Is Your Tween Asking For A Pride Flag? How To Navigate The Convo With Curiosity & Respect
Keeping an open mind without forcing your child into an uncomfortable conversation is key, as experts tell us.
There are many different ways in which someone might express their gender and/or sexuality, including LGBTQ+ pride and gender flags. While you might be familiar with some of the more common ones — like the traditional LGBTQ flag with its six-color rainbow — there are actually more than 50 different LGBTQ+ and gender flags recognized by the queer community, offering visibility and representation to those who identify within.
If your child comes to you asking for a pride and/or gender flag — or if you notice one pop up in their room — you might be wondering how you can be supportive without pushing them to have conversations they might not yet feel comfortable having. It's a delicate line to tread, and it's understandable if you are curious about the flag's meaning but don't want to put pressure on your child to explain it to you.
Pride Flags 101
The vibrant rainbow flag that pops up each year ahead of Pride month in June is the most common one, as it's represented LGBTQ pride for decades, explains Jillian Amodio, a social worker, author, and the founder of Moms For Mental Health. In recent years, the more inclusive progress pride flag is increasingly common," she adds. "In addition to the rainbow stripes, blue, white, and pink represent the trans community, and the brown and black additions represent LGBTQ people of color."
There's also a transgender flag that is blue, pink, and white. "The blue stripes are representative of what has traditionally been seen as the 'boy' color, pink represents what has traditionally been viewed as the quintessential 'girl' color, and the white represents intersex, those who are transitioning, or those whose gender identity is undefined," says Amodio.
No matter which flag your child is asking for or already has, it's important to support them and acknowledge that the flag likely has strong significance to them, says Dr. Anjali Ferguson, a clinical psychologist and the founder of Parenting Culture. "There are many gender flags today that are evolving/emerging every day. The most important thing is to remain curious and open to these evolutions."
Both pros recommend doing some research about the specific flag your child is asking for or has to best understand their meaning. The Human Rights Campaign and Queer in the World are two excellent resource guides. "Each flag's representation is very unique," says Ferguson. "Historically, gender flags emerged as a means to signify freedom and pride in identifying gender diversity," while Amodio notes that sexual identity flags represent the same for one's sexual orientation.
Broaching the Conversation
Aside from doing your own research about the flag's significance, Amodio says that "the most important thing to remember is that gender identity and sexuality are very personal. No two experiences will be the same. Parents who want to be inclusive, supportive, and understanding of their children who identify as LGBTQ+ or who are exploring their gender and sexuality should let their children take the lead and be available to have open and honest discussions. It is okay not to know everything about everything! We are lifelong learners, and what your kids will remember is that you cared enough to learn and to be open to better understanding them and supporting them on their journey of self-discovery."
Adds Ferguson, "Parents should enter the conversation without judgment and with curiosity. Keep your responses simple and engage in active listening."
And while you might view the moment as an entrance point to discussing your child's specific gender or sexual identity, "Never force a child to out themselves if they are not ready," says Amodio. "Never ridicule or condescend. It is important to be aware of the message that both words and actions send. If you see a display of LGBTQ+ support or representation, ask yourself about the messages your verbal and nonverbal responses might be sending to your kids."
Avoid minimizing or ridiculing, emphasizes Ferguson: "We all have preconceived notions about things that are new to us. Try not to project your discomfort onto your child in their exploration or during discussion."
The appearance of a flag doesn't automatically mean your child is ready to come out or to define any particular part of their unique identity. "Coming out is a very personal process," says Amodio. "It is not a singular conversation or single step, and it should not be forced or rushed. No one should be outed if they do not want to be."
"Many youths might fear rejection from family, peers, or their community," she continues. "Children might not have the words or the confidence to bring up these conversations themselves. It is important to cultivate a continued sense of support and acceptance in the home. Fortunately, there are plenty of teachable moments to show support and start these conversations in a very organic way. Conversations about identity and acceptance should continue throughout a youth's development."
"You can ask your child if they would be comfortable with you placing the flag in your spaces or if you can attend pride events with them," suggests Ferguson. No matter what, though, "Continue to show up for your child in word and action," says Amodio. "Express your acceptance and love for them regularly. Having open conversations about inclusivity and diversity on a regular basis can help breed an environment of acceptance. It is okay to ask questions from a place of wanting to understand your child better, but it shouldn't feel like an interrogation."