New campaign encourages mums to help their kids come out

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A new anti-homophobia campaign is targeting working class mothers in the belief they “act as the catalyst for change” in the family unit.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, (THT) an HIV and sexual health charity, is launching the “Family Matters” campaign, funded by the Department of Health.

“We know there is a link between poor health and social exclusion,” says Marc Thompson, deputy head of health promotions at THT.

“We want to create a healthy home environment for young men to come out in.”

THT’s media campaign involves placing ads in women’s magazines.

They hope this will persuade mothers to take an active role in helping their children to come out without the fear of retribution from the family.

“Having a son or daughter come out as gay can be shocking or worrying, but there is support out there,” said Mr Thompson.

“By helping families cope, talk and avoid friction we hope to reduce the physical and mental damage that can be caused by estrangement. Keeping the family together is what matters.

“Research indicates that there is a greater impact on working class men.

“Our campaign is specifically targeted at men when coming out in the family.”

The campaign has been criticised for targeting only young gay men. Young lesbians and transgender teenagers are likely to face the same level of homophobia from their family as gay men.

“The funding of the campaign was on the basis that it is trying to tackle the prevalence of HIV among young gay men,” Marc says. “But if you go to our website you will find information for girls and boys about dealing with homophobia. Of course we would always refer people to the best source of help.”

Fears that homophobia leads to anxiety, self harm and depression have been in the media spotlight recently when Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg spoke out against homophobic bullying earlier this month.

“Gay pupils have higher levels of truancy, drop-out, mental health problems, panic attacks and eating disorders,” Mr Clegg said.

“Worst of all, one survey has shown that half of lesbian, gay and bisexual adults who were bullied at school contemplated self-harm or suicide.”

“And four in ten had attempted it at least once. These facts are as tragic as they are outrageous.”

The Family Matters campaign is aiming to bring these numbers down.

“We want to create a healthy home environment so that gay men are less likely to take risks,” said Mr Thompson.

In the last decade the number of gay men suffering from HIV has doubled, something THT attribute to the poor health brought on by social exclusion.