As parents, starting a conversation with your child about sexual orientation and gender identity can often be challenging, especially when it concerns policies enforced in the educational system. Earlier this year, a high school in Grand Island, Nebraska made national news when the school district got rid of its student newspaper after it published an edition highlighting LGBTQIA2S+ issues. Also in the year, the Archdiocese of Omaha announced it was delaying implementing gender identity policies in Catholic schools after some Catholics and schools expressed opposition to these policies.
Most recently, Millard Public Schools has been in the spotlight due to claims regarding the display of LGBTQ-supportive materials following social media posts published by Nebraska State Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha. According to the Omaha Herald, Sen. Hunt said, “I have spoken with numerous students, teachers, and staff who will confirm on the record what happened at Millard North, even though school administrators will not acknowledge it.” Hunt wrote, “On issues like the safety of children and human equality, we cannot give one inch.”
Rebecca Kleeman, the spokesperson for Millard Public Schools, said that the claims of the district restricting pro-LGBTQ displays is a misunderstanding. Kleeman went on to say that the district has no policies preventing the display of flags, stickers or other symbols, however staff are not allowed to display materials associated with political or advocacy organizations unless they are directly related to curriculum.
Whether you are an educator looking for ways to support and empower your LGBTQIA2S+ students or a parent or caregiver hoping to nurture understanding and acceptance in your child’s home, there is no better time than now to start this necessary dialogue.
Understanding how to create inclusive conversations around LGBTQIA2S+ topics will ensure everyone feels safe and foster a sense of belonging and respect amongst all family members. Here is some practical advice on how educators and parents can have open honest dialogues with their children, while emphasizing the essential background knowledge needed when considering issues related to same-sex attraction, gender nonconformity, transgender identities, nonbinary people, and more!
- Let your child guide the conversation. Ask open-ended questions that allow your child to express their thoughts and feelings without feeling judged or pressured.
- Make sure to communicate your unconditional love. Let your child know you love them regardless of their sexuality or gender identity.
- Ask questions that demonstrate your understanding. Show your child you are willing to learn and be educated on LGBTQ issues.
- Avoid making assumptions. Don’t assume that your child’s identity is different than your own.
- Listen attentively. Your child may be more comfortable expressing themselves if they feel that they are being heard.
- Let go of any perceptions of how you feel the conversation should go. Let your child know that they can talk to you. Make sure your child knows that you are available to answer any questions they may have.
I hope this information was helpful. It’s important to remember that having inclusive conversations around LGBTQIA2S+ topics is not just about ensuring everyone feels safe. It’s also about learning more about the experiences of others and challenging our own assumptions.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions or would like further guidance on creating an inclusive space for LGBTQIA2S+ youth.