Freedom to live – Why Ruth Hunt is right to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia.
Today I gave Mollie her first lesson in gay politics. We were getting ready to go to Brighton Pride and she wanted to know what ‘Rainbow Day’ was all about. We’ve taken her every year since she was tiny but this was the first year she saw it as anything more than a big party and asked questions.
So I told her.
I told her that it was to celebrate all the families that had a daddy and a daddy, or a mummy and a mummy just like us; and all the women who wanted to love and live with other women, and men who wanted to love and live with other men; and all the men and women who were just like her best (boy) friend who wants to wear a dress and be a girl.
And I told her that it’s important to celebrate this because we are lucky that we have the freedom to live our lives how we want to. That, not that long ago, LGBT people didn’t have the right to love who we want to love and be who we want to be and that not everyone thinks we should have that freedom now. I shocked her by saying that in a lot of other countries, people don’t and can’t.
It was hard to tell her that the world isn’t always fair – a bit like greying out some of her innocence-tinted spectacles – but I answered her questions as honestly as I could considering she’s only 5. I hope I was able to explain the importance of celebrating equality in terms that she understood.
I’m glad I tried, because this year’s march was a beautiful mix of the personal and the political. It wasn’t just a big party. We had a wonderful day watching the Pride parade and celebrating with dear friends. We celebrated our freedom to live our lives together. We raised a glass to how far we have come. We put money in the donation buckets to support those fighting to sustain and spread that freedom. And all with Mollie at our sides, looking, questioning, learning.
We have been lucky that Mollie hadn’t yet come across homophobia and that we have been able to teach her about it in such a positive way. Of course we have attempted to shield her from it as much as possible; we are constantly risk-assessing -where we go, who we spend time with, what we do. We have to. We have tried to fill her life with positive role models – and all the books that I review here – to teach her to celebrate diversity. But as soon as she started school our influence was gone. She was out in the world.
During her first year of school, Mollie has had a fantastic, supportive and liberal teacher who has (with the help of a stack of brilliantly inclusive books) taught Mollie and her peers about diversity in an inclusive way. We have been lucky. But it is luck. We live in a society that still treats LGBT people as less than equal. It’s a sad truth that at some point, directly or indirectly, Mollie will face negative comments about her family.
And that is why Ruth Hunt’s proposal to encourage children to celebrate being gay and combat homophobia is so important.
Ruth Hunt is the newly appointed Chief Executive of Stonewall. She hopes to commission a set of books that celebrates difference and send them to every pre-school. Imagine that! Every child under 5 having access to books celebrating difference and promoting equality. Every child having access to books they can see themselves and their family in. Every child learning that the world is diverse and that that is something to be celebrated. The books that I spend my time talking about and sharing and nudging authors to create, that folk like Inclusive Minds help produce and Letterbox Library help people find… they could be put into every pre-school.
I have been lucky enough to teach my daughter about equality before she came into contact with homophobia. Her class have been taught to celebrate difference. Now imagine a whole generation of pre-schoolers being taught the same. And imagine the roll on effect of that. It truly is powerful stuff.
So let’s all get behind Ruth Hunt and her celebration of difference. Let’s show her she’s right. That inclusive books work and that her idea could change our children’s world.
Photo courtesy of Caroline Norton.