Tips On How Teachers Should Handle Gay Parents
By Brandy Black
Dear Uneducated Educator,
When I approach you to tell you that my child has two moms, to make sure you know so that you don’t refer to my daughter’s daddy unknowingly, I am not looking for your opinion. I do not need to know that you are “ok with it” that “you don’t judge”; frankly I don’t care what you think. I do, however, expect you to ask intelligent questions like, what does she call you? and Do you go by ‘Mommy’ or ‘Mama’? Perhaps take it a step further and ask if we have any good kids’ books with two moms that you can add to your library in the classroom. Those are relevant, thoughtful questions. But if you simply tell me that you are “good with whatever” it makes me think that you do in fact judge, or that you think I have something to be ashamed of, that I’m worried that you might judge me. You see, the world is changing and has been for quite a while now. There are two moms, two dads, single moms, mixed race families, transgender families. And although I don’t expect you to understand how to deal with the ever-changing family dynamic, I do expect you to educate yourself on the matter. Perhaps we are not doing a good enough job of educating our educators.
When there is a positive relationship between families and schools, students perform better academically and socially (Pyszkowski, 1987);
FEARS of the teacher/school:
- Addressing issues about lesbian- or gay-headed families means that I will have to talk about sex in the classroom.
- I am uncomfortable using the words “gay” and “lesbian”.
- I don’t know what words to use when interacting with members of lesbian- and gay-headed families.
- I don’t know how to reconcile my personal beliefs with my responsibility to all the children and families in my classroom/school.
- I don’t know what resources on gay- and lesbian-headed families exist, or where to find them.
FEARS of the child:
- Teachers and kids will think I am strange.
- Teachers and kids will treat me unfairly.
- My family and I will be called names.
- My family will not be included like other families in the school.
- My friends’ parents might not let their kids come over to my house to play or for a sleepover.
- Teachers and kids might think I will be lesbian or gay.
Use appropriate language when acknowledging the parent(s) in a gay- or lesbian- headed family.
In order to foster a positive relationship with lesbian or gay parents, use terms they choose. Be proactive, and ask the parent(s) what names their child uses for them such as Mama Kate, Mommy, Papa, Daddy. Find out about what other family members their child might refer to in class.
Update your curriculum to include materials that address the issues of gay- and lesbian-headed families.
Change your school forms and other community documents to use neutral, inclusive language.
Resources provided by Opening Doors: Lesbian and Gay Parents And Schools