The below is an excerpt from a larger interview done on Cool Hunting in 2014.
I have a legitimate question about this book; but first, let me give you some background…
My daughter just turned nine about two weeks ago. The day when she openly identifies with a sexuality has crossed my mind a time or two, casually. Already, I am setting the stage to healthy relationships in both my example with her father and my openness about the different kind of families that exist and are equally normal (a father and a father, for example). We occasionally have talks about boundaries and never accepting abuse in any form, of establishing a strong base of friendship with the person you may love before ever considering marriage, etc—just the kind of respect-based practical advice I wish I were given earlier in life, but nothing gender related or too specific for her age group. At the moment, she has no interest in affairs of the heart (knock on wood), other than marriage themes coming up in pretend type play. So, I can’t just yet tell what she will identify more strongly with and I can honestly say that don’t care which it ends up being.
So, my question is this: how would raising her be any different if she is gay versus bisexual or straight? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to knock the book or anything. But, isn’t universal acceptance kind of the way to go? I was always under the impression that if I instilled in her the knowledge that not only is she perfect the way she is, that everyone is different and are also perfect the way they are, then we’re good. From day one, I have focused quite a bit upon acceptance, tolerance, and non-judgement of virtually everything that isn’t harmful.
Did I miss a step? I feel like I might be missing something if a whole book is needed for this. Is there more to this than I am seeing or is the target audience people having difficulty with the subject matter? Thoughts?
I want to first say that you sound like an incredible parent. Creating accepting, welcoming environments for ALL kids is certainly the way to be, and it’s amazing that your daughter is growing up with a parent who is so committed to providing many views of family, gender, etc.
That is certainly, and sadly, not always the case. You must notice, in your pursuit of finding materials that show LGBTQ families or characters, that the majority of books, television shows, movies, magazines, etc are dominated by heterosexual relationships and portrayals of gender as boy/girl only—with rigid roles often assigned to each. Many parents (many people!) do not even notice these discrepancies, and certainly aren’t cognizant of the fact that their child’s library may include only one view of family, love, or identity.
What’s more, there are still so many parents (people!) who have had little to no experience with any gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender people (at least to their knowledge), and who are scared and upset when their child comes out to them. Those parents are scared and upset because they don’t have the knowledge that you currently have: that their child can have a full, productive life regardless of how they identify, so long as they are surrounded by love and support as much as possible. Our book aims to give them that knowledge, from the ground up, so that they can see as clearly as you seem to be seeing right now.
I’d urge you to try to understand that, just as much as you are acting from love for your daughter, so, too, do these “less accepting” parents act out of love. Their fear and lack of answers bends that love down a path that can ultimately hurt their child, yes—which is why this book needs so desperately to exist.
What’s more—while some of the concerns that parents have are rooted, like I mentioned, in lack of knowledge, there are others that are firmly rooted in reality. Parents who express fear that their child may face bullying, discrimination, or hatred are well founded—we still live in a country where many gay couples cannot get married, and where LGBTQ people can be fired from their jobs just because of their identity (among many other issues!). Those concerns are addressed in our book, and are very, very real!
This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids isn’t just written for “less accepting” parents, or parents with “no knowledge,” or just “parents of gay kids.” Our book is an important tool for any parent to help create accepting environments for the children—and I think in that sense you hit the nail on the head. Understanding many identities is critical in parenting any child, LGBTQ or otherwise. This book helps answer the questions that many parents have about their LGBTQ child, specifically, and also addresses concerns about the discrepancies and discriminations that do very much exist in the world around us. That knowledge is exceptionally necessary for ANY parent—not just parents of LGBTQ children.
Thanks for writing, and hope this helps!