Pride Month is not just a time for the LGBTQIA+ community to come together, but also a time reserved to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. It was a time that inspired a liberation movement and the fight for rights of the LGBTQIA+ community in the United States. Pride Month is a month-long event that consists of parades, concerts, gatherings, picnics, workshops, and memorials for those that have been lost to violence or HIV/AIDS. It is an event that encourages all people to unite and celebrate love and acceptance.
Now, I understand that not everyone celebrates Pride Month and that some may have differing opinions on the matter. Please know that I respect all points of view and that I’m not here to impose my beliefs on anyone. However, for families with similar beliefs to my own, I’d like to take this time to share my story on how my husband and I discussed and celebrated this event with our children.
I decided to take my girls to the Pride events of Iowa City this year for a few reasons. The first reason was that my husband and I view this time as a way to celebrate love with other members of our community, and I wanted them to be a part of that. Secondly, we were available on that weekend and therefore had no scheduling conflicts. The final reason is because my brother is a gay man; I believed this was a great way to show our support and love for him.
I also felt that bringing my oldest to the Pride festivities would be the opportune time to address the questions that she has had about her uncle. She has begun asking questions about his marital status or why he doesn’t have a girlfriend or any children of his own, so I was determined to start the conversation with her shortly before leaving for the festivities.
Although I knew the conversation needed to be serious, I also felt that this wasn’t something that I needed to prepare for. I could be very casual about it. Because I don’t think that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is anything unusual, I wasn’t nervous about the conversation by any means. I felt that because I have several gay/lesbian/transgender friends, students, co-workers, and a gay brother that I knew what to address. I believe that “love is love” and celebrated on the day of the Supreme Court ruling to legalize gay marriage. I’m even an avid Will and Grace fan! Shouldn’t I be an expert?
Our talk didn’t go poorly because my daughter was too young or because it was confusing. It was because I completely overthought EVERYTHING.
Somewhere in the middle of the conversation I forgot that I was talking to a 6-year-old and introduced the topic as if I were talking to an adult. I became aware of what I was doing, panicked, and began drawing pictures. Yes, pictures…and if you know my daughter, she LOVES art, so of course she saw this as an opportunity to draw. She began drawing animals with hearts and xoxo’s, which then led to questions about whether or not animals can love other kinds of animals like people can. By this point I lost her attention and did what any panicking parent does: seek help. In this case, I went straight to the most reliable source at my disposal: my brother.
I called and explained that I totally messed everything up and that he needed to explain his love life in a way that a 6-year-old would understand. He chuckled and helped soothe my frazzled nerves; shortly thereafter he gave me the best advice I’ve received in a long time. He told me not to tell her anything. He said to bring her to the Pride festival and, if she grows curious, let her ask the questions she wants to.
It was that simple! Why didn’t I think of that? By having an over-the-top conversation I was putting a stigma on something that shouldn’t be a big deal.
Pride is the happiest place that I’ve ever been to.
Taking his advice, I dropped the subject, and packed up the girls to head downtown Iowa City for the Pride festivities.
My girls walked around in a fun, accepting, and family friendly environment. Yes, my daughter witnessed individuals of the same sex holding hands and kissing. She saw people holding signs about love and acceptance, and others displaying their emotions by protesting the event. She didn’t even bat an eye. No questions. No giggles. No looks of confusion. What I got was one simple comment which showed the beautiful innocence of a child. She looked at me and said, “Pride is the happiest place that I’ve ever been to.”
Of course, my heart melted and I was very impressed by her observations.
What I’ve taken away from our experience is that I often shelter my girls from the real world. I’ve been subject to allowing others’ opinions rule my own decisions, especially when it comes to parenting. I had taken something so small and turned it into something huge. In the end, what Pride and my brother taught me was that I need to trust in the maturity and intelligence of my children. I need to encourage them to explore, learn, and formulate their own questions.
What has Pride taught you? What will you teach your kids?