Do you want to know more about explaining LGBTQIA+ to a kid? Read this article to find out about exploring the topic with your kid.
Kids are curious beings. They have a million questions about everything and everyone they see. Naturally, they turn to you, their parents, for all the answers. You shape how they see the world and why they see it that way. It becomes important to teach them that people, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, deserve to be treated fairly and with respect. Yes, we are talking about how to explain LGBTQIA+ to a kid. We have some suggestions and tips for you.
What is LGBTQIA+
First things first. We need to know what LGBTQIA + is. It is an acronym where every letter denotes a kind of sexual or gender orientation i.e, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Pansexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersexed, Agender, Asexual and Ally Community.
When to Start?
It is advised to start talking to your kid about LGBTQIA+ from an early age. Similar to the ‘birds and bees’ conversation, conversations about gender and sexual orientation should start early. But you also have to ensure that the information you are providing is age-appropriate, and that they are not overwhelmed by terms they cannot understand.
If your child is around 3-5 years of age, then keep things as simple as possible. Suppose they are watching a movie or a show with you and ask why someone has two dads or two moms, you can say, “There are different kinds of families. Some may have two moms or two dads and some may have one mom and one dad.” You do not need to give them much more information at this age.
If your kid is around 6-12 years of age, there are chances that their questions about gender and sexual orientation might be more specific than before. For instance, they might come to you and say that their friend who is a boy, brings a pink bag and has long hair, and that the other kids in the class are teasing him for being feminine or “girly”. Your reply can be simple, explaining that there is nothing wrong with a boy liking a pink bag or long hair. Tell them that both boys and girls can dress however they like, even if it seems ‘different’, so long as it makes them happy. Most importantly, ensure that they understand that it is never okay to tease or bully another person for being different, or for any other reason.
When it comes to teenagers, things are a little different. By now, they are likely to have more knowledge about gender and sexual orientation, and might also see people around them identifying as LGBTQIA+. If they come to you with stories about a friend ‘coming out’ as gay or trans, or a celebrity or even a TV character coming out, turn it into a learning experience - explain to them how it was courageous of that person to come out, and how it should be celebrated! But it is also important that you, as the parent, don’t do all the talking - allow your kid to speak their mind, be a supportive and good listener, and if you feel it is necessary, gently correct them.
Tips to Handle the Topic
Here are some tips to help you have an enriching conversation about LGBTQIA+ with your kid:
Start with Simple Topics – It is not necessary for you to explain the spectrum of gender and sexual orientation to your kid, as a heavy and serious subject. Simply let them know that everyone deserves a right to live a life where they can be true to themselves, including in terms of which gender they identify as, and whom they choose to love. You can also prepare them to be respectful and kind for whenever someone reveals their gender identity or sexual orientation to them.
Gender and Sexual Orientation – While thinking about how to explain LGBTQIA+ to a kid, you might get confused if you should talk about gender or sexual orientation. The answer is ‘a little bit of both’. Explain to them that whether someone is a man or a woman doesn’t determine who they should get attracted to and fall in love with. You can also explain that sometimes, a person’s sense of gender identity align with the sex they were assigned at birth. This might cause them severe distress and make them want to live their lives conforming to a different gender or not conforming to any gender at all.
Explain Universal Values and Concepts – It is important to teach your kid about inclusivity and respect for all. While speaking about LGBTQIA+, show them that, besides rights for Queer people, it is about all people being allowed to live the way that allows them to be true to themselves and express it freely without fear of judgement or discrimination. It is about redefining the expectations of society so the world can become a more inclusive space. For example, if a little girl loves Power Rangers or a boy loves Barbie dolls, they should not be made fun of, but should be allowed to enjoy themselves. You should also teach them the important value of “love is love” – that everyone should be able to love who they want!
Press Pause if You Don’t Know – Given their curious nature, your kids might ask questions for which the answers might not be simple or straightforward. If you’re a little confused about answering, tell your kid that you will get back to them, and take some time out to refer to useful resources - there are plenty available on the internet! Once you have greater clarity, you can explain the same to them in a way they would understand.
Use Books, Shows and Videos – Kids learn better through ‘showing’, rather than ‘telling’. Allow them to read or read stories to them from books like And Tango Makes Three or I am Jazz - these could be great ways to start conversations with your kid about LGBTQIA+. You can also make use of informative and interesting web series like ‘Queer Kid Stuff’, to help them understand better.
Remember to teach your kid the importance of being a good ally, accepting everyone for who they are, and respecting everyone’s right to live life freely by being true to themselves.