Every June, LGBTQ+ communities around the world celebrate Pride Month. Marked by parades and rainbows, the month aims to support and commemorate the ongoing pursuit of equal justice and rights for those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. This all-encompassing celebration is a great time to talk to your kids about the importance of Pride, the LGBTQ+ community, and what it means to be a part of that community. To help you address these topics, we put together a list of information and resources to use during Pride Month and beyond.
Understanding the history of Pride
The first step to educating your kids is to understand why Pride is important. The modern Pride celebration and LGBTQ+ liberation movement started in the 1970’s. What’s important to remember is that up until the 1970’s, men who dressed in women’s clothes were arrested for cross-dressing. What we now call “drag” was a criminal act for many years in the United States. After years of being persecuted by the police and their communities, members of the gay community in New York City had had enough.
In the early morning of June 28, 1969, members of the gay community in New York City lead a series of demonstrations in response to a police raid of a local bar often frequented by gay men. Violence broke out soon after the raid as outrage erupted from the other patrons and community members. Throughout the night and into the following days, members of the gay community continued to riot and protest. Known as the Stonewall Riots, these acts of protest kicked off the modern movement for liberation and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
Soon after the riots, New York City become the center for gay activism and organizations, sparking a nation-wide movement the next year that soon crossed borders and oceans. The movement was not without its issues though, as race, class, gender, and ideology played a large role in how each group of activists pursued their goals. As the years went on, Pride became an important reminder of the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community but also a time to celebrate the positive progress being made.
In the United States, throughout the 80’s and 90’s, the LGBTQ+ community fought through the AIDS epidemic, the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, and a slew of discrimination at all levels of government and community. It wasn’t until the 2000’s that the LGBTQ+ community began to see a breakthrough in equality and rights, sparked by the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2008 in California. In 2009, President Barack Obama declared June Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, marking the 40th anniversary of the riots. A massive milestone was achieved in 2015 when the United States legalized same sex marriage on a federal level.
Pride Month commemorates all of the tough history, lives lost, and struggles experienced, while also celebrating the wins. While the world, and the United States, have come a long way in terms of acceptance and celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, there is still a need to fight for equality and acceptance. It starts with teaching your kids acceptance and understanding.
Teaching Kids about the LGBTQ+ community
Starting to educate your kids young about love and acceptance early is crucial, especially in a world where other kids with two dads or two moms is becoming more common. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 26% of LGBTQ+ children say they do not feel accepted in their communities. By raising compassionate and accepting children, you are setting your kids up to be better neighbors, friends, and family members.
For young kids, focusing on being an ally regardless of if they identify with the LGBTQ+ community is the first step to helping them understand. Start with the idea that members of the LGBTQ+ community are human beings, the same as you and your kid. Avoid minimizing or devaluing the LGBTQ+ experience or placing them into categories that might dehumanize them. Remind them that tolerance is not acceptance and that all members of the LGBTQ+ community should be treated with respect and love.
Make sure to separate anatomy from LGBTQ+ conversations. Some might shy away from having this conversation with their kids for fear of them being too young and the sexualization of many LGBTQ+ people. It’s important to separate LGBTQ+ from the “birds and the bees” and sexualization as this can degrade LGBTQ+ people. Even though gender is somewhat linked with anatomy, addressing acceptance and love should be the first step to teaching young kids. As they get older, teaching them about what it means to be transgender and ideas surrounding gender and sexuality are crucial and should be addressed when the time is right.
Getting kids exposed to the amazing members of the LGTBQ+ community early on also helps them identify and understand who these people are. Instead of being a trope or punchline on TV, introduce them to members of the local LGBTQ+ community, take them to drag storytime, and bring them to Pride events. Reading age-appropriate stories of LGBTQ+ experiences, especially ones about their peers, can help them better understand if they don’t identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. You can find a list of resources to use below.
How you can champion and support your LGBTQ+ kids
Creating an open and accepting environment where your kids can come to you about their gender and sexuality is the first step to supporting your LGBTQ+ kids. A welcoming home where they feel safe and secure in themselves is so important for their mental health and ability to grow and thrive. Make sure they know you will love them regardless of how they identify.
Educating yourself on the terms and ideas surrounding gender identification and sexuality will help make conversations easier and more open. You can find a list of terms from the Human Rights Campaign. Work to look beyond the stereotypes of LGBTQ+ individuals and instead find role models you can share with your kids. You should also make sure you stay open to how your child is expressing themselves. Don’t shame their choices of clothes or makeup. Being supportive about how they prefer to represent themselves gives them a safe space to experiment and be creative.
There are so many stories out there about the horrific bullying that LGBTQ+ children experience both in person and online. As a parent, part of your job is keeping your kids safe and staying alert to how they are acting can help you know if they are experiencing bullying or other harassment. If you have any concerns, contact a teacher, guidance counselor, or school administrator immediately.
Being an advocate in the community for LGBTQ+ people is just as important as creating a safe home environment. Parents can contact school leadership to push for more inclusive sex education, LGBTQ+-friendly organizations such as the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and encouraging cirriculum that highlights LGBTQ+ stories and writers. Parents have a lot of pull and finding other parents with LGBTQ+ kids is a solid network to have during their formative years.
Acceptance, celebration, and love are all cornerstones of Pride Month and the LGBTQ+ community. By educating yourself and your kids about the LGBTQ+ experience, you are creating a world where hopefully one day Pride Month won’t have to be a reminder to push for equal rights and justice.
Books to teach your kids about Pride and the LGBTQ+ Community
Disclaimer: These resources are meant as a support to parents to educate and talk to their children about the LGTBQ+ experience and should not be treated as the only material needed.