The recent rainbow families’ trip to Canberra prompted a lot of discussion amongst parents about how our children engage with the bigger issues that affect our families. As parents, we want to protect our kids as much as we can and, for a while at least, we are able to do that. We shield them from any negative commentary or images that appear in media, and we are careful about the other people, and other families, with whom we engage.
That all gets more difficult when the kids go off to kinder or start school. Then, we arm them with a sense of pride in their family and give them some age-appropriate strategies and language to deal with questions from other kids or adults. We hope there’s a decent approach to diversity in the organisation and that staff will be supportive. Often, we educate those staff ourselves and provide resources. Anecdotally, I reckon LGBTIQ parents are over-represented on kinder management committees and school councils.
The challenges increase when the kids start high school. As parents, we generally have far less involvement with the school on a day to day basis and the kids don’t want us to anyway. I always say we need to have done our work by the time they leave primary school. I hope that my son, Corin, made the transition to high school with the confidence and skills to manage anything that arose, and a clear sense of when to call on parental support.
As they get older, of course, we can no longer control their access to media and so they start to see and hear things we would prefer they didn’t. That’s when it gets much more difficult. A few months ago I was talking to Corin about the marriage equality debate and he started referencing the Australian Christian Lobby. I was surprised – and a little taken aback – to realise that he had a detailed knowledge of their website, and with others of a similar ilk. I get that as the son of a very public advocate he’s not necessarily typical in that, but I’d wager many of our older kids would be broadly familiar with the ACL and what they say. And they would certainly have seen politicians and religious leaders on TV who question the validity of their families.
So before we took them up to Canberra – and before we allowed them to be filmed or photographed – we had to ask ourselves a number of questions: Are we politicising our kids? Are we exposing them to danger? Will they be more vulnerable as a result? What happens if they hear something awful? How will we debrief them afterwards? Each individual family made their own decision about all this and managed their kids’ exposure on the day.
For us, we were guided by Corin and what he felt comfortable doing. He loved the idea of going to Canberra and talking to people who made important decision that affected him. He was good with photos and happy to be interviewed; even so, I checked in with him each time. In the end, for him, it was a very positive and empowering experience and, while there were definitely some difficult moments, I believe it was empowering for the other kids too.
A few weeks before Canberra, Corin made a short video clip on his iPad (with an autocue that wouldn’t fully cooperate!). He was quite specific about what he wanted to say. It really annoyed him, he explained, that the ACL said stuff about him when they didn’t even know him, and a plebiscite would just make that worse.
This morning he and I talked about the fact that the ALP would meet with the government tomorrow and have a really important discussion about whether the plebiscite would go ahead. It seemed like a good time to share his clip so here it is.
Reprinted with permission. First published by Jac Tomlins on Sunday September 25th at https://www.facebook.com/jac.tomlins