Kids & Company Blog

How Parents Can Model Behaviours of Allyship

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. 

Conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity are often the conversations parents fear the most for a variety of reasons. You may feel like you lack knowledge and understanding of the identities, fear what your children may experience, fear what others may think, or even feel apprehension about these identities and how they may align with your faith. All of these feelings and experiences are very real and completely valid. How you work through them as parents and caregivers will define the path ahead for your children. 

No pressure, right?

As parents, you’re not alone in this. When I came out to my mother, it was through a diary she found hidden under my mattress (so cliche). That alone, I think, says more about the culture and climate 18 years ago. Support and resources were much harder to find and same-sex marriage was a hotly debated topic in the country. My mother was in tears, I was in tears, and it wouldn’t be until months later that we would be comfortable around one another, and years later until we hashed it out. She was upset for two reasons: feeling guilty that her son couldn’t talk to her about it and for my future. She would later share that she thought I would likely get HIV and die of AIDS. 

My mom immigrated to Canada in the 70s. She worked and grew up during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Toronto. She partied with her gay friends and coworkers, she knew of people who died of AIDS; she saw it in the headlines, and her impression of a gay lifestyle was shaped by this history, this news coverage, and this visibility. Thanks to the visibility our community now has, and the many resources now available, we know queer lives have more promise than at any other point in recent history. 

These types of conversations and worries are likely many years away for most of you. But it’s important to begin thinking about it now and align with your partner and co-parents. What if your child comes out to you? What if they say, do, or ask for something now that may make you think twice about the future you’ve imagined for them? It’s never too early to begin thinking about it, to educate yourself, and to understand where your partner’s headspace is on such a topic. Ideally, you may have already talked about something so significant before having a child, but if not, you could start now.

Children nowadays are exposed to incredible diversity amongst their classmates, and their classmates with diverse parent dynamics. They will think differently than you did, and are seemingly more courageous, interested and experimental with the world around them. They are going to want to play with different toys, wear and express themselves with different colours, and ask for unique gifts that keep you guessing what is happening inside their brains. 

My brother is 12 years younger than me. One year, close to Christmas, my mom told me he asked her for a My Little Pony. He was about 4 years old at the time. Naturally, she asked me as a newly outed gay man if she should purchase it. I said why not, purchase it and let’s see what happens. Christmas day came and went, and that unwrapped My Little Pony remained in its box, all sealed, throughout the Christmas break. He returned to his child care in the new year and wanted to take his My Little Pony with him. He did, and immediately ran to one of his friends, a girl, and gifted it to her - the amazing story of my brother’s first crush. 

For you, it's easy to overthink a situation, a thought, an act, a request from your child because you want what’s best for them. You worry about what others may think of them, what others may think of you or how this may shape their future. But sometimes, you just need to go with the flow and let them lead the way. Children often know what’s best for them in these truly innocent years of their lives. Allow that innocence to play out, uninterrupted for as long as possible. You may be surprised by what you discover about them. 

My mother and I now have a much better relationship. She is my biggest cheerleader and she’s marched with my brother and I at Pride. She continues to fear for my safety, especially given the position I have placed myself in with Pflag, York Region and our advocacy work, but that’s not likely to change whether I’m advocating for our Pride Flag or if I’m simply just out for a night on the town. There is so much that you, as parents, worry about and will continue to worry about. 

These are the years in which your children will start to shape their identity. There will be enough to worry about down the road. Clothing, toys, their favorite colors, what they say, and what they ask; especially at this age, this is the small stuff. Lean on your parent friends, (judge your parent friends less too!), and build the courage to not sweat the little stuff. Let your children show you who they really are by providing for them as much as possible, not restricting their potential by saying no to a type of toy, outfit, or color choice. This is truly the small stuff. 

We at Pflag are here to help with that, and you as parent communities should be there to help one another with that as well, but your biggest help will come from your children themselves. They’ll tell you what they want, do your best to oblige. 

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. Kids & Company will be hosting a KidcoTalk with Tristan on June 16th on the topic of Queer Conversations: Fostering a Safe Environment for Your Child. At an early age, children may ask questions that can surprise us, or request toys or clothing that may be unexpected. We'll talk about how we can better prepare ourselves as parents and caregivers for these types of conversations. Tristan will also talk about how the parent and caregiver community can support one another. To join the webinar, please register here. Join us as it will be an excellent opportunity to ask Tristan any questions you may have!

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