You may hear the term “allyship” more frequently at specific times – Black History Month, NAIDOC Week or World Pride, for example. However, true allyship is not just contained to set times of the year when certain causes are highlighted by dedicated events.
The goal of most parents is to raise children who are kind to and respectful and accepting of other people – no matter who they are or how they identify. While it’s important to have conversations around these subjects all year round, World Pride is a great time to get them off the ground – especially as this year the festival took place right here in Australia! June is also Pride Month around the world so it’s currently a great time to broach the topic with your kids.
The sad reality is that the LGBTQIA+ community still faces discrimination in so many aspects of life. Trans and gender-diverse young people, particularly, have elevated rates of psychological distress, mental ill-health, and suicide risk.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the deeply embedded issue of LGBTQIA+ inequality, there are small but powerful actions we can all take to ensure that we continue to make progress in these areas. One of the most important and effective things we can do is teaching our children to be allies and to accept all people – regardless of their orientation. So, how exactly do we do this? With help from sexuality educator Vanessa Hamilton of Talking the Talk, we have a few tips.
Understand the commitment
While Vanessa encourages parents to take their children to family-friendly Pride events to get them excited about being allies, she also reminds us that there is a very serious side to allyship.
“Kids should also know that allyship isn’t always fun and exciting”, she says. “The LGBTQIA+ community need allies to support them, defend them and help fight for their rights, but be aware that some people still discriminate and can be very mean – even to ally’s.”
Be open with your children about why allyship is important by providing history and context around Pride. Check out our guide on how to do this, here.
And remember, even though Pride provides a natural inroad to these conversations, being an ally is a year-round commitment so make sure you keep the dialogue going even once the rainbow flags have come down.
Language is important
We know that language is incredibly powerful and that there are many ways in which it has been weaponised against the LGBTQIA+ community.
Vanessa encourages us to think about how to call out phrases that should be avoided and are harmful and instead what language we can embrace when talking to our kids about allyship.
“Talk about words describing LGBTQIA+ identities in a positive way,” she suggests. “Don’t introduce kids to slurs or defamatory terms. Teaching them and exposing them to positive language when talking about the Queer community demonstrates how they should talk to and about others.”
Of course, we also know that children form their beliefs from the world around them – what they hear, see and talk about. So, what do you do if your child is exposed to negative language around LGBTQIA+ identity and asks about it?
“Always address it in a matter of fact way,” says Vanessa. “And teach them about how those words are hurtful and should not be used.”
By teaching our children about the power of language, we support their allyship by equipping them with the knowledge of how to speak kindly and inclusively, while also calling out negative language or stereotypes when they hear them.
Be a role model
Remember how we mentioned that children form their beliefs from the world around them? Well, you are the centre of that world so never underestimate your influence.
If you want your child to be an ally, it’s likely because you are one too and you want your offspring to celebrate diversity as you do. Therefore, allow them to get involved with the ways in which you demonstrate your allyship (as long as it is age appropriate for them).
If you are attending a protest, let them help you make banners or outfits. If you feel it is appropriate, let them attend with you so they can see community allyship in action. Let them see you (safely) call out unacceptable behaviour or language and then debrief with them about it afterwards.
Vanessa adds, “Continue to educate yourself on inclusivity and demonstrate that learning about this is important to you and is something you care about – and therefore something that you want them to care about too.”
She also suggests supporting LGBTQIA+ organisations, events, charities and businesses so that your child can see all of the different ways allyship can look.
Lean into resources
It’s great if you can be guided by members of the LGBTQIA+ community on how to best advocate for and support them, but we cannot expect them to bear the burden of our education. If you have a friend or family member who is willing to talk to you about how you can best be an ally for them, make sure you are actively listening to what they say and encourage your child to do the same.
Alternatively, there are so many resources available for people who are ready to do the work because, remember, being an ally IS work and part of that work is in educating ourselves.
Read books, listen to podcasts, diversify your Instagram feed, and volunteer with LGBTQIA+-focused charities…there are so many ways that you can show up for the rainbow community while setting your kids up for a lifetime of doing the same.
What is World Pride and how do we teach our kids about it?
Guide to Pride: Events the whole family can enjoy during World Pride 2023
7 Beautiful children’s books that celebrate LGBTQIA+ stories