As a gay man, I’ve had my share of hurdles to overcome. That only increased when I decided to become a dad. Like so many others in the LGBTQ community, I’ve faced discrimination, inequality and abuse from laws, churches, schools, family members and society as a whole. While progress has been made, there’s still much work to be done to protect the most vulnerable — particularly trans people and people of color.
So what can you, a straight, cisgender dad do to support the LGBTQ community and teach your kids to do the same? Glad you asked! Here’s how you can be an ally to us all.
I’ve put together a list that ranges in scope from small acts of kindness to larger, long-term commitments. But they’re all doable, and all important ways you can be an ally to LGBTQ families. Doing this work not only helps our families feel safer and more accepted, it also relieves some of the burden of us having to constantly advocate for (and educate on behalf of) ourselves and our kids.
- Don’t ask LGBTQ parents how they “got their kids” — at least not the first time you meet them. Queer families are often formed through foster care, adoption, divorce, surrogacy, IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and other potentially traumatic experiences. While many LGBTQ parents are happy to discuss their family’s origins, it should always be on their time and on their terms.
- Respect the families LGBTQ people have formed. Our families might include biological parents, separated siblings, surrogates, former partners (of any gender) and other chosen family members. It may not be like yours (or like anyone else’s family you know), but that doesn’t make it any less valid, nurturing or important.
Getting to know you
- Introduce yourself to the LGBTQ parents at your child’s school, but don’t force it. If a friendship forms, great! If not, it’s at least nice to acknowledge them and make them feel welcome. Same goes for new neighbors, church congregants and coworkers.
- Introduce your kids to our kids — invite them for playdates, sleepovers and birthday parties. Normalization and inclusivity help everyone involved.
- Do your own research. Confused about trans people, pronoun usage, meaning of the words “queer,” “cisgender” and “GSA” in this post? Crank up the Google before asking your new friends. This falls under “relieving the burden” I talked about earlier.
- Read books with LGBTQ characters and stories to your kids. While queer-positive children’s books are becoming more common, they’re still not always easy to find or carried in many libraries. While it’s also great to introduce your kids to LGBTQ TV shows, movies, music, etc., books are often the first and most important influence a parent shares with a child. Here’s a good starter list.
- Educate your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors and church congregants. Share with them what you learn. Stand up for LGBTQ folks during arguments or discussions. Don’t let homophobic jokes or comments go uncorrected. This is probably the most important item on this list — reaching the people we can’t.
- Find out if your child’s school has a GSA. If not, find out how you can help get a Gay Straight Alliance started.
- Are there gender-neutral restrooms in your child’s school? Dress code policies that don’t allow for a range of gender expressions? Find out how to help make these happen.
Pride & community
- Put a pride sticker on your car or fly a rainbow flag from your house. Afraid someone might think you’re gay? Take it as a compliment!
- Don’t assume anyone’s sexual orientation, gender identity, pronouns, familial role or parental name. Listen, be open, ask before jumping to conclusions.
- If you feel uncomfortable about anything on this list, take some time to examine why. Own up to your prejudices and learned phobias and commit to doing better. There’s always more to learn, always room to grow!
Lastly, remember that the LGBTQ community is not a monolith, so don’t assume every family or parent is the same. This list is fairly comprehensive, but by no means exhaustive. Have other ideas or suggestions on how to be an ally? Feel free to share them in the comments!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brent Almond is a writer and designer who combines parenting, pop culture and politics on his blog, Designer Daddy He has been honored by BlogHer’s “Voices of the Year” and a two-time Iris Award winner. Other passions include advocating for LGBTQ families and doodling superheroes for his son’s lunches.