Yesterday I noticed these two pictures hanging in my 4 year old’s Jr. Kindergarten classroom.
One poster reads ‘Love has no gender’ with ‘safe and positive space’ to the bottom left. The other was actually a 2SLGBTQQIA poster contest for the older kids in the school, the poster says ‘Pride to me means to be loved’ while the bottom poster shows that gender is more than just the male/female options most of us have grown up learning in school.
There may be people who look at these posters and think learning about gender/sexuality is too complex for 4 year olds but my heart nearly burst with pride at these images. You are never too young to learn acceptance and that is exactly why these posters are so important.
I am going to be completely honest with you, I am a cis female (my gender fits with my biological sex) with a husband and a lovely young daughter. I have never had to feel confused or scared because of my sexuality, I’ve never had to hide my relationships. I do not always use the correct terminology or the correct pronouns, but I try really hard, and when I do not know, I ask. So If I get it all wrong in the rest of this post, let me know (I can take it!).
I am a supporter of the 2SLGBTQQIA community, but I cannot pretend to identify with their suffering. Their grief has not been my grief. Their fight has not been my fight. But I am here, I am a cheerleader, a celebrator of all things I am wherever anyone of this community needs me to be to help create change and make the world a little easier for the 2SLGBTQQIA community and the people in my life that I love so very much.
One of my main roles, as named ally by the queer community, is to teach and model acceptance to my daughter. There are words we do not use in our home and I will pull family/friends aside when a comment is not acceptable around my daughter. She knows that families come in all shapes and sizes, she knows that some families look different than hers.
She doesn’t see anything bad in being different, in fact she boasts all the time about a friend in school who gets picked up not only by a mom, but a momma and a dad as well! At this age being different can be an awesome thing… until someone comes along and makes it feel not so awesome anymore.
This is unacceptable, even at 4 years of age, especially at 4 years of age!
No child should be made to feel worried, scared or confused, for who they are, what they look like, or what they like to play with. 2SLGBTQQIA students are more likely to drop out of school because of bullying than their peers. A whopping 82% report feeling bullied in the form of harassment and violence, and up to 64% report feeling unsafe in their own school. Children that identify as part of the LGBTQ community are also 3 times as likely to experience cyberbullying and 3 to 9 times as likely to attempt suicide depending if their parents do (or do not) support them.
Those are shocking stats, but one of the most alarming to me is that 50% of all youth do not understand that discriminatory language is offensive, nor do they realize the negative impact on 2SLGBTQQIA youth. Why? Because many children are not being taught about the importance of using appropriate language.
Some children are as young as 3 or 4 when they begin to notice they are different from their peers. How they are supported as they question/communicate these differences will determine their quality of life. Raising children that appreciate and nurture others regardless of their differences is something we need to foster from an early age, even before preschool. This doesn’t mean you have to sit your little one down and discuss gender identity and sexual orientation (unless you want to) but it does mean that you must model inclusive behaviour and take a stand when someone is not modelling inclusive behaviour.
“Some children are as young as 3 or 4 when they begin to notice they are different from their peers. How they are supported as they question/communicate these differences will determine their quality of life.”
I recognize that I do not have the same battle scars and I am here to fight the fight that is too big for any 4 year old. As parents we have a responsibility to create a safe space for our children to learn while being celebrated for who they are. It is our responsibility to validate identity. To normalize love. To make queer issues visible. Ultimately the goal would be to create a space where students can just grow up and express their identity like it is no big deal. We want to make ‘coming out’ a thing of the past so that everyone is rewarded the same privileges I have enjoyed as a cisgender female.
This weekend I will be packing up my daughter’s snacks and heading out to one of our favourite events, family PRIDE. We go every year both to watch my business partner cross the finish line at the Pride & Remembrance Run and to spend the day with some of the most amazing and enriching families I know. Our kids will play, and run, and laugh, they may even get into spats (it’s fairly likely) but they will never, not for a moment, look up from their games to see anything other than a diverse group of amazing friends & family!
Find out more about educating your children around these issues go here:
Parenting and understanding:
Creating an LGTBQ positive space (Read this if you work with new families, like our doulas!)
Support, education, and resources for the LGTBQ community:
Ally’s guide to terminology:
The 519 (community resource, Toronto)
And to work with LGBTQQIA clients check out our Diverse Families Program:
Books you may also want to check out:
Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang
What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg
Morris Micklewhite And The Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
Natasha Marchand is a birth doula, hypnobirthing instructor, prenatal fitness instructor and business consultant. She is the co-founder of bebo mia and Baby & Me Fitness and is also the proud mother of 4yo Sadie!
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