Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's a family affair...

In 2013, our family walked in the Capital District Pride Parade with members from our church. A friend invited us to do something that weekend and I told her we had a family event to attend. When I told her what our plans were, her response was, "how is that a family event?"

This year, we are helping to host a table for our church at Schenectady Pride and I find myself thinking of my friend's question, "why is this a family event?" Because my friend who asked the question isn't homophobic. She's supportive of gay rights. And I know there are many people out there who are supportive of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer (LGBTQ) issues who would still shy away from bringing their children to this event. Why? As I was explaining what transgender and bisexual means to my 8-year old this morning, I realized why LGBTQ issues make others, who may fully support the cause, uncomfortable when it comes to children. SEX. Yes, SEX. It is very hard to explain what the LGBTQ terms mean without entering into that taboo subject of sex.

I have friends who go to great lengths to hide the fact that they have periods, use non-scientific words for body parts, and are hoping the school will do a good enough job of explaining sex to their children so they don't have to have the "talk." They are uncomfortable with saying words like "penis" or "vagina," so any discussion that touches upon that most taboo subject becomes uncomfortable.

But in our family, we are very open and honest about sex. We use correct body part language. We discuss menstruation. We also discuss things like gender discrimination and gender stereotyping. So I can easily say to my kids, "sometimes someone is born with a penis, but they feel like they're a really a girl." And I know there are those out there shaking their heads thinking I shouldn't be having that kind of conversation with an 8-year old. Except research says that by 9-years, most kids are aware of their orientation. So, even if they aren't having the conversation with their parents, kids are thinking about it and questioning.

Which brings me back to why I feel it is important for my kids to be at an event like Schenectady Pride. Statistically, 1 in 10 people are homosexual. One of my three sons could be gay. And if they're not, out of their elementary class of 42, there is a likelihood that two of those classmates will be gay or lesbian. I want my children to view being gay as acceptable for both themselves and their friends. It's one thing to say in our family we support LGBTQ rights; it's another to actively participate in that support. It's important for my children to learn to support those who are marginalized in our society. I want them to know they will be supported and I want them to learn to be supportive. And those are important family values.