Being an LGBTQI ally is something that I wish I didn’t have to announce that I am. Instead, I wish it was the norm. And while it’s not something that I think I NEED to explain, to those who may be wondering how to involve the entire family in the support of our LGBTQI neighbors, here’s how our family (kids and all!) demonstrates being an LGBTQI ally.
In my house, we love “all the beautiful colors”- sunrise and sunset, the makeup counter at the pharmacy, and rainbow everything. I mention this because my now 6-year-old son has had a special affinity for them for years, which has always made me feel so happy that we rose above the gender association of color (no, boys don’t have to like blue). But it has also forced me to craft a response to a question I have seriously been asked: “Are you worried about him being gay?” I quickly say “Well, no, why should I be worried? Would it be awful for him to be happy?” Liking rainbows doesn’t mean you’re gay. And being gay isn’t a bad thing. Next?
Just because you knew/know someone who is LGBTQI doesn’t make you an ally.
Being an ally means you speak up when something isn’t quite right-be it a statement or word chosen, or the way someone is being treated. In the open and in private, your actions speak louder than your words-so make them count. Advocate and lean in and find your voice to promote basic and equal rights, as you may not realize that someone you love or know may be LGBTQI and directly benefit from this effort spent.
I mentioned neighbors before, so let me tell a quick story of a neighbor who presented as male when we moved into our old home and transitioned to female by the time we left. My son was 3.5 when we moved out, thus was old enough to notice. Mind you, the individual was older and had a personal style that could have allowed a shared closet with Mrs. Doubtfire. Traditional, conservative, even when cutting the grass. So yes, my son had questions. But we answered them, matter of factly, and he moved on with his Thomas trains.
Focus on the person. I always stress that clothes are just clothes – whether they are bright or tight, loose or dirty, they’re just clothes. Each person wears what they have, and what makes them happy. Easy as that.
Take your kids to Pride festivities.
If you see me, I’ll be wearing my Free Mom Hugs shirt, supporting our friends who may have been distanced from their family as they chose to express their true selves. I have been asked include: whether I’m worried about what the kids will see/encounter (you mean people?), am I nervous about my kids meeting someone who is transgender (again, a human being? No, I’m not!), and what if they have questions (I answer them in an age-appropriate way). Just as you wouldn’t explain heterosexual sex to a 4-year-old, I’m not about to go into any other details at this point. Instead, we remind our kids that everyone can love everyone, and we can have many friends and that’s enough for them.
What I love about kids is their ability to see things without the filters.
Actual statements from my son: Look how happy everyone is! Mom-look at the fun clothes – they’re bright and colorful! Hey, mom-do you think I’ll have a lot of friends too when I grow up? Put your guard down and join your neighbors to celebrate being who you were meant to be.
Love is love folks. Personally, I want my kids to see love and Pride is full of it. Showing our children when they are young how to accept others who may look different but deep down are the same is so important for maintaining and improving the human rights we all expect. If you choose to get involved in pride festivities, and be an ally for those you love and know, be sure you know your place. Be respectful, as the event is not for you and no one is there to make you feel comfortable. Please don’t take pictures of others unless you’ve been given consent. Show up because you want to, because you support everyone being treated the same and you are open to accepting everyone and wish to do so without judgment.
“America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, human rights invented America,” Jimmy Carter.