Happy summer everyone!
As I’m sure many of you know, last month (June) was Pride Month. Toronto threw its annual parade and the whole downtown core was awash with rainbow symbols. I felt mighty proud.
But, we still have a long way to go as a society in our quest for acceptance and social equality for the LGBTQ+ community. And parents with LGBTQ+ children have their own unique set of challenges. Some parents discover that their liberal and accepting attitudes don’t extend as far as they once thought. They may have felt they were open minded adults, accepting of their gay adult friends, but can’t seem to get their head around the idea that their son wants to wear make-up to grandma’s birthday brunch.
But, parental guilt, confusion, fear and denial can be overcome.
Be gentle with yourself as a parent. The job is already confusing enough and now you’re in new territory! As you navigate this new facet of parenting, make sure you and your child find a source of support. That might be through an online Facebook group, a close friend, or even a therapist. The key is that neither of you feel alone.
It’s also important to be educated.
Let’s face it, our high school sex education was woefully inadequate. Find your resources and know your stuff so you are prepared when your child comes to you with a question or concern. My church (Unitarian Universalist), for example, has a very progressive program called OWL (Our Whole Lives) that provides terrific programming on lifespan sexuality education. It’s for families of children of all ages. I urge you all to check it out – Even Oprah covered it in her magazine!
Action Canada also published a wonderful book for educators called “Beyond the Basics”. They do a great job of explaining cultural changes, and the new perspective in which we now think about sex, gender and sexuality.
We also know that there are greater risks of bullying and mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community. Parents need to keep a closer watch on how their children are being treated by the greater society and be a continuing advocate.
And, at the end of the day, our job as parents is to show unconditional love and acceptance.
We need to empower our children as they explore and honour their experience of themselves over time, in their gender identity and sexual attractions. We need to do our part to break down the gender norms and stereotypes that limit our children’s ability to be their authentic selves.
So, while Pride Month may be over, let’s celebrate diversity and push for more rights and inclusivity all year long!