Though popular support of same-sex or queer families has increased in the last couple of years, homophobia and gender stigmatization still threatens us and the children we raise.
Queer parents, like other parents, focus on providing their child with safety, security, and happiness.
However, what’s different is that prejudice and non-inclusion can interfere with that due to mass ignorance and fear of the unknown.
How to tackle these challenges with raising children?
Education is essential.
The education you provide should allow you to teach your child and those around your family how to love humans for who they are, and avoid imposing preconceived ideas about who they should be.
In my first post, “Lessons From My Big Queer Framily” I talked about my own personal journey of finding myself and my community.
However, there are some issues that affect us all.
Luckily, there are abundant resources and many organizations that can support you in the Queer parenting process.
Although, each situation varies by location, family type and development stage of your child.
Here are some tips to help you survive Queer parenting:
Table Of Contents
- 1 1. Do Your Research With Raising Children
- 2 2. Safe Places
- 3 3. The Education System
- 4 4. Understand the Development Stage of Your Child and Educate Accordingly
- 5 5. Queer Friendly Cartoons and TV Shows
- 6 6. Queer Friendly Models
- 7 7. Family Support
- 8 8. Create a Community
- 9 9. Listen and Speak with Your Child
- 10 10. Don’t be Afraid to Defend Your Family
1. Do Your Research With Raising Children
Doing your research can prepare you and your children to be able to address different myths and issues that arise from ignorance.
Difference-fearing reactions of children and adults, at all ages, may occur unless you live in a LGBTQA-friendly compound, with a school, and rarely go elsewhere.
It is very likely that you, your partner (if you have one) and your child, will need to learn how to have patience with ignorance and possibility even prejudice.
The best way to combat this is to educate yourself and your child with facts and age appropriate anecdotes.
The Be Yourself Publication by PFLAG is a wonderful resource for getting down the terminology and feeling confident to explain yourself and family to other people.
Mombian has a great list of resources and can be a great starting point for new parents.
2. Safe Places
Unfortunately, the US has and still can be a very violent place for people on the margins of society.
Every city has liberal pocket holes and you may want to look into crime reports to gauge where intolerant areas are, if you feel you live in a city that may negatively affect the safety and well-being of your family.
You can start by using the Community of LGBT Center’s CenterLink Equality Maps, to identify state-by-state what issues and laws affect your particular locale.
Once you have identified any potential challenges to safety and equality, it’s time to identify and most likely make safe zones through education.
This can be at your work, at your child’s school and/or in any other social setting.
A safe zone, according to Gay Alliance, “… is a confidential place where all people can bring their authentic selves and feel safe, welcome and included… Creating safe zones or safe spaces is a proactive step that schools, agencies and corporations can take to create welcoming, inclusive spaces so that all people are empowered to reach their full potential.”
Check out their SafeZone programs to get stated on creating them in your area.
3. The Education System
One of the most practical areas to focus your attention on is your child’s school system.
Once you establish your safe places and people you can begin to identify where to tackle Queer education in the school system.
If it’s not obvious, Our Family Organization has a blog on “The Importance of LGBTQ Inclusive Education.”
There are also workshops, speakers, and trainings that can be offered to teachers at your child’s school to help them support your child in the classroom.
In some cases, organizations in your city may even approach your child’s education system for you.
The Safe Schools Coalition provides resources and lesson plans for all age groups and types of educators.
4. Understand the Development Stage of Your Child and Educate Accordingly
It’s hard to remember what it felt like to be a child, let alone imagine what your child may be going through.
For your younger children, books are a great way to bring up topics and normalize the untraditional family within the psyche of your child.
Parents Magazine recently published, Seven Great Children’s Books With Same-Sex Parents, which I found helpful in deciding on the right books for my particular situation.
While many books and resources exist to support younger children, helping your older children with education can be a bit trickier.
Connecting them with other kids who have LGBTQA parents is really important.
Colage is a unique organization, in that it brings together children of LGBTQA parents to find a community and places to tackle challenges together.
