Did you know that one in six Gen Z adults identify as being part of the LGBTQIA+ community? We celebrate Pride Month to publicly include all members of our families and communities who, in the past, had to hide who they were. Talking about Pride Month as a family can make a big difference in how our children see the world. Some common ways to celebrate can include attending a parade, doing a related art project, fly a Pride flag, volunteer your time as a family to an LGBTQIA+ related cause, and any other way your family sees fit! While bringing more awareness during the month of June is important, we also want to be sure we are carrying this messaging through in our daily lives throughout the remainder of the year. Here are some tips on how we can do so:
As an adult in the life of a child, you are given an incredibly powerful opportunity to model what being inclusive means and looks like. This can be through attending large events where diversity is clearly celebrated, and also through much smaller everyday interactions. Being mindful of the language we use can be very important. Some examples could be including your pronouns when introducing yourself to others, using the correct pronouns of others, and not assuming a gender when discussing what we’d look for in a healthy relationship with current or future partners. How cool would it be if you asked your children’s friends their pronouns when you meet them? That is something that could certainly leave a lasting impression of safety and inclusion. We can also choose to show our support by shopping with businesses that either are LGBTQIA+ owned or that donate to relevant causes. There are many other ways to model inclusion, too; we can get creative!
Be an ally who is proactive
Being an ally can look different for everyone. Some common practices here can be using your voice to support those who are marginalized, being open to new learning around experiences you may not have had, and supporting youth as they become aware of their sexuality. For the youngest children, this can look like offering toys and clothing of all types and colors, not based on traditional gender expectations. As youth age, this can look like being mindful that media consumed within the household is representative of people from all walks of life and having conversations about current events. We want to be adults they can trust to provide accurate information around any topic, especially one so important.
Flex your listening skills
As youth explore their sexuality, it can be incredibly important to know they have an adult who will truly listen to their thoughts and questions. If we can show we are interested in hearing about their experiences and intentionally make time for conversations regularly, youth may be more likely to feel safe enough to share their true selves with us. We can create routines at an early age that carry through to adolescence, such as asking questions about their day after school, at the dinner table or when tucking them in at night. Even if they are choosing not to share, we are still showing them we care and are always here to listen. Should questions come up during these conversations that you don’t know the answer to, it is always okay to say you are unsure but will get back to them in the near future with some more information. PCAVT can be a great resource, as well as other organizations listed at the end of this article.
If we can help our children see that we want to take the idea of inclusion a step further and truly celebrate the uniqueness of every individual, we may end up raising a generation that feels safer sharing their true selves with their loved ones.
Here is some information and some definitions that may be of help.
Biological sex — This sex assigned at birth describes characteristics that would naturally develop such as hormones, genitalia, body hair, the pitch of a person’s voice, the shape of the body, etc. People are typically identified as male, female or intersex.
Gender identity — How you describe your gender. This could include being genderqueer, male, female, a combination of the two, two-spirit or something entirely different.
Gender expression — How you present yourself. This could include the clothes you wear, the style of your hair, if your actions and tone of voice are generally rougher or softer, etc.
Attraction — This could include romantic and/or physical attraction. Some people are attracted to males, some to females, some to both, some to none and for some people, their attraction is based on something different.
So now that we have a loose understanding of what sexuality entails, we can talk about what LGBTQIA+ actually stands for.
L — Lesbian, when one woman is attracted to other women.
G — Gay, when one person is attracted to someone of the same gender.
B — Bi-sexual, when one person is attracted to someone of the same gender and others.
T — Trans, when someone identifies with a gender that is different than what was assigned at birth.
Q – Queer, general term for people who do not identify as being attracted to the opposite gender and/or do not identify with their sex assigned at birth. Sometimes used as a slur, but has largely been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community. The “Q” also is said to stand for Questioning, when someone is questioning where they fall within the sexuality spectrums mentioned earlier.
I — Intersex, describes someone who is born with a more unique combination of hormones, genitalia, chromosomes, etc.
A — Asexual, typically refers to the absence of attraction and can be used as an umbrella term for the ace spectrum.
Plus — Summarizes a collection of all other queer identities not represented in the acronym, such as pansexual and polysexual. Please note, the term “ally” is not included in this acronym.
All identities represented within this conversation are valid and deserving of respect and love. As adults who love our children, we may want to be supportive and model healthy attitudes but sometimes may be unsure of how to do so. In today’s modern world, it can oftentimes feel like youth are more educated around this topic than we are, but there’s still so much we can do.
Your child may not remember every conversation you have in great detail as they get older, but they could remember your willingness to always listen, their friends feeling safe talking to you, and your celebration of people on every end of the spectrum. Here are some resources we’d recommend to learn more:
www.outrightvt.org/ — queer youth service organization with lots of info and resources.
www.pridecentervt.org/ — comprehensive community center dedicated to advancing community and the health and safety of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) people.
www.thetrevorproject.org/ — nonprofit organization focused on suicide prevention efforts among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning youth. Through a toll-free telephone number, it operates The Trevor Lifeline, a confidential service that offers trained counselors.
www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/02/24/gen-z-lgbt/ — Washington Post article — 1 in 6 Gen Z adults are LGBT. And this number could continue to grow.
news.gallup.com/poll/329708/lgbt-identification-rises-latest-estimate.aspx — Gallup Findings LGBT Identification Rises to 5.6% in Latest U.S. Estimate.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1D65SxzojI — Video surrounding LGBTQIA+ history.
Kirstie Grant is Senior Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs Trainer, Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.