“Pride month” – a month dedicated to the celebration of LGBTQ+(*) culture and the support of LGBTQ+ rights – comes to an end. However, gender and sexual diversity is a year-round discussion to be had. It is particularly important to talk about this topic with your children for our society to become more accepting and inclusive. Here are some “notes” to help you continue the conversation at home, with family and friends. Talking about gender and sexual diversity does not have to be awkward; actually, the more casual you are about it, the more normal it will feel to your kids. If you believe you don’t know enough to talk about it, it is easy to get some basic information off the internet. Learn about the difference between sexuality and gender.
“Sexuality is who you go to bed with; gender identity is who you go to bed as”.
Once you are more comfortable with some of the terms, you can start pointing out some facts. For example, not every family is exactly the same – some children only have one parent, some have 2 homes, others may have 2 moms or 2 dads.
Try using casual moments to initiate the conversation, such as a car ride after school, dinner time, or if a relevant scene comes across when watching TV. It can be easier to talk about the “gender spectrum” using real life examples; that kid at the park who has really long hair but is a boy, or the girl in school who hates wearing “girly stuff” and likes playing soccer. Once you’ve taken examples from your life or TV, you can introduce the concept of non-binary gender and potentially transgender people.
All girls do not wear pink dresses, feel the need be “pretty”, nor do they only like to play with dolls and glitters; All boys do not want to wear only blue outfits, have to be “strong” and only play with superheroes and toy cars.
Children make a lot of comments and ask questions constantly; they may tell you about what a classmate said in class or bring up a discussion they started elsewhere. Don’t worry about having all answers ready! It is ok to just respond “you know what? I don’t know. But it’s a really good question, let me look it up!”.
In return, feel free to ask questions to better understand what they know, understand and how they feel about it. You might get surprised by how unfazed they are. A mother once reported a chat with her pre-teen daughter who was telling her that all her friends, girls, had girlfriends. After asking her if she had one as well, the child said “nope” and changed the topic.
As long as you approach topics in a positive and accepting view of diversity – whether it be racial, cultural, gender or sexual – your child will understand that it is normal. It will allow them to ask more questions in the future, to welcome people of various types of expression or orientation in their life and, potentially, allow them to express themselves without shame.
Conversations about gender and sexuality will be different with a 5-year-old than that of with a 12-year-old. Look into resources to navigate developmentally appropriate ways of communicating with your children.
“By building a foundation of love and acceptance with your child early in their lives, you will help them gain a strong and positive sense-of-self. Through teaching and modeling acceptance for LGBTQ+ identities, you also help your child become a positive agent for change in our world” – Samantha King (pronouns she/her/hers), Family Support and Education Specialist, Gender & Sexuality Development Clinic, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
(*) LGBTQ+ is the acronym used to refer to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer community, but also any person whose gender identity and/or sexuality is considered as a minority.