how to talk to kids about LGBTQ, teach kids about diversityAnswering kids questions correctly is really hard. They seem to have a gift for asking incredibly hard questions at the most randomly inappropriate times. 

Here’s an example. I was at the grocery store with my 8YO son - we’d been looking for his favorite cereal for a solid 15 minutes. I finally gave up and asked a grocery shelf stocker for help.

 As the three of us stood together, my son tapped me on my arm and said really loud “Mom, can animals be gay?”

I was horrified. Mostly because I didn’t know the answer. My mind was nowhere near being prepared to discuss gay animals even if I did know the answer (I was thinking about cereal for God’s sake!).

But also because the grocery shelf stocker was looking right at me waiting to see how I'd respond. 

I panicked.

Don't Ignore LGBTQ+ Questions from Kids

Okay I admit it. I did consider (briefly!) pretending I didn’t hear the question. But only for a minute.

Then logic kicked in . . . as someone who has done hours of research on developmental psychology, I do know that dodging questions about any important subject, including LGBTQ+, gives kids the impression that there's something inherently evil about the subject and it shouldn't be discussed.

The major risk here is that kids will create their own answer with potentially erroneous information.

Instead, it’s best to offer a simple, straightforward answer. This will send a crucial message to your child that LGBTQ topics are not shameful. Try to look as comfortable as possible during this exchange―as if you're discussing the grocery list.

Even if you're not comfortable, fake it. If you're anxious, your child will read into it and assume there's something wrong with talking about LGBTQ people.

Aim for an open, educational tone. Your attitude shapes theirs. If you don't know the answer to the question, be honest and admit that you don't know. Google it together.

Dodging questions about important subjects like LGBTQ gives your child the impression that there's something inherently evil about the subject and it shouldn't be talked about. The major risk here is that your child will create their own answer with potentially erroneous information.

Just as important as 'not dodging questions' is providing answers that are simple. Kids learn by processing the information we give them.

The simpler the answer to their question, the easier it is for them to process the information. They don't need any information beyond what they're specifically asking.

So, if your kid asks "Can two girls get married?"

The only response you need to provide is:

"Yes. It's now legal for two women to marry each other."

You don't need to offer any explanation beyond that.

The more accepting our society becomes toward the LGBTQ+ community, the more questions will come up. It's actually a good thing. 

Answers to LGBTQ+ Questions from Kids

young boy asking question, teach diversity at homeEvery day, not just during Pride month, is open season for kids to ask oddball questions. To us, their question seems totally random. But to them, their question has probably been percolating inside their brain for days and it makes perfect sense to ask it at that moment. The location doesn’t seem to matter.

Plus, it’s how they learn - so it's kind of a primal thing.

The questions/comments and suggested simple answers below are by no means exhaustive. But hopefully they'll provide a good starting point for responding to the inevitable awkward questions and statements that most kids come up with. Understanding their question and listening to their response to your answer is also a great way to discover their true opinion

#1 - "That's so gay!"

Often, children use the word 'gay' to refer to someone who doesn't seem to fit in with other kids on the playground. The person who said it might not have actually meant for their comment to be hurtful.

However, it's wrong and your child needs to know what the true definition of 'gay' is so they understand why it's wrong to use the word negatively.

The best solution here is to demystify 'gay' by clarifying what it really means.

Explain that 'gay' means special love between two men or between two women. Continue by saying there’s nothing wrong with 'gay' love. The word ‘gay' should never be used in a negative way.

Leave it at that. You don't need to find out who said it or why. Let your child take the information you provided and apply it to their world at their own pace.

#2 - "Grandma says it's bad to have two moms. Is that true?"

"That’s a common opinion in Grandma’s generation. LGBTQ people in mainstream society wasn't accepted until recently. That's why previous generations, including Grandma’s, are still doubtful.

The most important thing for you to remember is that we respect all families that love and care for their children."

#3 - "Are LQBTQ families, real families?"

Note: Any or all or a combination of the potential responses below is an appropriate answer to this question.

"Yes LGBTQ families are real families."

"Every family is different. Some have different cultural traditions, religions, and values. Some have different structures―one parent instead of two, grandparents instead of parents, or two moms or two dads."

"Despite any differences, all families deserve respect. Just because a family might look different from ours, they love each other just as much as we love each other."

#4 - "How is it possible for two men to have a baby. Don't you need a man and a woman?”

"There are many different ways to become a parent. Some people get help from someone else to have a baby. Other people adopt babies. And sometimes two men raise children together because one of them was married to a woman before and had children with her."

#5 - "Can animals be gay?"

Here's what I should have said instead of panicking in the grocery store aisle:

"Yes, animals can be gay. Some animals are attracted to others of the same sex. For example, rams, penguins, and some monkeys can be gay."

#6 - "Why do gay and lesbian people have rainbow flags or rainbow stickers? What does it mean?"

"The rainbow flag and stickers represent all the different types of people in the LGBTQ community. Anyone can use rainbow flags and stickers to show support―you don't have to be gay to show support.

#7 - “What’s a ‘dyke’?”

“The word ‘dyke’ is a negative term that’s used to describe a ‘lesbian.’ It’s often used when someone is trying to be mean. Sometimes people use the word ‘dyke’ to insult a girl who acts tough or to describe two girls who like each other a lot. It’s not okay to use this word. It hurts people’s feelings.”

#8 - "If girls play sports or if boys play with dolls, does that mean they’re gay?"

"No, it doesn’t mean they’re gay. Some girls enjoy sports and competition. Some boys like to play with dolls."

#9 - Do gay men and lesbians have kids?

“Yes, gay men and lesbians have children.”

#10 - "Will I be gay if I play with someone who has two moms or two dads?

"No. You’ll always be you, no matter whom you play with. Being gay or straight is something that’s already inside you. No one else can put it there."

#11 - "What is homophobia?"

"Homophobia happens when, for no other reason, someone dislikes someone else just because they’re gay. Homophobia is thankfully slowly decreasing, but it still exists. Some people are so homophobic that they express their hatred by bullying and even physically harming gays and lesbians."

Follow Up

Lots of questions and concerns can and should come up as your child weaves their way through life. Let them know, regularly, that they can come to you anytime.

Keep the conversation going as the weeks and months unfold after your child asks a question. Discussing LGBTQ equality is not a formal, once-and-done conversation. Encourage your child to keep asking questions.

The values you teach your child will be much more impactful if your discussions are casual and continual. Keep going! 

More Resources:

If you found this article helpful, please check out How to Teach Kids to be Accepting of Gay People. It's a concise guidebook for parents that's full of more suggestions for teaching kids how to be an LGBTQ+ ally, including instructions for discovering (subtly) how your child truly feels about the subject, how to define the LGBTQ+ acronym, and how to select family media that respects the LGBTQ+ community. 
DEI for Parents
Tagged: LGBTQ+