I don’t want my kids to be bigots.
My six year old is really into playing families.
“Girls can only kiss boys” she declares to her toys. And I almost break my neck, trying to butt in and correct her.
Because I am one of those liberal parents (SMALL ‘L’, people, SMALL ‘L’) who is desperate to ensure that although my kids are being raised in your pretty stereotypical, heteronormative, nuclear-family environment, they are well-rounded individuals who would never march around telling people what they should or shouldn’t do with their hearts and private parts. And, of course, who know full well that whatever they decide to do with theirs is going to be Just Fine with Mum and Dad.
On the latest episode of This Glorious Mess, Holly and Andrew get advice on how to raise non-bigoted kids:
“No, darling,” I start. Deep breath. Here comes the monologue. “If a girl wants to kiss another girl, that’s ok. And if a boy wants to kiss a boy, that’s ok too. And some little dollies have two mummies or two daddies. And sometimes people who are born a girl, feel like they are more like a boy. And the other way around. And that’s ok too! Because families come in all shapes and sizes and what’s important is not who you kiss or love, but that you’re a family.”
But I push on because: "What if my gorgeous girl turns out to be a homophobe?"
This week on This Glorious Mess, Andrew Daddo had a similar dilemma. There's a new family at school. Gay dads. And when his kid told him, he got excited.
"REALLY!" he said. Before checking himself.
Because if it's cool, fine, and normal, he shouldn't over-react, right?
With the news that the plebiscite won't be going ahead, we asked a gay mum, Jacqui Tomlins, what it's like being on the receiving end of curious questions, awkward encounters, and well-meaning but possibly ignorant parents. What do we say? What do we NOT say?
She has three children and raised them in a school where she says, they were the "only gays in the village". And her advice was brilliant. BRILLIANT.
And here it is:
We need to stop kids from saying "That's so gay."
A general term of insult, ‘That’s so gay!’ is endemic in high schools; it’s the roll-off-the-tongue term for anything that’s ‘lame’, ‘uncool’, or ‘unimpressive,’. But Jacqui explains why it's a big problem:
Her other tips were just as good.
Start a conversation
"We know that many of you haven’t come across us before and that even if you are totally supportive, you might be unsure how to show that support. Or you might just be anxious about ‘saying the wrong thing.’" she says.
"As any parent knows, the schoolyard is where it all happens: playdates are made, nit strategies are discussed and homework frustrations aired. It’s also a great place to strike up a conversation with your local gay dad, lesbian mum or transgender parent. "
Same-sex parents have a great radar for detecting when other people aren’t comfortable with us and our families; we’ve been doing it for years. But the flip side is that we also know when someone is genuinely supportive, even if they might fumble over questions or use the ‘wrong’ language or terminology.
Avoid these questions
Even the most well-meaning parents occasionally step over the line. The following questions are just pretty intrusive, offensive, or completely irrelevant:
"Which one of you is the real mum?"
"Don’t you think he needs a male role model?"
"Who is going to teach him to pee standing up?"
"Why didn’t you just go to a bar and pick up?"
"Aren’t you worried they’ll be gay?"
"Do you have contact with their dad?"
"How much did it all cost?"
And some for the gay dads.:
"Whose sperm did you use?"
"Who’s the actual dad?"
"How will she learn about periods?"
"What did you do about breast-feeding?"
"Do you see their mother?"
"Who’s going to do her hair?"
Challenge people's prejudices where you can.
Jacqui says in the 13 years since becoming a mum, she's seen a massive shift in attitudes towards same-sex families.
"There are lots of reasons for that, but one of them is that ordinary mums and dads have challenged ignorance, homophobia, and bigotry when it’s crossed their path. So next time you’re standing at the water cooler and someone says: ‘It’s just not natural,’ or ‘A child needs a mother and a father,’ or ‘It says so in the Bible,’ challenge them. Don’t let it go. Don’t change the subject. Don’t walk away. Grab some more water and say: ‘Actually, I don’t agree with you.’
You’ll not change everyone, but you’ll make some of them stop and think. And if that water-cooler conversation happens every day, all over the country, things start to change."
Make Mother’s and Father’s Day, ‘Special Person’s Day'.
Almost all schools celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and for many they are important fund-raisers. But for gay parents, these two days are always a challenge for those kids – and for other kids who may have lost a parent or have an absent parent.
Listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here:
Jacqui says even just calling it ‘Special Person’s Day’ is more inclusive, and ‘Family Day’ – where kids can invite whomever they like – is even better.
"So, check out what your school does and ask them to change the focus of the day, and make sure the parents running the gift stalls know there might be kids buying two presents not one. You could also encourage your kid’s class teacher to use the day to celebrate all families, and different families. And, while you’re on a roll, you could check out your school’s paperwork to make sure it says: ‘Parent 1’ and ‘Parent 2’."
Jacqui Tomlins writes a blog about rainbow families and has recently written an online resource kit for rainbow families, their service providers and allies. You can download it here.