opinion

'Pride and parenting: What I'll be teaching my kids this year'

'Some Families' podcast host and Attitude's new parenting columnist Stu Oakley on parenting during Pride.

2020-06-30

Pride season is upon us, and with no parades, I've been thinking what I can do with my kids to mark the annual celebration when this year we will all be witness to a historic Pride.

Not only are we dealing with a global pandemic, this year Pride must be the moment we all come together to help eradicate racism and support our trans brothers and sisters. Recent events have given us the jolt we all need to remember that when we stand united, we can achieve great things.

This year, activism begins at home.

To mark the inaugural Attitude Pride at Home, a festival of love and diversity, I have been thinking about how I - as a white cis-gendered gay male parent - can use this time to not only have some rainbow fun but be a force of change in my small part of the world.

My children are 4, 2 and 1; they are not too young to learn about the world around them. I know I could be, and want to be, doing better. Our children are the next generation and I have a responsibility and opportunity to not only educate them, but to inspire the next generation of allies.

Reading is one of the most powerful tools in helping younger children understand the world in which we live, and there are many great LGBTQ+ books out there. This year’s events have inspired me to re-look at my own children’s bookshelf. Are my husband and I diversifying outside our own “label”? To be honest, I think it is time we put down 'Two Dads'.

This Pride I have made a conscious effort to purchase a number of books that feature lead BAME, trans and lesbian characters to expand our collection and ensure we have a wider range of characters for them to look up to.

Shockingly, only 7% of children’s books published here in the UK in 2018 contain BAME characters, according to a Reflecting Realties report by the CLPE.

As parents are we also doing enough to encourage diversity within our schools? “A simple nudge of encouragement from parents can be the greenlight needed for schools to address certain areas,” reaffirms No Outsiders' lead and Attitude Pride Award winner Andrew Moffat.

“Hearing ‘we are ok with this’ from parents can be so powerful. The world is full of different people and children can only expand their minds through knowledge and experience.”

No Outsiders is a programme that promotes an ethos of inclusion and acceptance and aims to prepare children for life in modern Britain in schools and has a great set of courses on their website. I took Andrew’s advice and contacted my daughter’s school, explaining that I wanted to ensure it was equipped with the right tools to teach and explain different families and relationships and, as a gay parent, I offered some my suggestions.

The response was more heart-warming than I had hoped for. “Now more than ever it is so important that our teaching helps forge adults of the future who create a society where there are no differences,” they replied.

Stu Oakley is co-host of 'Some Families', the UK's first LGBTQ parenting podcast series

It felt good to have the support and be seen by this vital ally in my daughter’s life. I pray this is the case for other schools around the country, as much as I fear it won’t with Andrew’s personal experience being the prime example after last year’s Birmingham protests generated national headlines when parents objected to his inclusivity programme.

So, what about now? In a time of home-schooling what can a queer parent do to continue and encourage this vital work? Home-schooling is the word that obviously continues to drive fear and dread into parents across the country.

Diversity Role Models, an organisation who go above and beyond to help schools discuss diversity and inclusion, have an incredible at-home learning pack, which has been developed in response to the lockdown.

This pack has a wide range of activities for every age to allow for discussion around different families, the language that should be used and how stereotypes could be broken down.

“I am hearing schools, parents and carers are getting overwhelmed with the amount of resources being thrown at them from every direction,” said CEO of Diversity Role Models, Adam McCann. “Inclusion should start at home. Therefore, it is so important we continue to share them during this time.”

I shared this pack with my daughter’s school. I also thought it was worth pinging it to some other parents. Like me, you might be part of a school What’s App group, which is basically filled with gin-soaked parents desperate for more activities to keep everyone sane. They all welcomed details of the pack.

Additionally, NoOutsiders are sharing pictures that parents can use to discuss the world around us with discussion points on all different types of topics, including Black Lives Matter and gender equality. I finally bombarded our school with details of a new podcast aimed at teachers by Olly Pike who is furthering his commitment to creating a more diverse place for the future generation.

“I've spent a lot of time creating inclusive content for kids, but now I want to help parents and teachers understand why and how to use these resources, how to support young LGBTQ+ people and how ultimately we can all come together to create a kinder world for future generations,” he told me. The podcast is called Equality Education and it is another resource I encourage you to share with your children’s school.

I’m also making a conscious effort to seek more diverse children’s programming to further our education as a family, especially on the transgender community. MyGenderation is a YouTube channel dedicated to celebrating trans lives and experiences and has some insightful and beautifully made videos.

I had a chat to director Fox Fisher on the subject. “As a trans adult, who was once a trans child, being trans doesn’t go away,” he says.

“My advice to parents is to be open and honest. Have a think about your own preconceived ideas about gender and expression. Kids are as understanding and as accepting as those around them. Does your child feel safe to be able to explore not only who they are but also the world and their friends around them.”

In addition to MyGenderation, there are some great shows aimed at children that discuss and educate on all areas of LGBTQ+ and race that are also being added to our watch list. CBBC does try and reflect back the world in which we live, and I also applaud Pixar for releasing Out, a short-animated film which features the studios first LGBTQ+ lead.

It is an emotional and beautiful told story of a man trying to find the courage to come out to his parents. Here is hoping this is the start of something bigger, and by watching and sharing we can show and encourage demand.

Finally, we can’t forget to have some fun. These are testing times for many of us and the amount of responsibility we hold can be overwhelming. Anxieties and fears are high, but along with implementing your own form of activism – in whichever guise that might take – we should all aim to still enjoy Pride.

Bake rainbow cupcakes, paint your child’s face, spoil your partner this Father’s Day (and hope he spoils you right back!) and celebrate the achievements our community has made with your family. I can do better and we can all do better but don’t let that scare you into doing nothing.

Share this with your straight ally families, many of whom I find are always curious on how to support and explain LGBTQ+ issues with their own family, but may not have the right tools. Use Pride as the conversational stepping-stone and never underestimate your power as a parent to truly make a difference.

'Some Families' is streaming now wherever you get your podcasts. Follow them on Twitter @somefamiliespod.

Resources for parents:

Diversity Role Models

Diversity Role Models’ Home Schooling Activity Pack

No Outsiders

Olly Pike’s Educating Equality Podcast

Black Lives Matter Children’s BAME booklist

LGBTQ+ Picture Books

Transgender and Non-Binary Character booklist

MyGenderation