Growing up with lesbian parents, I wished my classmates’ parents had talked to them about homosexuality. Here are eight reasons why it’s important you talk to your kids about homosexuality. It’s all part of the mission of raising globally-minded children!
1. Eventually, inevitably, they will meet someone who is gay.
They may have already. With more and more gay people having kids there could be gay parents in your preschool or playgroup. When that fateful meeting occurs, it might be nice for your kids to have some context. Part of parenting is explaining the world to your children, essentially creating order from chaos.
2. It is never too early.
Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for. I understood by kindergarten that my family was different because I had multiple mommies and often tried to break it down for classmates. It would have been nice if they’d had some clue as to what I was talking about. Kindergarten curriculum tends to incorporate lessons about family composition, which depending on the school may help or hinder your cause. I was lucky enough to have my parents hold teacher in-services, in which they explained the need for inclusion of my family type. You may have to undo confusion caused in the classroom or you may be elaborating on the existing material, either way your voice is important.
3. If you don’t someone else will.
It will likely be on the playground. Kids love to share the information they’ve garnered with each other. So much of learning is social and peer-based. If you neglect to talk to your children about important things, other kids will have those conversations for you. Those children might already have different values and prejudices from your own. Before you let a random fourth grader shape your child’s stance on gender expression as a concept maybe you should take some time to talk it over yourselves.
4. Children are naturally open-minded.
Hatred is taught. Similarly, acceptance, tolerance and compassion can be encouraged. As these are traits we endorse generally in society, practicing with gay people is a great start.
5. Children are also naturally self-absorbed, black and white thinkers.
It’s good to help them develop skills around empathy and difference. Part of talking about people being gay is teaching kids that there are people different from them (potentially) in the world. “Everyone is not the same” may be a novel concept for children, who have a hard time grasping that there’s anyone outside of themselves. Talking about the ways in which humanity is diverse is skill building. Prepping them to understand and respect others is the foundation for empathy. Successful relationships are built on that foundation of respect.
6. They might be gay too.
There is a chance that your child already does or will someday identify as gay. If you’ve talked about it, they’ll know how you feel and it will ease their anxiety to know they are safe and accepted. In the absence of explicit interchange, kids assume all kinds of things. They might feel they can’t be fully themselves or fully a part of the family. I recently saw a dance piece in Los Angeles that featured movement concentrated in the periphery of the viewer’s field of vision. The choreographer described the inspiration for the work as how he felt in his family growing up—as though he and his queerness existed largely in the periphery. Making sure our children know they will be loved for who they are is a central task of good parenting.
7. Homophobia is intimately intertwined with sexism, which oppresses us all.
So much of what we perceive as homophobia hinges on underlying sexism. That is why the targets for violence are more likely to be effeminate boys/men and girls/women who are seen as more masculine. They are punished for being non-normative gender wise. But the strictures of gender conformity end up making us less complete, more repressed versions of our true selves. Men especially have been forced into a very narrow set of behavioral options. It is not just gay people who will benefit from the progress made in that regard.
8. The more you talk to your kids the better off they are.
Establishing open lines of communication helps maintain trust and encourages kids to come forward with other things they might be confused about. Studies have also shown that the learning gap associated with poverty in fact relates to the amount of words heard in the home. Poorer children tend to hear far fewer words and the disparity in the first couple of years creates deficits in the long run. Talking to your children about anything can help them. Why not use the occasion to multitask and fight ignorance at the same time?