June is Pride Month – a beautiful month. It was established to honor those involved in the Stonewall Riots, a pivotal moment in time for our friends in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community.
As such, for my space this month on Lansing Mom, I want to share insight into how we can ensure the little humans we’re raising can continue to be allies to those in the LGBTQ+ community, especially for kids whose family structures may not look like their own. I’ve talked before about what family really is to me, and I’m fortunate to be able to count my dear friends, a same-sex couple, among my chosen family. They’re in the trenches with me raising their son and we may-or-may-not have secret hopes of our children getting married one day so we can for real join our families.
When I set out to write this month’s post, I reached out to them with some questions with the goal of compiling a list of tips. What follows are their exact words which, I think, hold more power than any summary I could write. A special thank you to the brilliant Chad Swan-Badgero for this insight, and for a friendship that brings so much beauty and love to my life.
What is the biggest misconception you think people have about children with same-sex parents?
“Without a doubt, it’s that the child will somehow be lacking without the presence of parents of two genders. As if the only way to raise a healthy, successful child can be done by one man, and one woman. AND, as if we don’t ALL rely on an entire community of family, friends, institutions, etc. to help raise our kids. I feel fortunate to just be raising our son with someone who balances me and my traits and personality – that’s it.”
How are you teaching your child to be accepting of all families, even those that look different from their own?
“First, we are grateful that our son was born at a time when there is SO much children’s literature depicting the myriad types of families. So, he’s getting a healthy diet of One Family mixed with How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight and we don’t take that for granted. When my cousin (who is a lesbian) came to our baby shower, she handed me a stack of kids’ books about same-sex couples with tears in her eyes and recounted that when they had their daughter, just eight years ago, they couldn’t find a single kid’s book depicting same-sex parents. We’ve come a long way in just a short amount of time.
“Secondly, we are trying, pandemic be damned, to put him in situations where there are diverse families present. That looks like play dates in the park, visiting my sister in Chicago, or dinner with friends on Sunday night. But we’re trying hard to show him a lot of different models of real life of families that don’t look exactly like ours, which is pretty easy, because we don’t HAVE a lot of families that look like ours, currently.”
What is your hope for your child’s future?
“It’s hard for me to answer this without crying, really, and while being succinct. But I’ll say that I pray each night that he’ll grow into a person who is kind, patient, smart, brave, creative, compassionate, honest, adventurous, thoughtful, independent, and optimistic. You know, the same list of adjectives that I’m sure most parents cycle through!”
“I also hope that his future will involve more equity in the world. That our politics will get less vicious and people will be kinder to each other. I hope that he’ll be part of a future that has less gun violence and more acceptance of everyone, not just the majority in whatever place he happens to find himself. I hope that his future will put more emphasis on education and mental health and community, rather than wealth and power. I hope his future is more involved with actual people rather than social media and that he can come to define his self-worth on his own terms, rather than letting other people dictate that for him. I hope his future is better and brighter than now.”
Have you had any experiences that make you worry about raising a child in a same-sex relationship?
“Not at all. My worry comes from everything I mentioned above. I worry that we’re bringing him into a world that I can barely explain sometimes, so how could I ever hope to explain it to him!”
“But from the moment we started our adoption journey, to the day he was handed to us in the hospital, until today (on the eve of his THIRD birthday), we have felt so supported, and so ready, and so ecstatic about the process of being parents. We’ve always felt oddly certain that we were the exact right parents for this one child. I truly believe that it’s less about the sex of the parents that matter, and more about making sure you’re ready and in a place in your life to raise a child that counts. We got our son when we were both 42, so we had plenty of time to be selfish, travel, and get ourselves financially ready for this time in our lives. That allowed us to be really thoughtful and prepared for being parents.”
What advice do you have for other parents about how they can teach their children to accept other families they haven’t seen before?
“I suppose the best way to teach children how to be accepting to other families that don’t look like yours is to create authentic relationships with families that don’t look like yours. I was thirty two years old before I was close friends with a same-sex couple with kids. Thirty two! And we live in a predominately white community, so we have to be really conscious about building deeper relationships with families of color so he can see those models as well. Believe me, we have work to do ourselves. But I’m a huge believer in modeling as a teaching tool.”
Anything else you think parents should know about how to be an ally for children raised by same-sex couples, or different kinds of families in general?
I think we need to empower ourselves and our children to be braver in using their voice to stand up for those who don’t feel like they have a voice. It’s so easy to be silent and to believe that someone else will step in. You don’t have to be LGBTQ+ to be an LGBTQ+ ally. You don’t have to be a person of color to be an ally for people of color. You don’t have to be a woman to be an ally for women’s rights. But you DO have to be brave. We have to show our children that we can be brave for those who are marginalized so when that time comes, they will be ready to use their voice for those who are voiceless and unheard and unseen.”
“So, to answer your previous question, THAT’S what I hope for my son’s future.”
If you’re like me, you may have shed a tear reading this. Our families may not look the same, but we all love the same. And I believe that our differences are what makes our world beautiful. I hope you’ll join me in seeing that beauty, and celebrating the differences that bind us this Pride Month.