As part of the MBS Crimson Conversations series for parents, Ashley Riker of Garden State Equality led a Zoom workshop on Wednesday night, February 3, entitled “Parents as Allies: How to Talk to Your Children about LGBTQ Topics.”
Riker, who serves as Safe Schools and Community Education Manager, began by discussing the mission of Garden State Equality, which provides advocacy, services and programming to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community across New Jersey and promote equality for all. She spoke about the benefits of LBGTQ inclusion in schools and reviewed terminology and language.
“LGBTQ people use a variety of terms to describe their identity and talk about who they are,” she said. “Listen. Pay attention to how people are talking about themselves and then mirror their language. Most importantly, respect self-identification.”
Riker explained the meaning of LGBTQQIAAP, which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, allies, asexual, and pansexual, and spoke about the differences between sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. She also addressed the idea of gender binary (boy/girl) vs. gender as a spectrum. “Gender is complex and refers to our cultural beliefs, expectations and assumptions about what it means to be a man or a woman,” she said. “It is culturally contingent and historically contingent.”
She concluded her presentation by underscoring the need for LGBTQ allies. Riker stated that LGBTQ youth have the highest rates of family abandonment and homelessness of any demographic youth group, are more likely to attempt suicide, and are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted at school.
“Just showing that you care can change the trajectory of a child’s mental health,” said Riker. “Even a simple gesture of support such as displaying a rainbow flag or other symbol can mean a lot.”
She mentioned that online support meetings are held weekly at pflagjerseyshore.org.
Additional resources can be found at gardenstateequality.org.
Special thanks to Michael McGrann, MBS Coordinator of Middle School DEI Initiatives, for coordinating Wednesday night’s presentation.