Michael LaSala

Coming Out, Coming Home


Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child

The discovery that a child is gay or lesbian can send shockwaves throughout a family. A mother will question how she’s raised her son; a father will worry that his daughter will experience discrimination. From the child’s perspective, gay and lesbian youth fear their families will reject them, and that they will lose financial and emotional support. All in all, learning a child is gay challenges long held views about sexuality and relationships, and the resulting uncertainty can produce, for all parties, anger, resentment, and concern for safety and acceptance.

Through a qualitative, multicultural study of sixty-five gay and lesbian children and their parents, Michael LaSala, a leading expert on this issue, outlines effective, practice-tested interventions for families in transition. His research reveals surprising outcomes, such as learning that a child is homosexual can improve familial relationships, including father-child relationships, even if a parent reacts strongly or negatively to the revelation. By confronting feelings of depression, anxiety, and grief head on, Dr. LaSala formulates the best approach for practitioners who hope to reestablish intimacy among family members and preserve family connections—as well as individual autonomy—well into the child’s maturation. By restricting his study to parents and children of the same family, he accurately captures the reciprocal effects of family interactions and how they can be targeted for treatment. Coming Out, Coming Home is also a valuable text for families, enabling adjustment through relatable scenarios and analyses.

Published by Columbia University Press

$27.50 / £19.00 paper 978-0-231-14383-7
$82.50 / £57.00 cloth 978-0-231-14382-0
June 2010 288 pages


Book Review


“LaSala draws on years of working with families and their gay and lesbian children to write a warm and wonderfully compassionate book. With insight and wisdom, his study examines very real and honest stories of how gay and lesbian people cope with accepting their families and how parents and siblings work to love and protect their offspring. It takes a remarkable look into the human condition of gay and lesbian struggles in the twenty-first century, and I highly recommended it.”

Gilbert Herdt, San Francisco State University, and coauthor of Children of Horizons: How Gay and Lesbian Teens are Leading a New Way Out of the Closet

“A compassionate and insightful study of this challenging but rewarding rite of passage.”

Michael P. Nichols, author of The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships and Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods

“Michael C. LaSala’s research reveals a key truth: as difficult and painful as it can sometimes be to accept a loved one as LGBT, not accepting them is often more difficult and painful and can leave a permanent fracture in the family. With compassion and patience, families can find their way through the coming out process to stronger and more honest relationships. In the end, parents want what is best for their children, and what is best for children is the love and acceptance of parents.”

Jody M. Huckaby, PFLAG National Executive Director

“The stigma of gays and lesbians continues to wound, even in what should be more enlightened times; still caught in the fallout are parents. Research has begun to make sense of families with gay/lesbian children; science is getting a handle on the phenomena. This book adds color to the data, partly done through an amazingly rich collection of interviews. It also arises from LaSala’s experiences, both as a gay man and as a counselor with more than twenty-five years of service. The colors are deep and the hues are magnificent for many reasons, but especially for the honesty and integrity LaSala has brought to the task.”

Patrick W. Corrigan, Institute of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology

“This wonderful book captures the very personal challenges and triumphs of the coming out process in the words of sixty-five gay and lesbian youth and their parents. Their honest and touching comments will be a great source of comfort to young people and families going through the process. A pioneering study, it provides a very sensitive roadmap through the stages of this journey and will be a valuable tool for psychotherapists, counselors, and family therapists. It should be required reading for everyone in the mental health field.”

Nancy Boyd-Franklin, Rutgers University, and author of Black Families in Therapy: Understanding the African American Experience