You Need to Teach the Children In Your Life About The LGBT Community

“It will only confuse them” and “it goes against my beliefs” are what I often hear when parents are asked about whether or not they will teach their children about the LGBT community. Many parents probably don’t know how to go about discussing this topic with their child. But, when only four U.S. states require the teaching of LGBT history in public schools, there is no other way for children to receive this education in a safe and anti-prejudicial environment. 

In fact, six U.S. states actively restrict or prohibit the discussion of LGBT topics in the classroom, including South Carolina! S.C. Code § 59-32-30(A) explicitly states “The program of instruction provided for in this section may not include a discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships including, but not limited to, homosexual relationships except in the context of instruction concerning sexually transmitted diseases.” While this limit on education does not directly impact younger children and focuses on older students, it sets a precedent of homophobia within South Carolina.

The Human Rights Campaign has congregated a collection of resources with the goal of encouraging people to educate kids about LGBTQ issues. Something I want to emphasize that, just because you may not be a parent yet, does not mean that you cannot help educate children about the LGBT community and encourage the parents in your life to do so as well. Because of personal beliefs, some parents may want their children to know about what being LGBT is. But, by not doing so, parents risk just confusing their child more instead of providing them with a simple explanation for what it means to be gay. 

If little Julia in a child’s kindergarten class has two mommies, for example, that child could become confused if a heterosexual parental relationship is all that they know. It is a parent’s job to explain that it is okay for two girls to get married if they are in love. When given an explanation at a young age, children will understand that LGBT relationships work as easily as they believe that Santa Claus puts presents under their tree on Christmas night—if they celebrate Christmas, of course, but you get the idea! If the constraints of prejudice are not built into a child, they will have no trouble with understanding what it means to be LGBT.

If parents struggle with explaining these ideas to a child, there is an abundance of children’s books for this exact purpose. One of my favorites is “Prince and Knight,” written by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. This book puts a spin on the classic prince-princess fairytale to explain that “love is love” in a kid-friendly story. Another book I love is called “Pink Is for Boys,” written by Robb Pearlman and illustrated by Eda Kaban, which encourages children to live beyond the gender stereotypes that are so often pushed on them at a young age while teaching them about colors!

As the older sister to an eight-year-old, I know how it feels to want to educate a child about the LGBT community. I want her to grow up devoid of homophobia, transphobia, and other prejudices that I see so often in people my age and older. But I know that many young adults in the same or a similar situation to mine would struggle with educating the children in their lives when the child’s parents don’t support the LGBT community. But, encouraging those parents to take action for the reasons I’ve already explained and contradicting prejudicial or stereotypical statements that are said in the presence of a child—even as simple as “girls don’t have to like pink”—are crucial actions to take towards societal progress, specifically in the younger generations. Whether you're teaching your own children, your younger sibling, your niece or nephew, or any other child in your life, I encourage you to educate them about the LGBT community in a way that is free from prejudice.