Their website also includes some tips about coming out to your kids, if you haven’t already done so. Also, if your child is more shy about reaching out to other people, you can give your child a book like, How It Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent: A Book by Kids for Kids of All Ages.
5. Queer Friendly Cartoons and TV Shows
In addition to conversations, literature and networking there are also alternative media resources.
It can be very confusing for a child, even one growing up in a Queer community, when the world around them fails to reflect what their own family looks like.
Films help to connect all the dots.
My favorite online children’s movies are The Bravest Knight and Rosaline which not only challenge relationship stereotypes through fairytales, these shows also are different in that they tackle the belittling gender norms in most cartoons and promote self-love and acceptance.
6. Queer Friendly Models
Normalizing doesn’t stop at the media.
For younger children, buying toys that imitate their own family can be one way of providing a solid playground of material for them to imagine in a context they understand.
A fantastic toy company is My Family Builders
If your child is a bit older, more complex associations can be made.
For example, it might be helpful for them to note some of the most remarkable people in history that were in the LGBTQA community.
Here is a list of people provided via the Safe School Coalition network: Hero Role Model Cards.
7. Family Support
If you live in a nontraditional family, conventional ways of approaching therapy and family support may not be sufficient.
Therefore, try and find out if your health provider has counselors or therapists on hand that understand and are empathetic to the Queer experience.
The GLMA works to ensure individual LGBT individuals have access to equal healthcare.
In addition, you may be suffering economically because of your identity.
There’s support for that too.
Our Family Coalition, for example, offers support to parents facing discrimination in the work force.
PFLAG offers support networks in most major cities of the US.
You can find the closest support network near you: here.
It has over 400 chapters in the US and is most noted for their success in working with rural communities.
8. Create a Community
As I explained in “Lessons From My Big Queer Framily”, having a Queer community to support you in your trail blazing parenting experience, has many benefits.
LGBTcenters.org is a great database for finding communities in the LGBTA spectrum.
There are also many other approaches to finding the right community for your family. Start by finding people who have or live similar values that you would like to share with your child.
If you wish to bring your child up in a particular faith, there are usually online resources to help parents within their faith online.
If you’re like me, and enjoy picking and choosing intuitively for what works best, there are also resources to help.
Finding other’s that understand what your going through and also need the support and family setting that they have been deprived up because of stigma, is one of the most beautiful relationships you can create.
9. Listen and Speak with Your Child
Luckily enough, your child was most likely born a native of the digital era, thus you even get a Wikihow on “How to talk to your kids About Homosexuality”.
It outlines how to talk to them, with topics like “handling social settings” and what to be honest about and when.
If you strive to be a good parent, providing an environment for healthy communication, listening without judgement, and a holding safe space where they can voice their emotions is crucial when tackling any parental challenge.
Personally, I’ve found the simple works, advice, and meditations in Tomorrow’s Children: A Cherokee Elder’s Guide to Parenting to be one of the most helpful resources for having a healthy relationship with yourself and your children.
The authors recommend holding monthly, or bimonthly family meetings where each person gets a chance to voice their emotions (with a stick being passed indicating the person that is speaking) and opinions can be heard, accepted, and challenged if necessary.
I think this is a practical way to navigate your relationship with your children.
10. Don’t be Afraid to Defend Your Family
Speaking out against prejudice and education may not be enough.
If you feel your rights have been hindered because of your sexual expression or gender, legal action may be required.
Although unlikely to be an immediate solution, it’s a way to ensure that your family and families in future generations have their rights protected.
One way to do that is to report any objectionable events.
The ACLU offers a reporting page on their website specifically for the LGBTQA community which may help you get the legal advice you need.
Pursuing this course may be tricky, as you can imagine.
It may be frustrating having to answer the same questions over again and watching your child suffer due to ignorance.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that when you create a safe space for your child, you’re creating a safe space for countless other children to grow up in.
Overall, becoming a Queer parent forces you to educate the world how to love and respect humans, no matter their gender, race, or sexual preference.
It may not be easy and it most certainly not fair, but you, by just being you and loving the people you love, are teaching the world how to love others.