June is Pride Month. And what better time is there to start educating yourself and your children on trans and LGB+ identities? We’ve made it super easy for you with recommendations and resources from Tess* to support you in embarking on or continuing these crucial conversations.
Five Recommendations for Supporting Yourself and Your Children in Being More Inclusive:
1. EDUCATE yourself about the difference between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender presentation. Listed below is a useful resource for this. Sexual orientation pertains to whom someone experiences romantic and physical attraction. Gender identity is how someone experiences their own gender internally; gender presentation is how someone chooses to express their gender identity in terms of styling choices – and these two may not line up in the ways you expect! Sexual orientation does not equal gender identity, and gender identity does not equal gender presentation.
2. DON’T ASSUME that your child is straight and cisgender, and that you’re educating them about ‘other’ people. In our culture, we often assume that ‘straight’ is the default, and/or perceive LGBTQ identities as sexualized while straightness is not. Ally ship is important, but your ally ship and celebratory stance regarding gender and sexual diversity sets the tone for your child understanding they will be accepted and cared for no matter their identity. While using age-appropriate understandings of identity terms, understand that by openly discussing sexual and gender diversity with your child, you are potentially connecting them with their own self-understanding, a critical component in supporting mental well-being.
3. BE AWARE of your own nervousness and fragility regarding sexual and gender diversity. It’s okay to be nervous about things we don’t know about, and it’s normal to want to say and do the ‘right’ things – but don’t let nervousness keep you from addressing these topics. Try to educate yourself by reading articles and listening to media created by those in the LGBTQ+ communities. When we ‘shush’ a child for asking about someone’s gender presentation, we incidentally create a moment of shame for them regarding gender diversity. Instead, use moments in which your child has said something that could be hurtful, or asked a question, to compassionately explain how our society likes to fit people into boxes – and not everyone fits inside of those.
4. NORMALIZE the process of asking for consent, and tie this into providing your pronouns and asking for others’ pronouns. A consent-oriented culture is one that focuses on respecting individuals’ bodies and identities, so working on building a culture of consent regarding touch goes right along with building a culture that is more accepting of gender and sexual diversity. If you are in a business setting, if you or your child is using a name tag, if you are running a youth group or coaching your child’s sport, or when you are asking for someone’s name – when possible and safe to do so, include and normalize the process of stating your own pronouns and asking for others. This normalizes the asking process, supports an understanding that we can’t always tell someone’s gender by how they look, demonstrates respect, and contributes to creating an atmosphere in which it is safer for transgender and non-binary people to be themselves. Alongside this, practice using pronouns you’re unfamiliar with, such as singular ‘they/them’ pronouns.
5. SUPPORT your child to critically engage with what they are seeing in the media, and attempt to provide books, tv shows and movies that positively portray LGBTQ+ people as well as demonstrate the intersections of people’s identities. Historically, most media that focuses on LGB people is about the hardship and possible violence of the coming out process, and this is even more true for trans people. Try to find media and books for your child that have complex, 3-dimensional characters who experience joy and connectedness to provide a model of LGBTQ life that isn’t inherently tied to struggle. Look for LGBTQ+ characters who are Black, Two Spirited Indigenous or people of colour, who are ethnically diverse, of different religions, and who have disabilities. Talk with your child about moments or portrayals in media that are homophobic, transphobic, racist and sexist. Don’t assume that children’s media is free of these moments/portrayals simply because they are meant for children!
Five Resources to Deepen Your Understanding and Celebrate Inclusivity:
Books for middle grade readers featuring LGBTQ+ characters:
Books for teens and young adults featuring LGBTQ+ characters and characters of colour:
Kids shows that contain positively portrayed LGBTQ+ characters:https://www.pride.com/geek/2019/1/27/10-modern-kids-shows-awesome-queer-characters#media-gallery-media-1
How to navigate asking for someone’s pronouns:
A diagram clarifying the relationships between sexual orientation and gender identity:
*Tess Klaver is a Psychotherapist and Creator & Facilitator of “Rooted” – A Healthy Relationships Group for Youth with Family Counselling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries