By Megan McQueen
As educators, we work with everyone. I love learning from families as we build a trusting relationship. Sometimes this looks like reassuring a same-sex couple that their family is welcome and included in our conversations about families. Other times, I support families as their children question their gender identity. Always, it means that materials and books I share represent all families. The most meaningful connections I make is when I become an ally for a family. True acceptance might look like using preferred pronouns, considering restroom options ahead of time, and treating everyone with compassion.
Here are some suggestions to help support LGBTQIA+ families in your classes:
Pronouns: Ensure our classes are welcoming of all genders by inviting everyone to share the pronouns they use. People can write their pronouns on their name tags if they like. For a variety of reasons, some may prefer not to share their pronouns with a group, so it is ideal to keep sharing optional. Wearing name tags in classes is a helpful way for everyone to learn and use each other’s names and to create community as well as keeping pronouns clear. In this way, we can easily refer to name tags to demonstrate to our families that we respect and accept them for who they are. If families have a child who is exploring their gender identity or changing pronouns, they may have questions around this. In addition, make sure materials, handouts, and examples you share are inclusive of many different types of families, including those that reflect the LGBTQIA+ community. Accepting and loving our children for who they are is important to a healthy relationship among family members, but it can be bumpy sometimes. Encourage your families to seek resources, ask questions, and keep their love for their child at the forefront.
Create a Safe Space: As you build community within your classes, you will help families feel welcome and at ease. Be aware that some of the families may carry bias against LGBTQIA+ people. Sometimes they are aware of these biases, sometimes they are not. It may be helpful to learn about common microaggressions and to have some responses ready for microaggressions you hear or see to encourage compassion and understanding. You may want to talk to the person who made the comment privately and let them know that their comments may have been hurtful. Your goal is not to change people’s minds, just to help people interact civilly with others and increase their compassion for one another. You may also want to follow up with the person the comments were directed toward privately, so that they know how you addressed the situation. You may find it appropriate to set some class norms, or revisit them, so that the entire group knows that your class is meant to be a safe space for everyone. People can open their hearts when they feel loved and have a personal connection with a person who is challenging their belief system. You can help people connect with each other and bond over their shared desire to be loving family members.
How Can Families Help?: Give families concrete ideas to support their LGBTQIA+ family members as well as members of their community. They can use correct pronouns and boost self-esteem by talking about accomplishments of the person. Family members can offer help, if needed, at school or workplaces, to ensure fair treatment. Many of the websites listed below have guidance for talking to schools. Normalize counseling and therapy and offer options. Keep local, state, and online support groups and counseling or therapy contact information available at your classes. Families can show support just by participating in activities that the family enjoys together – art, hiking, making music, sports, etc. Even without saying a word about a lifestyle, just being together as part of a community can offer comfort.
Depression and Suicide Prevention: Children, youth, and adults who feel unsupported in their homes are at greater risk for alcohol and drug use and more likely to suffer from depression and more likely to attempt suicide or die by suicide. All families love their children and want them to be healthy. Let this information guide your conversations with individual families as well as in parenting groups. We do not necessarily need to change someone’s viewpoints, but we can help families recognize that they all share similar goals for their children while understanding that some children may need additional family and community support during this time. Make local or online resources for family therapy available. The Trevor Project provides suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.
- And Tango Makes Three by Parnell & Richardson, illus. by Cole
- I Am Jazz by Herthel & Jennings, illus. by McNicholas
- Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
- Love Makes a Family by Beer
- Mommy, Mama, and Me by Newman, illus. by Thompson
- Pink is for Boys by Pearlman, illus. by Kaban
- The Story of Ferdinand by Leaf, illus. by Lawson
- Worm Loves Worm by Austrian, illus. by Curato
Middle grade readers:
- George by Alex Gino
- Lily and Duncin by Donna Gephart
- The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
- Gender Born, Gender Made by Dr. Ehrensaft
- Invisible Families: Gay Identities, Relationships, and Motherhood among Black Women by Moore
- This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids by Owens-Reid and Russo
- Transgender Children and Youth by Nealy
- The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads by Rosswood
- Unconditional by Eriksen
Megan McQueen is a warmhearted teacher, coach, consultant, and writer. She grounds her work in empathetic education, importing a strong sense of community and social skills to those with which she works. Megan prioritizes emotional learning and problem solving skills. When not at work, she is most likely playing with her husband, two children, and pup.