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Talking To Children About Pride


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Talking to children about sexuality is a topic fraught with emotion for most parents. But when it comes to how to talk to kids of straight parents about the LGBTQ+ community, many adults tend to overcomplicate what can be a very straightforward conversation.

Luckily for parents of all sexual orientations, the number of influencers and authors offering tips, resources, books and simply sharing what it’s like to be part of a queer family online is increasing every day. And, spoiler alert: it’s not drastically different than straight families. I spoke to author Wallace West who wrote gender nonconforming picture book, Mighty Red Riding Hood: A Queer Fairy Tale, parenting influencers Terrell and Jarius Joseph and home decor influencers PJ & Thomas, also known as “The Property Lovers,” about queer parenting, education and teaching kids about allyship.

Amy Shoenthal: Wallace, what is your message to parents, specifically straight parents who are reading your books to their kids, on how to be better allies to LGBTQ+ kids?

Wallace-West: Everybody wants to see themselves in a story. They want the reflection of someone who dresses and dances and talks like them. Being loud about how excited you are about seeing LGBTQ+ characters in a book, in a movie and on TV is a great way to be an ally. The world isn’t always friendly – ​​fairy tales remind us of that. But applauding all the different styles of mighty riding hoods out there is always marvelous.


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Shoenthal: Terrell, Jarius, you built a whole online presence and essentially a career around normalizing LGBTQ+ parenting and redefining what family looks like. Tell me about that journey.

Terrell Joseph: It was very organic. When we were looking to begin our journey of becoming parents, we didn’t see anyone who looked like us. So we thought we’d document our journey in hopes that it would help someone else. We try to make the content educational but not pushy. We address the stereotypes we get in the comments but it doesn’t feel forced.

Jarius Joseph: We started our surrogacy journey six months after we graduated college. Everyone thought we were crazy but we had a big passion for becoming young parents. We grew up in conservative Louisiana, and for the first five years of our relationship, we existed as roommates.

We thought if we came out in this way, by saying, we’re together, we’re gay, but hey parents, you’re still going to have grandkids, it would be easier on our families.

Terrell Joseph: Usually one of the problems of coming out is parents saying, ‘Oh no, now I can’t have grandkids,’ so I thought if I checked off all of these boxes it would be easier. It didn’t work out as smoothly as I had planned. There was an adjustment period for both our families.

Shoenthal: PJ and Thomas, how are you redefining what family looks like?

Thomas McKay: Once we got married, the questions of when and how to go about starting a family started becoming more prevalent. Do we do surrogacy? Do we go through private adoption? How much will all of this cost?

After being accepted into a few surrogacy and adoption agencies, we started educating ourselves more about foster care. After weighing our options, we began classes to get our foster parent licenses.

The whole process took about two months, and a few days after we got our licenses, our case worker called us about a sibling group of three, ages 4, 2.5, and 18 months, who needed a placement ASAP. Our home wasn’t technically even open yet, but we said yes, expedited the opening and we brought our kids home the next day.

PJ McKay: It surprised us how we immediately felt like a family in every sense of the word. They felt like our kids from the moment we tucked them in bed that first night. And now three years later, we are settled into our routine as a family of five navigating life and being out and proud in our small town.

The thing we hope people realize is that a family is a family, no matter what; whether that’s your chosen family or your biological one. This is just the route we took to start our family, but we’ve learned families come in all different shapes and sizes. Part of what makes ours unique, to some, is that we’re two guys raising kids. That’s not typical where we live.

Shoenthal: What’s the toughest part about trying to share your message in a society that can be hostile to it?

West: I had to dedicate myself to relearning the pride part of being in the queer community. That meant not being okay with media that makes me a punchline or an error, and it meant pushing past tragedy survival as a main plot point. I became mightier writing and illustrating this book – and even prouder of my community. LGBTQ+ characters don’t need to be coded. They need to be firecrackers in full color.

Terrell Joseph: We never want to be complacent in our parenting journey. We work really hard to raise open minded loving human beings and, unfortunately, we feel that the world hasn’t caught up to that yet. So the scariest part is that we’re raising these sweet hearted kids and we don’t want the world to chew them up and spit them out. People have very strong views on our family or feel that we’re ruining our kids. But we signed up to be advocates for the community.

Jarius Joseph: It’s important that we remain true to why we’re doing this. There are days you see the messages of people from all around the world in countries where being gay is illegal. You see that people are living vicariously through you, and getting strength from what you post.

But everyone has an opinion. The world is quite mean at times. There are people who think our kids should be ‘saved’ from us raising them. It gets tough when you’re in a constant battle.

Terrell Joseph: There’s also a very typical stereotype that gay men are promiscuous and flirty and out at the club. It rarely shows a family unit. But we want to show the world that families are diverse. It’s trying to change the image of what a family looks like.

PJ McKay: We know first hand the impact of representation cannot be overstated. We both say all the time that if we had just one openly gay couple raising kids in our town growing up, that would have made all the difference.

Shoenthal: How do you educate straight parents on how to be better allies and advise them to educate their kids about inclusivity and understanding that all families look different?

West: I want queer kids and queer parents and kids in general to feel like they’re a bright part of the big story, not on the beige periphery. And to be emboldened to wear who they are, not what misguided strangers expect them to wear.

Jarius Joseph: Terrell had this amazing idea to take a question we had been asked so many times: How do two men have children? To show it in a comical way that also says to people that it’s a little silly to ask that question. Maybe we kiss, and then it shows a timer for nine minutes, and then there’s a baby. That’s how we address some of these issues, in a whimsical way.

Thomas McKay: There’s an idea society seems to have about the need for a mom and a dad. On all of the papers we sign for our kids’ schools (and even their adoption papers), there’s a space for the mom’s signature and the dad’s signature. I find myself purposely striking a line through the mom’s space and writing “dad” over it. I would love for it to become more common for people in authority to recognize that there might just be a mom, like I had growing up, or maybe just a dad, or two moms or two dads.

Shoenthal: What’s your biggest hope for your children?

Terrell Joseph: We want to just show how we’re raising our kids to be better humans. We went to the Disney princess castle, and the princess said to our daughter, ‘Oh, you brought your two guards,’ and our daughter just said, ‘No, those are my two daddies.’ So that was such a proud moment.

Thomas McKay: I believe children are genuinely and inherently good. Our kids go to a public school and not one child has bullied them or asked them why they have two dads. Our son’s teachers are leading by example, too. For Mother’s Day this year, all the kids were making ‘Why I love my mom’ signs in his class de él, but instead of leaving him out, his teacher helped him make a ‘Why I love my dad’ sign for the both of us. Gestures like that, while they may seem small, go such a long way in normalizing same-sex parenting, especially in a town of our size where we are few and far between.

PJ McKay: I hope our children never feel ashamed of their family or where they came from. I hope they are proud to have two dads and never feel like they’re missing out on anything because of it. I hope they always remember that families look different and that’s what makes them beautiful, and how boring it would be if they all looked the same. But most importantly, I hope they just enjoy being kids for as long as possible.

Jarius Joseph: Everyone who says kids are too young for such a deep conversation, the thing to know is that it doesn’t need to be one. Everyone’s a family. That’s it.

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