Kids & Company Blog

Empowering Children to Celebrate Individual Identities

This blog is written by our guest author, Tristan Coolman, President of Pflag Canada York Region. Pflag is an LGBTQ2IA+ support, education, and resource network who hold support  for queer community members and their loved ones. In this spirit of October being LGBT+ History month, this blog explores the connection between Queer history and Halloween, celebrating individual identities throughout history during this festive season and initiating conversations with our children about embracing their own identities and those of others. Key takeaways include the importance of parents being aware of what's happening in today's world, as it will shape their child's upbringing in a safe and inclusive environment, as well as parent resources for those in the United States and Canada.


Empowering Children to Celebrate Individual Identities

October is here! For many of you, and your children, you are gearing up for the peak of the spooky season. There’s a lot to look forward to as a child for Halloween. I remember looking forward to earning my pillowcase full of candy, hoping to snack the coveted bars of Snickers, Twix, and Peanut Butter cups. Some of you may know that October is also LGBT History Month, in addition to other month-long observances which celebrate our individual identities. I’m writing to you from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and here, Halloween and our local queer community have a unique history that continues to live on to this day. 

Yonge Street in Toronto runs from the shores of Lake Ontario up to the shores of Lake Simcoe. It’s an artery in Southern Ontario home to the main streets of many towns and cities north of Toronto. 

Yonge Street  was also home to the beginnings of Toronto’s “Gay Village”, now known as the Church-Wellesley Village, named after the intersection the community would later settle and grow around, approximately two blocks away. In 1950s Toronto, it was still illegal for people to dress in clothing that did not match what appeared to be their gender identity. The only exception to this rule was Halloween. The fiercest members of our queer community would ignore the law year-round and be regularly arrested and thrown in jail for embracing their individual identity. Many others within our community still bravely took advantage of the temporary wavering in the law to celebrate Halloween. 

Community members would celebrate inside the St. Charles Tavern on Yonge Street, one of a couple of the city’s unofficial gay bars. To avoid being seen from the street, patrons would regularly enter the tavern from the back of the building. On Halloween, they would walk out the south-facing front door, in full drag and costume, and walk down the middle of Church Street as part of one of Toronto’s earliest known parades of queer-visibility. As folks embraced their individual identity through Halloween, they were on the receiving end of cat calls, eggs, and other objects thrown at them. In the 1980s, local activists worked closely with police year after year to reduce the acts of violence against the queer community celebrating Halloween. They moved crowds and constructed barriers on the other side of the street, the next year they worked with local shops to stop selling eggs and tomatoes leading up to Halloween to reduce the amount of available grocery-based ammunition, and the following year these anti-queer protests were a thing of the past. 

Today, Church Street in Toronto, home to the modern queer village, is shut down only twice a year to street traffic: First for pride weekend, and second for Halloween. Our queer community, allies, and friendly observers come out to take in the most vibrant and creative costumes you will ever see. Halloween on Church is one of Toronto’s best kept secrets - a local favourite. It’s a celebratory and emotionally charged walk, knowing our queer-elders fought hard and endured so much for many of us to be our authentic selves. 

Nowadays, our ability to embrace individual identity is facing renewed challenges throughout the United States and Canada. It seemed like we started to turn the corner in North America, embracing individual identities and experiences. But recently, there has been resistance to that idea - especially for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. In the United States, there are over 50 pieces of “don’t say gay” legislation that have passed in 2023 alone. In Canada, policies in New Brunswick and Saskatchewan now limit a queer student’s right to disclosure about their identities, forcing them to first confront their parents before they explore the idea of a social transition. 

Before we begin to teach our children how to embrace their individual identity and those of their peers, we first need to confront the fact that we are living in an era of renewed hostility against queer community and embracing our unique individual identities. At the root of it all is discrimination and bigotry - that same type of discrimination that fuelled the eggs and tomatoes thrown at queer folk on Halloween in Toronto decades ago. Parents and caregivers need to work harder than ever to set an example for children and others around us and truly be allies. 

The first step to teaching children how to embrace individual identities is being honest about what is happening in the world around us, and doing everything we can to counter those interests. Learn about what is happening locally, state-wide/provincially, and federally. It is important to understand who is introducing policy or legislation restricting the rights of our most vulnerable and acting and voting accordingly. 

At home, it’s about being open to your own learning journey and supporting your children with their suggestions and decisions should they have any. As Kids & Company parents,  your children are likely very young and you won’t need to navigate difficult conversations for sometime. It is important to encourage individuality and self-acceptance by being aware of what you say, how you say it, what you restrict and why.

There are resources in most communities to support you. Organizations like PFLAG are parent and caregiver led volunteer organizations that support parents with these conversations. In some areas, local libraries are great at embracing individual identity and holding events that bring our community together, such as Drag Story Time. 

Teaching your child about embracing their true authentic self is more than just about what you do at home, but also about fostering that environment for others through action and participation in your community. 


US Resources


Trevor Project:

Matthew Shepard Foundation:


Canadian Resources

Pflag Canada: 

LGBT Youthline:

Egale Canada:


This blog is written by our guest author, Tristan Coolman, President of Pflag Canada York Region. Pflag is an LGBTQ2IA+ support, education, and resource network who hold support meetings for queer community members and their loved ones. 

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