I take my kids to our PRIDE events every year, namely the parade. Anyone who knows our family knows that we support the LGBTQ community because we support our own family within the community. I posted pictures all over facebook and twitter because I truly feel that the more kids and parents in small conservative communities like mine see that kind of attitude, “Look! We’re supporting the LGBTQ community! Totes not a big deal!” then the more kids could come of age feeling welcome to be who they are in their own small, conservative town and be welcomed by members of their community. In our experience with LGBTQ teens, simply being a parent of one, we’ve encounter kids closeted from their parents and kids sent to reparative camps once they came out to their families. So the more vocal we can be with our support, the more inviting of a world we give teens who might not be living in an accepting home.
Last year I did have a few friends who wanted to do the same thing, but weren’t sure what to expect so I thought I’d do a “prep” type entry for anyone considering showing yourself as an Ally to the LGBTQ community by enjoying the PRIDE events in your town with your family since it’s June! We’re all about the PRIDE in June!
First…discussing LGBTQ with your kids.
Not everyone is like us, having that conversation early due to A) Gay family B) Gay friends or C) An affinity for the show Glee. We had the conversation early and often and by the time they found out their brother was gay, my kids were kinda bored with it all. But! If you’re not lucky enough to get that conversation out of the way early – it’s SO EASY to have it now. Kids accept it with the simplest of explanations.
All you do is start with, “Do you know what ‘gay’ means?”
They probably do, at least to a certain degree. And this is how we explained it to our kids: Warning. In our family we jokingly use the term “smoochy-face” in reference to make-out sessions. Like if people are kissing on TV the kids say, “EWWWW…GROSS…SMOOOOCHY FACE!!!!” Or better, if Donnie and I kiss in front of them they’ll do the same thing :). Pardon the over-use of it here.
You know how Mommy and Daddy like to play smoochy-face? (At which point they rightfully act DISGUSTED.) Well, we played smoochy-face with other people before we finally met each other. It’s called “dating”. You try to find people you like in that way until you find someone that maybe you want to marry and stay with forever. Well, most of the time boys want to play smoochy-face with girls, and girls want to play smoochy-face with boys. BUT SOMETIMES, people are born different. Just like people are born with different colors of skin, or different sizes of feet, sometimes people are born wanting to play smoochy-face with someone like them. Some boys like boys. Some girls like girls. That’s called being gay – or gay girls are sometimes called lesbians. If someone likes boys AND girls then they’re called “bisexual” and that’s the smartest way to be in my opinion because they you want to play smoochy-face with everyone! (This is when they laugh, obviously.) The problem is, gay people are bullied a LOT for being gay. And even if they really love each other like Mommy and Daddy do, in many places they’re not allowed to get married because many people think being gay is weird or wrong. And that’s not nice, so we like to go to this event/parade where everyone celebrates gay people and it’s our way of saying, “We don’t think there’s anything wrong with you! We think you’re just like us!”
The next part is that, even in a small town like Huntsville, AL, you also need to explain drag queens. Because – fantastically – drag queens are just a guaranteed part of a PRIDE parade. Last year Wesley was very disappointed that there were only a handful of drag queens. “WHERE ARE ALL OF THE DRAG QUEENS?” he exclaimed at the end of the day. I had made to big if a deal out of it, I guess. He expected RuPaul Audition level of participation, not just 10 or so in the parade.
So, this is how we explained that because – as much as “gay” had been defined early in our family – “drag queen” was not a topic we had broached yet. I wanted to discuss it with them last year so they wouldn’t gawk or laugh or point.
You know how some people sing songs or dance on stage as a way to entertain people? In concerts or in plays or in performances? Well, there’s also something called “drag queens” and those are men who like to dress up as women and perform. Sometimes they sing, most of the time they lip sync, sometimes they do comedy, often they dance. But they were amazing outfits and wigs and makeup and they’ll be at the parade today! And we should feel a little bad for them because this event is outside in Alabama in the summer and that is a TERRIBLE time to have to wear a wig!
After that? We were fine. Good to go.
Now…I have explained what Transgender means my kids. It’s not necessary before you go to a PRIDE parade, but if they’re old enough to understand that you left out the “T” in LGBTQ (Q is for “questioning” or “queer” depending on who defines it. Both are important since we’re using it so much with teens right now who don’t necessary want labels yet – if ever – but still want it known they’re not heterosexual/cisgender). Transgender Men and Women were actually easier for my kids to accept because it didn’t involved talking about kissing (SMOOCHY-FACE!) which they think is gross no matter who is doing it with whom.
In your heart, you feel different from what your body parts say about you. So, you start dressing and acting and sometimes even take medicine or have surgeries to get your body to match your heart.
That makes complete sense to them. And it doesn’t require talk about kissing. That one was the easiest!
In bigger cities you’re going to have more scantily clad men than in smaller cities. My kids go to a lot of triathlons where guys wear Speedos so that doesn’t phase them. But, you know, fair warning! Our tiny PRIDE parade is mainly nice people walking down the street carrying rainbow flags. We have a local church that sponsors every year (which is a great thing to show your kids if you want them to see examples of religious organizations that embrace the LGBTQ community) and we have a small little outside festival beforehand with food trucks and picnicking. It’s nice. It’s sad that their parade route is empty in places because there’s not enough support to have people across the whole route. I wish there was! I dream of a day where our PRIDE parade is as popular as our St. Patrick’s Day parade.
I highly recommend taking your kids. Not only does it help the LGBTQ community because the more faces that show their support the better, but it helps your kids understand being an Ally and how important it is to be vocal and proud in our support. If you live in a community where kids are shunned by their parents for being gay, then giving them an inviting group outside their home, welcoming them with open arms? Is something we should all do.