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Someone wearing red sneakers choosing between genders

How to talk to your children about LGBT issues and identity


Among the myriad of issues children encounter through their media and social interactions is the subject of gender and sexual identity.

LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans – issues have been high on the news agenda in the past year, from changes in the law on gay marriage in Australia down to discussion here in the UK on gender neutral school uniform.

First News reported on how year 7 to 11 boys in an Exeter school kicked off the uniform debate by wearing skirts during the hot summer weather in protest at being made to wear long trousers.

Soon after, schools started offering gender neutral uniforms and John Lewis removed its gender labelling from clothes. Some schools even now have gender neutral toilet cubicles and use application forms offering a gender neutral option for children.

So while it may seem surprising that a seven year old would ask about LGBT issues, their daily school life may already throw up some questions for them.

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While attitudes and laws around LGBT people are becoming more accepting in the UK, children might hear language and ideas about LGBT issues in the playground that may not be positive.

Therefore, perhaps start the conversation by finding out how much your child already knows from what they have heard discussed in the news and around school and clear up any misinformation and misunderstandings.

Be clear about the facts and relate them to what they already know, but make sure to use age appropriate language without going into too much detail.

Campaign group Stonewall suggests some child-friendly definitions on its website, which we recommend looking at for more information. For example, it defines ‘gay’ as ‘someone who falls in love with, or wants to have a relationship or partnership with, people who are the same gender as them. For example, a man who loves another man or a woman who loves another woman, this includes two dads or two mums.’

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Be sure to talk in a positive way about gay people, perhaps referring to positive gay role models your child may have heard of. Make it clear that gay people have rights, can get married, have children, are protected in the workplace from discrimination and lead happy lives.

Stonewall also advises parents who think their own children might be gay or bisexual not to pry or ask too many questions.

Until they come and tell you, you can’t know, the group says. Gay and bisexual people come in all shapes and sizes so do not make assumptions. Let them come to you in their own time.

Also it may be necessary to examine your own feelings around these issues, and if they are negative, put them to one side. Set ground rules for family members in your home about what they say on the issue too. You want your child to be happy and feel they can talk to you, so keep the conversation open and positive.

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