Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Teaching little kids about LGBTQ+ issues


Long before the kids really understood what we were saying, we told them they could grow up and love anyone they wanted. Marry a girl, marry a boy, marry anybody they’d like! Two moms, two dads — it’s all good.

For a long time, our daughter insisted she wanted to marry my sister’s best friend and a family friend who is about 50-odd years older than her. I told her that was fine, as long as they were both OK with it.

Our son went back and forth between his best buddy and a special friend from preschool. Sometimes he said he didn’t want to get married, ever, and just wanted to live with me and Daddy forever. That’s totally cool, I reassured him.

After years of peacefully agreeing that “anybody can marry anybody,” I wasn’t pleased when my son came home from school announcing that “a boy can’t marry a boy.” Someone in his class had said so — and, yes, you could see the smoke rushing out of my ears.

Luckily not everything he picked up in Primary stuck, and he resumed believing that people are free to marry anyone they’d like. Now, at ages six and four, the kids are able to understand more about the LGBTQ+ community -- the plus sign was added to include Questioning, Intersex, Pansexual, Two-Spirit, Asexaul and Allies, since “LGBTQQIP2SAA” is a mouthful.

When we were making our rainbow outfits for our town’s very first Pride parade earlier this month, I had to explain “Pride” to the kids -- and it was harder than I thought. Why was there a rainbow flag at Town Hall? What did rainbows have to do with it?

“You know how anyone can marry anyone?” I started. “Well, there’s more to it. Anyone can be anyone, too. Sometimes people are born in the wrong bodies. If a girl feels like a boy, she can be a boy. If a boy feels like a girl, he can be a girl. Some people don’t feel like a boy or a girl and that’s fine, too.”

“Oh. But I want to be a boy,” my son said immediately as he played with the rainbow-printed fabric we’d picked out.

“Sure. This parade is all about celebrating that people should do what makes them happy. Aren’t rainbows a nice way to celebrate that?”

“Yeah!”

I hesitated before going on. Did I really want to tell them that not everyone feels this way?

“The parade is kind of a big deal for our town, actually,” I continued slowly. “For a long time, people said ‘Boys can only marry girls’ and ‘If you’re born a girl, you have to stay a girl no matter what,’ and it made a lot of people sad.”

He perked up in surprise. “Are those people gonna be at the parade? Are they gonna be mad?”

“I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “But it doesn’t matter because there are so, so, so many people who are going to be celebrating, and only a few people who might not think that way. We’re not going to let them stop us, are we?”

“NO!”

The next day, we were cleaning out our craft supply cabinets and sorting through bags and boxes of materials. I found a little wooden jewellery box I’d painted gold, years ago, and tossed it into a bin so the kids could repaint it if they wanted.

“Can I have that box?” my son asked immediately.

“Sure,” I told him. “I’ve had it for ages. What do you want to do with it?”

He examined the little gold latch and flipped it open to look at the inside. Then he look up, delighted, and announced “I’m going to give it to my wife someday. She can keep things in it!”

“Awesome.”

“Or my husband,” he continued. “I don’t know who I’m going to marry yet.”

“Absolutely,” I answered, sorting through a bag of foam craft pieces. “You can marry anyone you want, and you’ve got lots of time to decide.”

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