It’s Pride month. This means lots of time for celebrating, but it also means lots of time for reflection, especially for those of us who are educators. In some cases, we’ve come really far.

It warmed my heart to find this on Facebook the other day:

But we still have a long way to go. While I was incredibly excited to see such a progressive video posted, I was equally as discouraged when I saw some of the comments that accompanied the video on Facebook.

It’s tempting to just ignore the comments. I suppose it’s true that you can’t argue with ignorance. At least to a certain extent. But it’s also possible that many of you may not know what to say when encountering homophobic rhetoric and microaggressions in everyday life.

The stakes are too high to keep quiet. If you’re feeling compelled to say something, please do so. And you’re welcome to use some of my words if you want to.

From Stacy
This is the most disgusting display of agenda pushing I have ever seen. These are CHILDREN for crying out loud. This is not an issue they need to be presented with at such an age. Let them live out their childhoods in peace. How about spend some more time raising children to know how to be productive members of society and how to interact properly with others. Stop using them as pawns in your games.

Stacy, we all have agendas we’re pushing. That’s the way the world works. We believe something, and we try to impart it onto our children. You do realize you are pushing an agenda by not saying something, right?

I’ve experienced this one first-hand in schools. In my fourth year of teaching, a colleague and I proposed a lesson on same-sex marriage, shortly after it was legalized in Illinois. My principal’s response?

“This is not the place for your personal agendas, Paul,” and my personal favorite, “This is not the forum for changing the world.”

From John (Greenwich, CT)
Do not try to indoctrinate our children and no I’m an atheist I’m not a religious fanatic I just know the difference between right and wrong

Normally, John would have lost me at his abhorrent lack of punctuation. But he caught my attention with “I just know the difference between right and wrong.”

John, everyone thinks they know the difference between right and wrong. Your argument is moot. “Right” and “wrong” are subjective. Your “right” and “wrong” are influenced by your upbringing in a cisgender, white America that shames sex, sexuality, and those who don’t fit the mold.

From Kandace (Columbia, TN)
My father in laws are gay and they do not agree with this because sexuality and adult relationships ( of any kind) should not be discussed with children. When a child ask you” where do babies come from” you don’t tell them. You make up a story. This is a conservation for when they are close to sexual maturity and then you can tell them everything.

Kandance, I hate to say it, but your fathers-in-law are still victims of growing up in a society that shames sexuality, especially sexual diversity. It makes me sad to learn that they don’t even realize it. The truth is, when you make up stories about “where babies come from”, you only perpetuate the shame and fear that accompanies sex and sexuality. It’s a fear and shame I know all too well, and one I don’t wish for any one else to grow up with.

This is probably one of the most common responses I hear. Parents think it’s developmentally inappropriate to talk to kids about sex and sexuality. They preach this under the guise of preserving innocence, when in reality, they’re only trying to preserve their own comfort as adults who’ve grown up in a society that shames sex and sexuality. I know because I’m one of those adults, and I still feel that pang of shame and fear. Old habits die hard.

All kids are different, and the best way to figure out what kids need is to listen to them. If a child is brave and curious enough to ask, then we owe it to them to help them understand. Their inquiry is a signal that they are ready to learn, especially at a young age.

We must not let our own discomfort with sex and sexuality continue to affect the way our children experience sex and sexuality. Again, I say this as someone who continues to experience the shame, fear, and discomfort associated with sex and sexuality. But when I become a dad, I know that I will do better because I know better. I will hold my discomfort to help my kids grow up in a way where it is normalized and celebrated.

Discomfort, when responded to poorly, sows the seeds of fear and bigotry. We know better, and as a result, we must do better by our kids. Not sure what to say? The best part is that it doesn’t have to be your words. You can borrow someone else’s by reading one of these great books for kids on sex and sexuality.

We must be the change we want to see in the world. Our homophobia comes not from a fear of sex between two men or two women, but from a world that shames and fears sex and sexuality. You can be the change–and as a result, be an LGBT ally–by confronting your fear, speaking your shame, and making a change for the next generation of kids.

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2 thoughts

  1. Brilliant post 🙂 Yes, when kids ask parents questions that create a ‘discomfort’ regarding topics such as these; its important to address them kindly, calmly and honestly in, of course, age appropriate language. Often, these questions from kids to parents are ‘the dreaded elephant in the room’ for the adult (based on their experiences or upbringing). Ignoring or outright lying does nothing to address the question, which (often from kids) is asked in a very sincere way. Disregarding the ‘elephant’ breeds distrust, shame and removes parents knowledge of how kids will find out these answers from their peers.. Kids will find out answers to their questions, whether or not their parents want them to know. Fortunately, I think, understanding and acceptance seem to be improving…..at least as observed in my small circle. Kids are friends with people they like and don’t stigmatize or bully as much as it was in the past. They are friends simply because they are friends and enjoy each others company; end of story. Sadly, its the adults that often complicate the friendships.

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