While attending my first ARE (Adoption Resource Exchange) as a resource parent, I received a similar question from prospective parents that identified as LGBTQ:
“Do your kids encounter any bullying/discrimination because they have gay parents?”
It was an interesting question for me because I don’t think my husband and I ever talked about that while we were deciding to adopt. My response at the time was “Of course not, but that’s probably because we live in downtown Toronto which is very multicultural and accepting”.
Now fast forward one month where I was suddenly taken out of that fantasy bubble! We were driving in the car when my mother-in-law asked our eldest how school was going. He says it’s OK but “I get made fun of and called gay because I have 2 dads”. My husband and I look at each other thinking “What?! When did that happen?”. Our son continues to explain that one of his classmates even tells him that he could beat us up in a fight (this is a grade 2 kid talking about being stronger than an adult). We were very surprised to hear this but then I recalled reading an LGTBQ parenting post somewhere that stated many kids of LGTBQ parents won’t talk to their parents about bullying because they feel a need to protect them. After further reflection there were 2 things that really bothered me about this, besides the obvious bullying:
1) His classmates are using “gay” as a negative term thus it’s a bad thing to be gay
2) The idea that a grade 2 student can beat up adults implies that being gay means weak
We really wanted to take control of this situation fast. While we had books we read to the boys that helped them understand our family dynamic and talk to others about it, they were being encountered with bullies that were sending mixed signals. I spoke with the teacher and the principal and both were incredibly shocked to hear this was occurring. I offered to share the books we had at home, but was told the school had plenty of resources that were used on a regular basis. The principal told me to call him the following day at 10AM to hear what was done. He informed me that he made a school-wide announcement reminding students to respect the diversity that exists within the school and bullying of any kind won’t be tolerated. The principal also went into my son’s classroom to talk to the kids in his class about respecting all family make-ups. I was pleasantly surprised by the swift and direct response the school provided. I can say that at least within the Toronto District School Board there is a solid base of support for LGBTQ families.
We also had a discussion with our boys about bullying and that it generally happens because people are afraid of what they don’t know or understand. They can try to help the bullies learn but ultimately they should talk to us or their teachers if it happens again. It’s our jobs as adults to help kids understand and respect the differences that exist around them.
As LGBTQ people, a lot of us have grown up dealing with bullying and we’ve all found ways to persevere. Now that we’re raising kids we can use our own experiences to help them deal with bullying. Our adopted kids have the non-birth family factor plus queer parents that may make themselves feel different and unique. But we know it’s those unique aspects of ourselves that help define who we are, and how we handle adversity that shapes how we become adults.
So to the prospective LGTBQ parents that are looking to adopt, yes your kids may get bullied because of who you love, but you made it through childhood and you can help your own kids make it through childhood too. I like to think this experience helped define our family in our boys’ minds, and helped further the attachment process because they know we’ll respond if someone is making them feel hurt.