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Families are beautifully diverse and don’t all look the same. It’s not unusual for a family to have two dads or two mums. If your kids are curious about how a family is made up, like most are, you might find they start asking you questions about it. These questions are a great place to start discussing LGBTQ+ identity, sexual orientation, healthy relationships and embracing individuality.

But where do you begin? Sometimes as parents the fear of saying the wrong thing stops us from saying anything at all. But with our kids looking to us as a safe place to learn, it’s crucial we talk about everything. With an estimated 1.4 million people aged 16 and over in the UK identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual in 2019, more people than ever are part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important to let your kids know that if they feel like they don’t identify as heterosexual or cis-gendered, you’ve got their back. The best way to do that? By talking about all kinds of relationships from early on. Open and honest conversations when your child is young lay the groundwork and make later conversations easier. Here are our top tips for how to talk about LGBTQ+ relationships with kids.

 

It’s OK to feel out of your depth

If you’re not part of the LGBTQ+ community, how to talk about LGBTQ+ relationships with kids can feel hard and important to get right. And when we’re scared of making mistakes, it can stop us from talking about things at all – but if your kids don’t feel like they can talk to you, it’s going to create a tricky environment for them if they ever feel like they need to discuss their sexuality or gender. It’s totally OK to feel out of your depth! But not having the conversations isn’t really an option. Acknowledge your nerves. Acknowledge what you do know and where you have gaps. Find resources that can help you guide and shape the conversation. Say I don’t know if you need to.

 

Start early

One of the biggest questions we hear when it comes to how to Talk About LGBTQ+ Relationships with Kids is “when do I begin?”. Generally, it’s useful to talk to kids about sexual orientation early and often. This can form part of wider conversations about healthy relationships, sexual or reproductive health. Gone are the days of ‘The Talk’. It’s about having lots of little conversations over time. These can become deeper conversations over time but we should start laying the foundations early on with ‘mini conversations’ that explore healthy relationships overall – including those with themselves, friends and eventually romantic relationships. Sexual orientation is a thread that should weave through these conversations, much like it’s a thread that weaves through who your kid is and how they interact with the world.

James from The DIY Dads recommends diversifying the books in your child’s library so they can read stories about all different kinds of relationships. That’ll help you get the language you need to start and continue conversations, while showing them more about the types of people that exist.

 

Use cues around you as teachable moments

So if we’re not having ‘The Talk’ how do we tackle these ‘mini conversations’? Rather than making them formal, awkward sit-downs, use moments around you as jumping off points to start conversations. You could talk about Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which bans ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ issues from classrooms, respond to any anti-LGBTQ+ language and behaviour you see, or talk about Section 28.

If your child chats to you about people having crushes, use that as a launch pad to explore what they’re thinking and feeling about relationships. If they tell you their friend has a crush on someone, ask what they think about it, or if they have any crushes themselves. You could ask what it is to be a good partner. And you can thank them for being open with you. Doing so cultivates an environment that they’ll feel safe in. An environment that they’ll feel comfortable to talk about stuff in if anything ever comes up for them in the future.

Writing on their blog, Rich of Two Dads in London explained that despite having a really happy childhood, society made him feel like ‘being gay was not an option’. The more we can normalise conversations about being part of the LGBTQ+ community, the fewer people will need to feel like Rich did growing up.

 

Have the conversations regardless

It doesn’t matter if your kid has come out as LGBTQ+. You should be having conversations about sexuality, gender and LGBTQ+ relationships anyway. Watch shows with great LGBTQ+ representation and use those to start talking about same sex relationships (we’re on at least our third rewatch of Schitt’s Creek. Don’t even get us STARTED on Heartstopper). Read books with a solid representation of the LGBTQ+ experience so you’ve got a better understanding of it if you’re not from the community and talk to your kids about what you’re reading. Watch movies with LGBTQ+ characters. Talk about them too. As your kids get older, watch them together.

Representation matters – not just in the outside world, but in your home – and it can help your child find themselves or their friends reflected in society, art and pop culture.

 

Remind your kids you love them for who they are

Actor, director and trans activist Jake Graf reminded us that when you become a parent, you sign up to possibly having a gay kid or a trans kid and the responsibility that comes with that. Speaking to Gi on the Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast, he said: “As a parent you signed up to having maybe a gay kid, maybe having a trans kid. It’s unlikely because statistically that’s just the way it is. But if you do then you’re blessed because this child has trusted in you enough to tell you how they feel and who they are.”

“Would you rather that your kid aged 20 or 25 says to their friends, ‘I was so lucky because when I came out and I was scared and I was worried and I knew that society made me feel like I wasn’t really what they wanted, I wasn’t the norm but my parents made me feel loved and accepted and supported and because of that I know I’m strong and I don’t doubt myself and I have self-confidence and I’m so lucky’.

Or would you rather be the parent of a child who says ‘when I came out my parents made me feel unloved and unsupported and invalid and those those relationships are ones that we have yet to heal because they just weren’t there when I needed them so badly’? I think if you are any kind of parent in the world please choose the former because it’s not going to hurt you and I assure you it will hurt them.”

 

You have two ears and one mouth.

Listen more than you talk. Ask questions but listen to the answers. You’ll learn more and giving your child the space to explore what they’re telling you often leads to them feeling more able to share. It also shows them you’re open to the conversation and their thoughts and feelings. Remember every kid is different – while some might want to deep dive into the conversation, others might be happy to just know you’re there to talk about it if they need to. Respect their wishes. But keep coming back to the topic, checking in on it regularly.

 

Why is this important?

We need to prioritise the safety of queer kids. Same Sex Parents put it perfectly in a recent Instagram post. Kids need to learn that not all families look the same and that’s ok. They need to learn not to bully or discriminate against other children —whether it be a trans/gender-diverse classmate or a classmate who has LGBTQ+ parents. Those with LGBTQ+ parents deserve to have their families represented and validated, and deserve to discuss and celebrate their families. Kids need to know that being LGBTQ+ is not shameful or wrong. The LGBTQ+ community deserve love and respect. All of this starts with the conversations we have about relationships at home.

As parents, how to talk about LGBTQ+ relationships with kids is something we’ve got to figure out so we can become the best allies possible.

 

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