I'm not LGBT, but my kids might be...
This year Cassie Pearse took her kids to Pride. Here she explains why all parents – lesbian, gay, straight, bisexual or transgender, should educate their children to accept and embrace differences from an early age.
Being gay, bisexual, straight, gender-uncertain or trans is not a once a year issue.
But Pride offers a wonderful opportunity for us as parents to educate our kids on diversity.
Which is why, as part of our parenting ethos (we don't really have an ethos, we just try to raise good people) we took them to the celebration this summer.
When we told them we were going, 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; “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 political protest but we also feel very strongly that we do these things for future generations.
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 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) - 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 the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan tweeted, “London will always be a beacon of inclusiveness, acceptance and diversity”.
Surely then, if non LGBT people stay away, it suggests that inclusiveness and acceptance aren’t real?
Of course, we don’t only talk about sexuality and gender identity once a year with our kids.
We are constantly reinforcing the message of love and inclusion.
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.”
I have no idea yet what choices my children will make in terms of their gender and sexuality 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.