Pride is celebrating its 50 year anniversary in the UK this year. So much has been achieved for the LGBTQI+ community, but prejudices and barriers still remain and it’s important that the children in our care feel able to have conversations about this topic.
Why is it important to talk about Pride and being LGBTQI+?
Pride Month provides a great jumping off point for talking with our children about what it means to be proud of who you are and supportive of other people’s identities. As children see the rainbow flags displayed during Pride Month, they will most likely wonder what they are and have questions about their significance.
All throughout the year, children will hear conversations - at school or on social media - about LGBTQI+ related topics. Just recently, for example, Blackpool FC’s Jake Daniels became the first openly gay male professional footballer in over 30 years, sparking plenty of reactions, both positive and negative.
Children and young people need to feel safe and accepted in bringing up any questions or worries they may have. Hearing negative attitudes towards sexual orientation or gender identity could contribute to the anxiety that many feel over coming out to friends, family and community or being an ally to others in that situation. As a caregiver, raising the topic shows that you are open and non-judgmental about hearing their opinions and answering their questions. Moments like Pride or news stories about the topic enable you to provide a natural opportunity to start the conversation.
"Children and young people need to feel safe and accepted in bringing up any questions or worries they may have."
Do a bit of research
Before you start talking about Pride or LGBTQ+ rights, you might find it helps do a bit of research. It might give you a clearer idea on the kind of subjects to discuss and give you a head start on answering any questions your child might ask. It’s normal to feel a bit worried about talking about sexuality or gender identity in an age appropriate way, but becoming more familiar with the topic will help you to steer a course through this more easily. The more comfortable you are talking about the subject, the happier a child or young person will be in sharing their thoughts honestly with you. And remember, if you don’t know the answer, you can always offer to look it up and get back to them.
What is Pride?
The first UK Pride march was held in London in 1972 as thousands of people marched together calling for gay rights. In the years since, Pride marches have been held across the UK and are now an integral part of the yearly routine of most cities. In 2019, 1.5 milli
on people celebrated at London Pride.
The marches both celebrate the LGBTQI+ community and the gains made in rights, protections and acceptance, but also serve as a protest against the prejudices that still exist. The now famous rainbow flag was first designed in 1978 as a symbol of pride for the gay community.
Normalise difference and promote acceptance
It’s natural for children to notice differences, but the way we talk to them about it matters. We can convey that being different isn’t bad by explaining to them in an age appropriate way that they can easily relate to.
For very young children it’s important to keep things simple and factual, if possible by talking about real world experiences that they can easily understand. Their questions may be more about things they’ve noticed around them in their lives rather than their own feelings. To reassure them, we can talk about the difference in our families. For example, we might explain that we like different ice creams and that’s okay and it’s also fine for people to be different in other ways.
For older children and young people, topics may become more personal and include their own or their friends’ sexual or gender identity. Try to listen and keep conversations going. It’s important not to judge and to allow the child or young person to talk through their opinions and feelings before giving any guidance.
Talk about role models
In the words of Dr. Ronx Ikharia, star of CBBC’s Operation Ouch, “You cannot be what you do not see”. It can be both comforting and inspiring for children to see role models like Dr. Ronx and Jake Daniels pursuing successful careers and finding wider acceptance. As you point out LGBTQI+ role models you use it as a way to raise conversations in a natural way.
Depending on the age of your looked after child, you might also choose to watch the recently released TV show ‘Heartstopper’ on Netflix, which shows really positive portrayals of LGBTQI+ teenagers.
For younger children, there are a number of books which introduce the concept in a normalising way and provide jumping off points for conversations about families who don’t fit the traditional model. ‘And Tango Makes Three’ is a lovely book based on the true story of two male penguins who raise a chick together and is perfect for children still at the picture book stage.
Be proud all year round
While Pride is a great opportunity to talk about the subject of LGBTQI+ rights, remember that it doesn’t have to be a one-off. The resources mentioned above should hopefully give you a prompt to be able to bring up this important topic at any time.
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