My parents raised me in a very gay-friendly environment. Before you get jealous of them for being so amazing, I should mention that they had a special advantage because my parents are lesbians.
Throughout my childhood, they role-modeled a loving, committed relationship, were mostly out whenever they felt they could be, and strived to practice self-love. Here are some helpful tips about how to raise your child in a gay-friendly environment that I picked up in my mothers’ house:
1. Ask: “Is there a special someone at school these days?”
When you ask, leave the gender of that special someone open for discussion instead of making assumptions.
2. Buy Malibu Barbie House and some Ken dolls to inhabit it together.
If you’re in a straight partnership, show your kid that your relationship with your spouse or significant other is only one of the options out there. “See how Ken and Ken are living together in this plastic house? That is one way of being a family.” Then switch their Ken doll heads and try to explain that!
3. Buy Legos and toy trucks for your daughters and dolls for your sons.
My lesbian moms were always trying to sell me on the idea of wearing blue and playing with Legos. I would scream that those were “boy things” and insist on wearing a fluffy pink dress and playing with body-image-crushing Barbies. But hey, at least they tried to save me from myself. Expose your kid to all different ways of expressing gender.
4. Wear or display some sort of rainbow, big or tiny!
Wearing or displaying any sort of rainbow can be a powerful nonverbal expression of solidarity. When I was a kid, one of my moms (not sure which! #mystery) put a bumper sticker on the back of our car that said “Let Freedom Ring.” It was a series of rainbow-colored rings linked around one another. It made me feel safe because it meant that my parents were “out” in our suburban neighborhood and that I had nothing to hide and could feel safe that they took pride in being gay and having a family. It just showed up one day without discussion on our red Honda, but it was worth a thousand words.
5. Avoid saying homophobic things about celebrities or people in your neighborhood.
You certainly don’t have to like your daughter’s biology teacher or Nathan Lane’s latest theatrical endeavor, but keep your insults and gossip clear of their sexuality. It’s hard to feel accepted and safe if you’ve picked up homophobic language at the dinner table.
6. Talk openly about sex.
When your child asks, “Where do babies come from,”answer the question in a manner appropriate to the child’s age. A sex-positive household is one without shame. Establish early that you can talk openly and can be trusted as a resource. This will save you heartache and anxiety down the line when your kids come to you instead of keeping potentially dangerous secrets.
7. Let your kids do ballet and football.
Within your budget and patience for schlepping kids around, sign your child up for anything and everything. You never know what will be your kid’s passion in life and you’ll want to keep an open mind about it, especially where gender norms rear their obtrusive and buzz-killing head.
8. Expose your kids to art and ideas by women.
Everybody loses with misogyny. Mainstream culture does a great job of disempowering women. A gay-friendly home means a home where oppression of all sorts is frowned upon. Put a great unibrow-sporting Frida Kahlo or Georgia O’Keefe “flower” up in your home to invite discussion of what it means to be a powerful, creative, and dynamic woman.
9. Say nice things about yourself.
Your kids will mimic your self-esteem. So fake it till you make it! A gay-friendly household is one in which people actively try to like what they see in the mirror. The LGBTQ community and its allies have important and exciting work to do as ambassadors. We have to love ourselves first. So even if you’re grappling with mountain ranges of adult acne, say nice things when you look in the mirror, because your kids are watching!
10. Take on a leadership role.
My lesbian moms were the heads of my Girl Scout troop in my suburban neighborhood. I cannot overstate how cool that was when I was 7 and 8 years old. Put yourself out there so your kid can see what it means to be a leader and a good, clear communicator. It’s easier to truly be yourself when you’ve seen it clearly and bravely modeled by your parents!
Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedian who writes for The Huffington Post. Her comedy has been featured on Jezebel, BustMagazine.com, Gawker, in Time Out NY and Comedy Central’s Indecision 2012 in Tribeca. She has appeared on PoliticsNation with Al Sharpton, with Reggie Watts in a web series for JASH and also on Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party. She has created content for Google’s Original Channels, Funny or Die, and as a sketch comedian with a residency at YouTube’s NY studios. See more at www.emmatattenbaumfine.com!
Click through to read about our contributors!