The Power of Information: Helping to Teach Parents and Kids About LGBTQ+

Curated by Nishan Memon (he/him)

To elementary school teachers:

            It can be difficult to speak about LGBTQ+ activism and explain it to your students and their parents. However, the actions of those in LGBTQ+ groups and movements can be important to explain, as they have made a great impact in their community. Children may question their gender at an early age, which could easily be overlooked as a phase but may very well be an important turning point in their life. They may also have fellow classmates who feel a similar way. This exhibit intends to share some information on discussing these topics with students and their parents, a handful of experiences from those in the LGBTQ+ community, and some examples of what you can do to help be more inclusive.

Environment

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Pride Alliance. Group Meetings by Ahmed, Sabontu, 2018, from the Feminist Community Archive of Washington, CC-BY-NC. Weekly Pride Alliance social gatherings at IDEA Room, UW1 161, UW Bothell, Bothell, Washington

This image shows a meeting room with two pride flags on the wall and several country flags hanging overhead. The pride flags show that the environment is welcome to anyone regardless of their sex or gender and combined with the overhead country flags means that anyone from anywhere is welcome. This idea of inclusion is just as important for people that are transitioning as it is for people who come from a different country, especially for children, as they may be nervous about entering an unfamiliar environment. Visuals like flags can help show them that they don’t have to be afraid.

In addition to letting them know they are welcome through visual indicators like displaying flags, it is also important to let a person know you appreciate them. This is especially important for those who may be sensitive or may feel unwelcome. This button, which reads, “Someone I Love is Trans”, is a great way to tell children that regardless of who anyone is or how different they may be, they are worthy of being loved.

Communication

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Family - Friday Workshop Descriptions from 2017 Gender Odyssey program book by Gender Odyssey; Gender Diversity, 2018, CC BY-NC 4.0. From the Feminist Community Archive of Washington. Descriptions of workshops for the family program at Gender Odyssey 2017

When speaking to children about complicated subjects like gender and sex, it’s important to put it in a way that they can understand. This workshop program book poses multiple questions about what parents can do to explain topics like LGBTQ+. It also shares the experiences of a few people who actively support the transgender community and/or are parents to transgender children.

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NW Network "Outspoken Speakers Bureau" Brochure by NW Network staff, 2018, CC BY-NC 4.0. From the Feminist Community Archive of Washington. Gives basic information about the Outspoken Speakers Bureau, which the NW Network is a part of.

Speaking out against violence and bullying is an important way to prevent it from happening, and this is also true for those in LGBTQ+ communities. The Northwest Network is a group of LGBT and allied youth, adults and professionals. They provide multiple services for survivors of those in the community and are most importantly a part of the Outspoken Speakers Bureau. Training youth to be educators is important as it empowers them to tell others why bullying is wrong not only at school, but also in LGBTQ+ communities and elsewhere.

Our Trans Children.pdf

Our Trans Children by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and The Transgender Network, 2001. From the Digital Transgender Archive, Copyright undetermined. Our Trans Children: A Publication of the Transgender Network of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG): Third Edition

This booklet explains transgender terms, like crossdressers and gender dysphoria; what it means for someone to transition; the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity; and what issues trans people face. The booklet is meant for people who would like to learn about transgenderism, so it can be helpful to pass on to parents who have children that may be reconsidering their gender or teachers with these children in their class without prior knowledge.

Experiences

Hatch_Mister_Sister.pdf

Hatch! Mister Sister by MKD and Asher, 2005. From the Digital Transgender Archive, Copyright undetermined.

Although it can be difficult to know what a person is going through who is questioning their gender or is transitioning without having experienced it for oneself, hearing or seeing a first-hand experience can help. This story signifies the importance of showing support to those who are trans. This mini-zine tells the story of a single mother, MKD, and her son, Asher. Helen (who later became Asher) was born female but had always seen himself as a boy from a very young age. This surprised MKD at first, but she eventually fully supported him. When MKD sends Helen to stay with his father in Portland after struggling to care for him in, Helen has an incident at school where he wets his pants because he is unsure which bathroom to go to. MKD moves to Portland to take care of Helen, but Helen’s father and stepmother berate MKD for “abusing” Helen and threaten to take action against her. MKD and Helen move back to Chicago, Helen changes his name to Asher, and MKD is able to find a supportive school with supportive staff and children for Asher.

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Article on Queer Asian American youth by Bay Area Reporter, 1992, copyright BAR Media, Inc. From the GLBT Historical Society museum & archives.

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Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Coalition at Pride Parade by James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center, San Francisco Public Library, 1999, copyright undetermined. From the Digital Transgender Archive. Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgendered Coalition. Pride Parade 1999.

For some that are in the LGBTQ+ community, it can be more difficult to come out to others due to fear of being ignored, harassed, or punished. This is especially true for those in the community which come from families whose expectations are that their children abide by specific rules or tradition. 18-year-old Vietnamese American Tho Vong explains in this newspaper clipping that it was difficult for him to come out because his parents didn’t understand, and he didn’t have role models or support. He couldn’t find any gay Asian friends nor groups at school, so he started a support group in hopes of creating a safe space for Asian/Pacific Islander gay, lesbian and bisexual youth. The following image depicts a crowd of people at a pride parade, representing Asian/Pacific Islander queer women and transgender people. These artifacts exemplify the importance of giving support to all members of LGBTQ+, as they may not receive support from anyone else they know.

Conclusion

I hope that this exhibit helps you encourage others, like parents and their children, to be more inclusive to those in the LGBTQ+ community; together, we can all make it just a bit easier to include them in all of our communities too.

Archives Used

Feminist Community Archive of Washington

Digital Transgender Archive

GLBT Historical Society Museum & Archives

Artifact Sources

Ahmed, Sabontu. "Pride Alliance. Group Meetings." 2018. Feminism Community Archive of Washington, https://cdm16786.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16786coll12/id/520/rec/10 Accessed March 14, 2022.


Gender Odyssey; Gender Diversity. "Family - Friday Workshop Descriptions from 2017 Gender Odyssey program book." 2018. Feminism Community Archive of Washington, https://cdm16786.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16786coll12/id/529/rec/2 Accessed March 14, 2022.


NW Network staff. "NW Network "Outspoken Speakers Bureau" Brochure." 2018. Feminism Community Archive of Washington, https://cdm16786.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16786coll12/id/539/rec/4 Accessed March 14, 2022.


Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and The Transgender Network. "Our Trans Children." Pamphlet. 2001. Digital Transgender Archive, https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/jq085k039 Accessed March 14, 2022.


MKD, and Asher. "Hatch! Mister Sister." Pamphlet. 2005. Digital Transgender Archive, https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/n870zq95n Accessed March 14, 2022.


"Asian and Pacific Islander Queer Women and Transgender Coalition at Pride Parade." Photograph. 1999. Digital Transgender Archive, https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/qj72p713s Accessed March 14, 2022.


"Someone I Love is Trans*." Physical Object. Digital Transgender Archive, https://www.digitaltransgenderarchive.net/files/f7623c79s Accessed March 14, 2022.


Bay Area Reporter. "Article on Queer Asian American youth." 1992. GLBT Historical Society Museum & Archive, https://www.glbthistory.org/primary-source-set-asian-american-voices-activism Accessed March 14, 2022.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Dr. Julie Shayne, Penelope Wood, Denise Hattwig, and Jesse Blaire for providing all of the resources needed to create this exhibit and then some.