If you’re a parent or educator, you’ll probably receive some questions from your kids about the LGBT community. During June, it’s Pride Month and children will notice.
Kids might hear people around them different opinions and become confused. Sometimes, even the way we refer to specific people can influence how our children feel and act. No doubt they’ve met someone who’s gay or know children in LGBT families. Especially if they’re very young, they’ll be quick to point out the difference, and they won’t always have a filter. (Funny story. When I was a child, I once yelled across the room, “Hey Mommy, what’s a virgin?”)
How can you neutrally address LGBTQ+ questions? In this article, we’ll discuss some of the common questions and how to respond.
“What Does “Gay” Mean?”
According to Welcoming Schools, there’s no right answer. However, it is best to answer rather than trying to avoid the question.
How you answer depends on the age of the child. You’ll respond to a preschooler differently than, say, a second-grader. You don’t want to give too much information to a child who’s too young to understand it because you could confuse them. If you get into stories about legalities, you may even scare them with the possibility that being gay is a crime.
You want to share a simple message, and that’s that all people are equal. The differences are what make us interesting. They should know that people can love anyone they want, regardless of gender.
A simple answer to this question would be, “It describes a boy who wants to have a boyfriend or a girl who wants to have a girlfriend.” Or you could say something like, “It means a man and a man or a woman and a woman who love each other.”
“Try to answer questions honestly without overloading students with information.” — Welcoming Schools
“Why Does He Have Two Mommies(or Daddies)?”
The Washington Post recommends giving children clear, concise answers. Try not to show discomfort, because it shouldn’t be a shameful topic. Preparing responses ahead of time will make it easier if and when the questions do come.
If you come across a gay couple, such as the parents of a classmate, it’s okay to point it out in a neutral way, keeping discussion lines open. If your child directly asks you why Johnny has two mommies or daddies, you can say something like, “All families are different.” If you haven’t already, you likely will come across children in LGBT families.
If you’re an educator, you can address this more in a unit on families. You may even ask the student who is in their family.
“Just knowing [that] people [children] like and know are LGBT can promote acceptance.” — Washington Post
If they ask something along the lines of, “How can he have two of the same? Don’t you need a Dad(or Mom)?” Respond with, “Children can come into the world in many different ways.”
“Can Boys (or Girls) Get Married?”
According to a survey by Gallup in 2017, around 10% of LGBT Americans are married to someone of the same gender. They married for the same reasons as anyone else i.e., love, companionship, etc. So, a simple answer to this question is, “Yes.”
If you would like to add something, you can say, “Anyone can marry anyone they want when they’re an adult.”
“Focus on love and relationships.” — Welcoming Schools
For more information on responding to questions, check out this handout provided by Welcoming Schools.
Terms and Definitions
You and your children will hear many different terms regarding the LGBTQ+ community, and they may be confusing. Here are some common ones to help you both. The defnitions below are worded in a way for children to understand. Find a complete list for children here. Find a complete list for parents and educators here.
Bisexual: People who love men or women.
Pansexual: People who love people of any gender.
Lesbian: People who love people of the same gender, two women.
Gay: People who love people of the same gender.
Heterosexual/Straight: People who love people of the opposite sex.
Transgender, Trans: When the gender you identify with is different from your sex assigned at birth.
Queer: This word can be used in a way to celebrate all of the ways people love. However, it can also be used as an insult to hurt someone’s feelings.
Sex Assigned at Birth: A person’s gender at birth; when the doctor looks at the baby’s genitals and identifies a male, female, or intersex.
LGBTQ: Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer