family members. But the vast amount of literature on gays, lesbians and bisexuals is being ignored by mainstream psychology, and the field needs to pay attention to it, says Goldfried, a professor of psychology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
AFFIRM has recently posted bibliographies on its Web site (www.sunysb.edu/affirm) on gay, lesbian and bisexual issues that often get overlooked by psychology, including couple relationships, domestic violence, adolescence, aging, and family and parenting.
"These are invisible areas of psychology, and we want to promote a greater link with this literature and what is being done in mainstream literature," Goldfried says. "Mainstream psychology has much to gain because some of the conclusions that have been reached are based only on heterosexual human behaviors....We might have to rethink some of our conclusions about human behavior."