In 2022, we know that not all families look the same. Some have two mommies, some two daddies, and some have parents who identify as neither mom nor dad – just as parents. While talking about gender identities and sexual orientations may not come naturally or may feel uncomfortable, children are surprisingly understanding and compassionate if we give them the tools and information they need. This pride month, we want to encourage all families to incorporate discussions of LGBTQ+ identities in fun, child-appropriate ways.
We suggest speaking with your kids about gender identity and sexual orientation early and often. While diverse families are appearing more frequently in the media our children consume, we believe that starting these conversations at home can normalize different identities and let us control how our children are introduced to the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit, non-binary, and pansexual) community. And it doesn’t have to be a boring “sit-down” conversation! We can read books with our kids, casually mention our male colleague’s husband, or even make up bedtime stories involving a princess who was initially born a prince.
If we are open to it, opportunities to talk about diverse identities will come up often. Look for teachable moments: if your son worries about being bullied because his favourite colour is pink, we can remind him that colours belong to all children and maybe his dad will consider wearing a pink tie or ball cap once in a while. If your kid asks you whether someone she sees on the street is a boy or a girl, we can remind her that we can’t necessarily know someone’s gender just by looking at them, and that that is okay.
Furthermore, research shows that the number one way to support healthy development for an LGBTQ+ child is through active and continuous family support. Even if we feel certain that our child is cisgender* and heterosexual, normalizing different identities can help our children be a better ally to their friends and community. By modeling our openness, comfort, and familiarity with LGBTQ+ people and topics, we tell our children that we as adults and as parents are open and educated, and love our kids for who they are on the inside no matter what.
To help you start these conversations, here are a few great book recommendations:
- Peanut Goes for the Gold: a gender nonbinary guinea pig tries to become an Olympic gymnast, encouraging children to be their unique, incredible selves
- It Feels Good to be Yourself: A book about gender identity: a picture book for introducing children to the concept of gender identity through child-friendly language and vibrant art
- Little People, Big Dreams: Ru Paul: explores the life of Ru Paul, beloved drag queen, from playing dress-up in childhood to thwarting gender roles by expressing himself on the stage
- Little People, Big Dreams: Elton John: explores the life of Elton John, legendary pop star, through his music career, love life, and use of music to bring people together
- The Princess Knight: challenges traditional gender roles with a princess making her own way, learning to fight like her brothers and refusing to be married off without her consent
- Bye Bye, Binary: a cute story challenging gender roles we place on children from the moment they are born – Nobody puts baby in a pink or blue corner!
- Tu peux: encourages children to be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do in life
- A day in the life of Marlon Bruno: a sweet, funny story about a boy bunny who wants to marry another boy bunny but faces some opposition along the way
We hope these resources can help start these conversations at home in fun and appropriate ways to normalize all identities so everyone can be themselves safely and proudly. Our children can only grow to be the best version of themselves if we give them the chance with the right information and tools.
*Cisgender: a person whose personal gender identity corresponds with the sex they were assigned at birth.