It’s June, and our family is focusing this month on teaching our kids, ages 12 and 14, about inclusivity and compassion. Why? Because it’s Pride Month, and although we normally get to celebrate at fun events filled with rainbows and glitter, this year we’ll celebrate online at the Together For Pride virtual event on Pride weekend (June 26–28). We’ll also be using the month to find teachable moments when I’m able to explain to them the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, and the many ways that people love one another.
As a heterosexual woman, I’ve been able to move through the world without having my sexuality or relationships questioned. I can go out in public and show affection to my husband without fear of discrimination or violence. I was able to marry him without question, criticism or laws preventing me from doing so. Regardless of my children’s sexuality and identities, I want them to understand what it means to be an ally of the LGBTQIA+ community by being supportive, listening and using my voice to stand up for what’s right. And I want them to be raised in an environment where diversity is accepted and respected, in hopes that they will grow up to be empathetic toward others and embrace the beauty of difference.
Pride events are joyous and inclusive celebrations and the vast majority are family-friendly and community-oriented, and many are incorporating these elements into their online experiences. With that said, the events can include sexually explicit content and partial nudity which is not intended for children’s consumption, and the topics at hand can be challenging for them to understand. Even with challenging content (that can be addressed in constructive and educational ways), I feel it’s important for ally families to show up to these virtual events with their children and focus on teachable moments all month long to support the LGBTQIA+ community, which continues to fight for equal rights for all human beings.
As a Pride events regular, I know what to expect and have been teaching my children about the importance of inclusivity. Here are some tips that may be helpful to parents who have had similar experiences or even newbies looking forward to attending virtual events and talking about Pride with their kids:
Talk about the birds and the bees
As a first-time attendee at an in-person event, I remember being more concerned than I had expected about my kids seeing something that would make them feel uncomfortable. And although it will be easier to know if a virtual event is child-friendly, there is still a chance your child may see or hear something they are not familiar with — especially if they’re exploring an online event unsupervised. The best way to address this concern regarding an online event is head-on, by talking to your kids beforehand about things they might see or words they are hearing, and then letting them ask questions. Your level of honesty with them is up to your discretion. It’s important to know your child’s limits and maturity level while letting them enjoy online Pride events. The most important thing is to give them your support and offer to turn off the event if anything makes them feel uncomfortable.
One of the best ways to be an ally and to raise young allies is to introduce them to the concept of diversity. I focused on expanding the definition of the word “family” early on in my children’s lives so that they understood that families come in all shapes and sizes. A favorite way to incorporate this is through play: We chose books and toys with diverse characters and reminded our children that families can come in all kinds of combinations. When they ask us questions about LGBTQIA+ families, we answer honestly and explain that what matters most is that parents love their children.
Rainbows and glitter for all
Part of the fun for kids is being involved in the excitement of Pride celebrations — even if they’ve gone online! Make clothing, stickers, Pride flags, beads and accessories available to your kids to help them feel included. Plus, who doesn’t like to wear rainbows and glitter? As a parent, make sure you dress up and join in on the fun, too. This is a fun and easy way to make the virtual event feel even more inclusive and provide a positive experience that kids will remember.
Watch Your Language
Our kids are always watching us, and whether we like it or not, they tend to follow our example. One way to lead by example as an ally during Pride month (and always!) is by eliminating discriminatory language and using inclusive language. Take some time to learn appropriate terminology (the ABC’s of the LGBTQ’s) and use people’s preferred pronouns. It’s very important to never ever make jokes at the expense of the LGBTQIA+ community — that goes against everything else you’re working toward as an ally. So, watch your language!
Make it fun
You’ve talked to your kids about what to expect, everyone is all dressed up, and you’ve been talking to them about diversity and inclusion — awesome. Now it’s time to celebrate and make it fun! This year may not feature a parade, but it will have plenty of fun musical performances and activities appropriate for kids. I plan to review the Together for Pride schedule and determine which events might be fun and appropriate for my kids and make a day out of it! In addition to participating online, I recommend buying lunch or dinner from an LGBTQIA+ owned restaurant, making a kid-friendly Pride playlist to dance to, covering your house in rainbow decorations, and choosing an LGBTQIA+ nonprofit to donate to as a family, taking the opportunity to explain to your kids about how that donation is going to positively impact others. The more fun your kids have throughout the day, the more memorable it’ll be!
Even though we won’t be attending the Seattle Pride Parade or Pride in the Park events, I know we’re going to have a blast celebrating Pride Month and enjoying the virtual Together For Pride events, and I hope other families do, too. I also hope that parents will talk to their children about diversity, inclusion and equal human rights, and about accepting and supporting those who may be different from themselves.
Instilling a respect for families of all types and people of all orientations fosters greater appreciation for the individuality and value of the people around them and results in respect and allyship. Reinforcing values such as the diversity of love and the importance of mutual respect and understanding can help children feel more comfortable expressing themselves and to be more tolerant of how others do the same.