Welcoming and Supporting LGBTQ Families
The BC Council for Families video, A Positive Space: Building LGBTQ-Inclusive Programs and Services, illustrates the work of two family service professionals who understand the particular needs of LGBTQ families from the inside out.
Making programs accessible to all families, regardless of what they look like, begins with the little things: introducing books and posters that reflect different family structures, examining your organizations hiring practices, considering methods of service delivery, and questioning your own assumptions about gender roles and parenting are great places to start.
An important signal can be featuring the word ‘diversity’ in programming brochures and advertisements. Fear of discrimination and uncertainty about whether they will be entering a welcoming, supportive environment can be exhausting for LGBTQ parents contemplating taking their children to a program. Posters and advertising materials that clearly express openness to diversity of family structure help to alleviate those anxieties. Having a rainbow image near the entrance door is a positive signal of welcome, recognized by many LGBTQ parents.
A valuable perspective is to recognize the agendas that all families have in common: they change diapers, they take their kids to school, they take their kids to programs, they take their kids to the dentist and doctor, they want the best for their kids. These are the things to focus on.
The presenters of the video stress that programs need to go beyond tolerance to acceptance. Everyone needs to be treated equally.
How can programs demonstrate respect?
- Using factual descriptors (e.g. a two-mum family) rather than labels
- You can ask the participant parent what terminology they prefer to describe their own family
- Referring to ‘partners’ in describing all families is neutral and inclusive
- In two-mum families, do not ask the common question, “Who is the real mum?” An acceptable neutral question is, “Are you the birth mother?”
- Asking, “Are you the stay-at-home mum?” or “Are you both breadwinners?” are acceptable neutral questions
- Reflecting on your program and whether the materials you are using (books, art, etc.) reflect diversity
- Celebrating holidays in a neutral way (e.g. ‘loved ones’ days rather than mother’s/father’s day
- Include LGBTQ-directed pamphlets and parenting materials along with your other info pamphlets, so parents feel free to discuss their issues with staff
In the September 9 issue of Keeping in Touch, we featured an article on another BC Council for Families resource, written by Rachel Epstein, offering advice for programs looking at how to effectively support LGBTQ families. A Keeping In Touch article from 2013 provides a list of points to consider to evaluate how to make programs more accessible and welcoming for LGBTQ parents and their families.
Rachel Epstein is also the author of an extensive resource for the best start/meilleur depart series for healthnexussanté, Welcoming and Celebrating Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity in Families: From Preconception to Preschool (2012). As well as references, resources and further reading, this resource workbook includes chapters on:
- Moving Towards Inclusion
- Understanding the Terms
- Social/Historical Context of LBTGQ Families
- Addressing Our Practice: An Ongoing Conversation
- LGBTQ Family Planning and Prenatal Care
- Early Childhood Education and Care
- Being an Ally: Becoming an Advocate
- Building Organizational Commitment
The BC Council for Families has also produced a series of downloadable Tip Sheets of LBGTQ-Specific Community Resources at:
- Parenting Options for LGTBQ People: Quick-reference outline of various routes to parenthood as an LGBTQ person and how to pursue them
- LGBTQ Parenting- Some Frequently Asked Questions: Answers to some of the most commonly asked questions for LGBTQ people who are considering becoming a parent
- Resources for LGBTQ Families: Searching the Internet for such information can be challenging, as it is difficult to know what the best resources are if you are not an expert on the subject. This tip sheet contains a list of some of the best LGBTQ resources currently out there, including both print and internet sources of information.
- Family Law Basics for Parents and Parents-to-Be: Easy-to-read insight into family Law issues in BC and how they apply to all parents
- Making Queer Parents “Legal” Parents in BC: Quick information on how to ensure that the intended parents of a child are also the child’s legal parents, under the eyes of the law
- LGBTQ Terminology: An easy-to-read guide on contemporary LBBTG terminology
- Combined Tip Sheet: Covers all the information in the individual tip sheets above.