So, you’re a good parent. You want your children to be accepting of all kinds of differences, and to grow up to be kind, civic-minded and informed. You love your gay friends. You applauded New Zealand and American marriage law reform, while cringing at Australia’s backwardness, and you loved it when Magda Szubanski came out on telly.
So why aren’t you and your kids at your local Pride festival?
The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardis Gras is coming up soon, and this month in Victoria we are celebrating Midsumma—in fact, every state and territory has some version of Pride. These events have a long and important history and are increasingly diverse in their offerings, as well as their participants.
Sure, many Pride events are held exclusively for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Some of them are decidedly adult. But there are other Pride events—carnivals and marches, especially, that welcome everybody - including allies - and are definitely safe for families. Fair and carnival days often have kids’ play areas, and many of the stalls are run by family-friendly organisations, council groups, or familiar institutions like the police and Australia Post. So while flamboyantly dressed partiers and gay dating ads do feature, these are by no means all that Pride has to offer. Here’s why you should bring your kids to a Pride march or carnival:
1. Your kids might be same-sex attracted or gender diverse
Conservative figures from the Human Rights Commission suggest that close to 11% of Australian people are same-sex attracted (that is, gay, lesbian or bisexual) or gender diverse (including transgender, genderqueer, and intersex)—and that is true for kids, too.
Imagine the gift you are giving to your children by demonstrating that you're not only accepting of sexual and gender diversity, but that there is a whole community out there, full of resources and positive LGBTQIA+ role-models. Most queer adults were never given any information about the possibilities for our lives, beyond dire warnings. A visit to Pride at a young age would have been life-changing for me, and it could be for your kids, too.
2. Your kids have same-sex attracted and gender diverse peers
It is a happy fact that these days it is not unusual for LGBT+ kids to be ‘out’ at high school, or even primary school. Your kids will be far better informed allies to their peers if they are comfortable around the queer community. More than that, they may well find that they go to school with the children of same-sex or transgender parents, or have teachers, sports coaches, youth leaders or other adults in their lives who fit under the LGBTIQ umbrella. Attending pride will make your kids more sensitive friends and allay any fears or misconceptions they might otherwise have had.
3. Your kids need to know that human rights are hard-won
We’ve come a long way since nightclub raids and gay-bashing were the norm, but those things are part of living memory. And there are many other rights—including marriage—that LGBTQIA+ people are still fighting for. Kids often have a very keen sense of justice and fairness, and teaching them to channel that into standing up for others is a powerful way to contribute to a better world. The peaceful activism demonstrated at pride can inspire them to campaign for other forms of equality, too.
4. Queer parents need your support
About 25% of adult LGBTQIA+ Australians are raising kids. Institutional support for that is increasing: Victoria just passed laws to allow same-sex couples to adopt, and groups like the Rainbow Families Council sometimes attract government funding to help support queer families. But it can be isolating feeling like the only gay dad on the kinder committee, or the only transgender parent your kid’s teachers have heard of besides Caitlyn Jenner. Being a queer parent has all the same ups and downs as being a straight parent, but with added homophobia or transphobia. Solidarity from other parents is so important. Affirming that you and your kids acknowledge and recognise queer families is a practical way to show your support.
5. Your kids will appreciate a colourful day out
Pride is a celebration, many of the events are free, and it’s a whole lot of fun. Last year at the Midsumma carnival my daughter ended up with so many free rainbow badges that she had to change into a bigger shirt to hold them all, and then she laughed herself silly on the jumping castle. Being called darling by a drag queen offering free fruit salad and rainbow frisbees may be unconventional fun, but it’s definitely fun. And who doesn’t love rainbows? Sad, nasty bigots, that’s who.
Pride might not be the first family day out option that springs to mind this summer, but it’s one to mark on your calendar. Supporting equal rights for your LGTBQIA+ friends is not only about what you post on Facebook: it’s about showing up, even with kids in tow. See you over the rainbow!
SBS will be streaming the 2017 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade live on Saturday, March 4 on SBS On Demand, and will then air our Mardi Gras special event - with commentary from our hosts, behind-the-scenes action and exclusive interviews - on Sunday March 5. In the meantime, you can keep up with all our Mardi Gras content here.