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Jan Wood wasn't sure where to turn when she first learned her 16-year-old daughter, Lauren, was gay. She craved information.

Jordan Despain, a sophomore at Brighton High, worried about being an "outcast" when he came out a few months ago. He needed to talk to someone who would understand.

Now there are two more resources available in Utah for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths and their parents.

A new nonprofit group is launching the "Pride Empathy Line" (801-GO-PRIDE) on Feb. 1. Volunteers will give callers basic information about sexual orientation and gender identity, referrals to community resources and an empathetic ear.

Callers who are suicidal will be connected to Valley Mental Health's crisis hotline, said empathy-line founder Melanie Squire. The Trevor Project (1-866-4-U-TREVOR) is a national crisis line for LGBT individuals but Squire, a 31-year-old social work student, wanted to create a resource for Utahns.

"I really want to provide support for members of this community," she said. "I want them to feel that even if they are rejected by their families, if they are rejected by their religion and they don't have a place to go, that this is a number they can call and get that support they are needing."

For parents, University of Utah psychology professor David Huebner has completed an online informational video that features four families sharing their experiences of learning a teenage son or daughter is gay or lesbian. The 35-minute documentary, "Lead With Love," is set for a public premiere on Jan. 19, 7 p.m., at the Salt Lake City Main Library, 201 E. 400 South. But more importantly, Huebner said, parents can watch the film online now from the privacy of their own homes.

"Aside from group-based interventions like PFLAG [Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays] and going to see a therapist one-on-one, there is very little available for parents who are uncomfortable talking publicly about the fact that their child is gay," Huebner said. "During that time that parents are uncomfortable they are having a tremendous impact on their kids. … My hope is that if we can educate parents privately in their homes, they can start doing the right thing for their kids sooner."

In its first week online, more than 3,000 people viewed the film, which was funded by a National Institutes of Health grant.

LGBT youths who experience high levels of family rejection are eight times more likely to attempt suicide, six times more likely to experience depression and three times more likely to use illegal drugs than those who don't, according to a study Huebner co-authored in the medical journal Pediatrics.

Most parents know to avoid obvious rejection, such as kicking a kid out of the house, Huebner said. But more subtle brush-offs also are harmful — excluding a child from family events, telling a child to stop dressing "so gay" or blocking the child's access to LGBT friends and resources.

In the film, Huebner encourages parents to continue to show affection to their children; express their pain to a friend, therapist or journal entries instead of to their child; avoid rejecting behaviors; and "do good" for their child even when they don't feel good about the child being gay. He and another mental-health expert also debunk common misconceptions about being gay.

"When Lauren came out, there was so much education I felt like I needed," said Wood, a Salt Lake City mom featured in the documentary. "I didn't understand that being gay was who she was. I thought it was a choice she had made."

After coming out as gay, Despain found support from his mother and the Utah Pride Center. He plans to launch a gay-straight alliance at Brighton High next year to offer support to other teens. He likes the idea of the "pride" help line.

"I looked for something like that in Utah, and I didn't really find anything," Despain said. "I think that will probably be a great resource for kids."

New resources for LGBT youths, their parents

Film • "Lead With Love," a 35-minute documentary, features the stories of parents of gay children and advice from mental health professionals. Watch it online at, or go to the film's premiere followed by a discussion with the filmmakers and families, Jan. 19, 7 p.m., Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South; free.

Help line • Starting Feb. 1, the "Pride Empathy Line" will offer help at 801-GO-PRIDE to LGBT youths or those with questions about sexual orientation and gender identity. Volunteers will be trained on Jan. 15 and 22. To volunteer, contact Tiffanie Cole, 801-696-0074 or

"Kids Like Me" • In addition to the support groups already offered by the Utah Pride Center, the center is starting a group for "gender exceptional" children — those who don't fit in with typical gender norms — and their parents. An open house is Feb. 12, 12-1:30 p.m., Utah Pride Center, 361 N. 300 West, Salt Lake City. Find more information at