Taking Your LGBT Child to Their First Pride
By j wallace skelton
PHOTO © Frank Fennema/123RF
Jun 16, 2017
Fifteen years ago, when I started working with GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliances, now Gender and Sexuality Alliances), they were thought as strictly a high school phenomenon.
Increasingly now, I’m asked to work with GSAs in middle schools and primary schools. I work with nine-year-olds who come out as gay, lesbian and bi, 12-year-olds who want their identities as pansexual respected and four-year-olds who are clear the gender binary is not for them.
If you're the parent of a young LGBTT2IQQA person (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirited, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual) who is thinking about coming to Pride for their first time, here are a few things to keep in mind when you attend the festival.
Pride is full of possibility models
Laverne Cox uses the term “possibility model” instead of role model, and I love it as a way to think about all the possible ways of being in the world. At Pride, you will encounter possibility models that make you hopeful for your child’s future, and ones that make you nervous. So will they. Who they see as a positive possibility model and who you do may be different, and that’s okay too. Practice listening rather than telling. Let them talk about what they see as interesting, inspiring or definitely not them.
Because Pride is about freedom of expression (among other things) there will likely be a small number of naked people there. You can encourage your young people to look away from anything they don’t want to see — there will be lots of other things to look at. Model only making positive comments about other people.
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Less is more
Pride is a marathon, not a sprint. Trying to do everything will likely lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration and generally being overwhelmed.
Plan with your child — find out what events are important to them. Look for events that match their identity. Where might they find other young people like them? Where might they see possibility models of who they want to be in the future? And remember that there will be some events that are not accessible to children.
Remember, it's a festival
Pack snacks, sunscreen and water. For young children, think about kid carriers or wagons. For older children, encourage them to bring some of their own money, and think about how much freedom you can give them — is it okay for them to explore the community or street fair without you for an hour?
And plan as you would to attend any large festival — figure out a meet-up location!
Plan to attend some kid-friendly events
While much of Pride is planned with adults in mind, there are kid-specific and kid-friendly events. At Toronto Pride there is Family Pride for children up to 12, Vancouver Pride has the family-friendly East Side Pride and festivities in Edmonton, Ottawa and Halifax include family picnics.
And if you are planning to watch a parade — like any parade — get there early!
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Talk about why we have Pride
Pride began as a way for LGBT people to assert our rights and our value. It began as a way to push back against discrimination and oppression. Talk about this with your child and ask them about where they see discrimination against LGBT people in their world.
If they are experiencing discrimination or erasure, talk with them about how you can help them. Will brainstorming ways to respond together be helpful? Will you stepping in make a difference?
Let them take charge of everything else
Allow your child to pick out not only their outfit, but yours too. Some children would love to have a parent wearing a t-shirt that says “Proud parent of a trans kid," others would be mortified. Would your child enjoy inviting a friend or two? Will they want you to take photos of them at Pride? If you do, how do they feel about you sharing them, either on social media or with family? Some will want to share, others will want privacy.
If you are going as their ally, think about what will affirm their identity and make sure that for your child, the day is about them.
And if you're getting ready to attend Toronto Pride, be sure to check out Family Pride which is billed for children 0-12, but tends to be more interesting for younger kids (think bounce castles, crafts, a visit from a fire truck). There’s usually food and drink there, and it can be a great place to escape the crush of the crowds on the street. There are also kid-specific ways to join in larger events, for instance, the TDSB invites all students and their families to join them marching in the parade on Sunday.
And if you live in the Greater Toronto Area, there are kid-specific events that happen across the year, such as Fay & Fluffy’s Storytime: Reading is FUNdamental, and the Kids Action and Arts Space (6-9) and the Youth Action and Arts Space (10-15) at The 519 Community Centre. You may also want to consider camps like Ten Oaks, which offer programs for LGBT children and children from LGBT families.