Last weekend we took our kids to celebrate Pride, as we do every year. When we told them what we were doing, our son, who is just five, responded with, “why do we always have to do adult things, why can’t we do kid things sometimes?”
In my head I was screaming, ”but we spend all our time doing shit for you. Do you think we went to legoland for me? Is every hour in the playground for me? Did I run around holding the back of your bike while you learned to ride, breaking my back, for me?”. But externally I was the epitome of calm while I explained to him that all the marches and Pride stuff are as much for his sister and him as it is for us. Yes, his dad and I love a good rant and march but we also feel very strongly that we march for future generations. We feel similarly about taking our children to Pride events. Our three year old has been every year of her life thus far.
So why do we take them? Why is it so important to us, a heterosexual couple, to take our children to Pride? Well, first of all, we always have a lovely time there. We haven’t yet taken the kids to anything in town, to any of the big events, but we’re lucky enough to live a short ride away from the location of an annual Pride picnic so we head there for a more chilled out Pride experience that won’t be too stressful with tiny kids (they’re five and three).
Secondly, we want our kids to completely internalise the assurance that their sexuality or gender identity is never an issue for us. We want them to understand with every fibre of their being that we love them, not an idea of who they are and certainly not a sexuality or gender identity. We don’t want them to ever worry about having to tell us about their sexuality, or have them feel we’ll love them any less. And we reckon (could be wrong I admit) that by going and joining Pride celebrations with them at such a young age, we are making this a reality. Last year, when our son was just four, I picked him up from nursery and overheard him explaining our weekend to a teacher thus; ”I can’t remember what it was called but we went to a party to celebrate that boys can love boys and girls can love girls…and I got a rainbow flag”.
Thirdly, and I don’t know if this is inappropriate or an unwelcome thought, I hope not: we, my husband and I, loathe inequality and intolerance and hope that having heterosexual families at pride underlines the ”inclusion and love for all’ message of Pride’. As our mayor, Sadiq Khan tweeted, ‘London will always be a beacon of inclusiveness, acceptance and diversity’. If non LGBT+ people stay away then, for us, it suggests that inclusiveness and acceptance aren’t real.
Of course, we don’t only talk about sexuality and gender identity once a year. We are constantly reinforcing the message of love and inclusion with our children. When they talk about marrying or finding a partner, we always add the other gender so if our son says that when he grows up he wants to marry, we make it clear he can marry a boy or a girl. If he says he wants to marry his best (boy) friend, we don’t react at all. When our children say they want to be the other gender when they grow up, instead of saying ‘no that’s not how it works’, we explain that it is possible to be the gender you feel inside and that there are ways to make this happen. To someone going through a transition we may be approaching this in a clumsy way but everything we are doing is coming from a place of love and total acceptance for our children, their lives, and everyone else’s lives.
We do understand that non-LGBT people at Pride events can be a contentious issue, that for some it might feel as if parents are taking their kids for a day out in the same way they go to a National Trust garden but as Bex Dane, who helps run an LGBT support group says, ”I love seeing families at Pride. It gives us a real sense of solidarity and support…one of our biggest strategies is talking about straight allies and encouraging advocacy. Because, let’s face it, there are more straight people than LGBT.”
Writer Sophie Brown tells me that she feels strongly that educating children about LGBT issues shouldn’t be a once-a-year event but that if children are taken to Pride events as part of a continuing conversation about sexuality and inclusion there is no problem.
Another member of the LGBT community, who preferred not to be named, said that she feels it is important that we always remember Pride’s origins; that it was never meant as a chance to enjoy a party or a parade but as an act of defiance against brutal homophobia. Personally, I feel that while Pride is undoubtedly an LGBT community event, there is no reason we shouldn’t be using it to educate the next generation: I have no idea yet if my children are gay, trans, gender fluid or cis but whatever they may be, I want them to grow up open-minded, with as few prejudices as possible and secure in the knowledge of their parents’ love. So, from this heterosexual parent, thank you Pride for being a part of my children’s upbringing.