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As parents, we want to raise good humans. Parents want their kids to grow up to be kind, thoughtful people. For a lot of parents that also includes raising your child to be an LGBTQ ally. You do not have to be part of an LGBTQ home or even know someone personally who identifies as LGBTQ+ to be an ally and raise an LGBTQ ally. All you need is the desire to be kind and accepting of all people, and to want to create an inclusive environment for all people, whether or not they are like you and your family. These 5 tips for raising an LGBTQ ally can help you get started.
1. Start being an LGBTQ Ally by Learning
The first step in being an LGBTQ ally is to learn about the LGBTQ+ community. Start by learning about the proper terminology to use when speaking about the LGBTQ+ community. Learn about gay and lesbian identies, gender identity, what is means to be transgender, and how to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth (and adults!).
If you are not sure how to do that, that is okay. There are all kinds of resources to help learn how to be LGBTQ ally. The Trevor Project is one great place to start. The Trevor Project is a resource that provides all sorts of information about the LGBTQ+ community and also serves as a support for LGBTQ+ young people who are struggling and need help. PFLAG is another amazing resource that provides support, information, and resources for LGBTQ+ people, their families, and for people wanting to be an LGBTQ ally.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is important to keep learning. Just because you read through all the information on being an LGBTQ ally on PFLAG’s website, does not mean you know everything about the LGBTQ+ community. Commit to continuing to learn and involve your children in this process. Read age-appropriate books with LGBTQ characters. Talk about same-sex marriage. Talk about what it means to be transgender. Talk about how all families look different and that a home with two moms or two dads has just as much love as a home with a mom and a dad.
If your kids ask questions, answer them honestly. When they ask a question that you do not know the answer to, tell them you are not sure but that you can look it up and learn about it together. Empower your kids to learn and become an educated LGBTQ ally.
2. Try to Avoid Stereotypes and Bias
Society is dominated by heteronormative stereotypes and bias. If you are thinking, “That sure is a mouthful!” or “What exactly does that mean?”, it is actually quite simple. Without necessarily realizing it, we mostly raise our children in a world that reinforces gender stereotypes and biases based on a heterosexual lifestyle. We tell girls they are pretty and boys they are strong. We give boys trucks and girls dolls to play with. Girls are given nail polish and makeup. Boys get tool sets and pocket knives. Girls are encouraged to play dress up. Boys are encouraged to run around outside and climb trees.
Relationships are talked about in terms of a boy and a girl. Marriage is usually depicted between a man and a woman. Girls are taught that they need to grow up and keep house and be a mom (even when encouraging them to be smart and go after whatever job they want) while boys are taught that to be a man they need to be able to support their wife and kids through a good job.
Rather than encouraging gender stereotypes and basing everything on a heterosexual relationship, challenge those stereotypes from a young age. Do not enforce the idea that there are boy things and girl things. Toys, colors, activities, feelings, behaviors, etc. are simply human things. This helps you be and raise an LGBTQ ally by teaching your children from a young age that it is acceptable to like whatever it is that you like, no matter who you are or what you look like.
Boys play with trucks when that is what they are given, so offer dolls, dress up clothes, and nail polish too. Encourage your boys to talk about how they feel. Let them be shy or sensitive. The same goes for girls. A little girl may like to put on a dress and pail her fingernails, but she might also like playing in the dirt with dump trucks or painting her room blue instead of pink. Encourage them to be strong and self-assured.
Your little boy may have no interest in wearing a dress or painting his fingernails, but by not reinforcing stereotypes, you will have raised him to be accepting of the boy at school who does. Not only will he be accepting, he will not be the kind of kid to avoid being friends with the kids at school who like those things. He is also likely to tell other kids who are being mean and who are not accepting to back off. That is being an LGBTQ ally.
3. Speak Up
Being a good LGBTQ ally is more than being accepting. While being accepting is important, what makes a good ally is someone who is willing to use their resources, opportunities, or privilege when possible to support and help people. So talk about bullying with your kids and how it is not okay to make fun of or hurt someone who is different. Encourage them to stand up for their LGBTQ+ classmates and get help from a teacher or other adult if someone is being bullied. Encourage them to speak up if someone makes a joke or a derogatory comment about LGBTQ+ people.
Be sure that you are modeling the same behavior. If someone says something derogatory or makes a negative comment about the LGBTQ+ community, say something. When your uncle goes on a rant at the family reunion about how gay marriage is bad without stepping in and saying something gives the impression that you are condoning that type of behavior. When the adults in their lives do not speak up in that sort of situation, how can we expect our kids to do it when they are in the same situation?
4. Don’t Sugar Coat the Truth
It is awesome that you are accepting and want to create an inclusive environment for people of all genders and sexual orientations. But the whole world is not like that. Do not hide the fact that it can be really difficult to grow up as an LGBTQ+ person. Talk to your kids about prejudice, bias, and hatred toward the LGBTQ+ community. Discuss ways you (and they) can help.
Part of being an LGBTQ ally is being understanding and realizing that there are hateful people out there. This, along with accepting people for who they are and for who they love, can help your kids understand why it is so important to help create an accepting, affirming, and inclusive community, especially for LGBTQ+ youth.
Another thing to teach your kids when raising them to be a good LGBTQ ally is that it is not always comfortable or easy. It may not be easy to look at a family member or coworker and tell them they are being hateful. It is not always easy to stand up to other kids at school who are being mean. But just because something is not easy, does not mean it is not worth it or not important – it is usually quite the opposite.
5. Show Up and Get Involved
One of the best ways to be an LGBTQ ally and show support for the LGBTQ+ community is to participate in it. Consider attending local events like Pride parades and rallies or things like Drag Queen Story Hours. If you have a local LGBT Center, check out the upcoming events in your area. You do not have to be part of the LGBTQ+ community to take part in these sorts of events. By showing up and exposing your kids to different experiences and all sorts of different people, they will see that there is nothing wrong with being different.
What is awesome is the fact that there is no one right way to be an LGBTQ ally. What else is awesome is that anyone can be an ally – even our kids. Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is easy. It is about being kind, accepting, and open to learning. It is okay not to have all the answers and it is okay to make mistakes. It might be uncomfortable sometimes, especially if you are new to allyship. What matters is that you keep trying and keep encouraging your kids to be good allies too.
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