I'm excited to join my colleagues at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, as well as thousands of other people from Boston and beyond for Boston Pride Week, which runs now through June 10. This year, PPLM will once again march in the Boston Pride Parade to show our support for Boston's diverse community and join in celebrating and promoting equal rights for the region's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities.
In honor of Boston Pride Week, I wanted to share some thoughts about your role in shaping your child's perceptions about diversity.
You play a crucial role. As a parent educator and a parent myself, I've seen firsthand the importance that parents and other caregivers play in promoting respect and understanding in the lives of their children, their families, and the wider community. Educate yourself and have important conversations with your children about sexual orientation and gender identity. What you and your kids project matters -- according to the MA Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students who described themselves as GLBTQ were more than twice as likely as their peers to report missing school in the past month because of feeling unsafe.
Dispel myths. Parents and caregivers are pivotal in dispelling myths, challenging stereotypes, and expressing the idea that everyone deserves respect regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. For example, one common myth is that people can tell by looking at a person whether they're straight, gay, or bisexual. We can explain to our children that people of every sexual orientation express themselves in many different ways. Usually, the way that people express themselves to the world (the clothes they wear, how they cut their hair, how they act) is not a sign of their sexual orientation. Although occasionally you might guess someone's sexual orientation from their outward appearance, most of the time you cannot.
Take advantage of resources. While some families already discuss this topic, for others it may be challenging. Even parents who feel comfortable with the topic or identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (GLBTQ) themselves may not feel prepared to have these conversations with their own children. Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to help. I first covered this topic at Boston Mamas several years ago. As a refresher, first I provided a better understanding of what "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" actually mean as well as some guidance for parents of GLBTQ youth. Thanks to a thoughtful comment from reader Jen, I followed up with guidance for parents of youth who do not identify as GLBTQ but who can still have meaningful conversations with their children about sexual orientation and gender identity. And both of my previous posts provide recommendations for websites and books that offer additional guidance.
Promote love and respect. For this year's Pride Week, consider what it means to create a family and community that love and respect every child, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. As loving parents, you have the right and responsibility to be the primary sexuality educator of your children and provide them the support they need. In turn, our children will grow up to be loving adults who can offer the same support to their friends, family, and loved ones.
So, in the spirit of celebration and promoting equal rights for all, I hope to see you marching or cheering from the sidelines on Saturday, June 9th at the Boston Pride Parade!
Image credit: Boston Pride Parade