Back-to-School Blues in the Age of COVID-19 and Considerations for Learners of LGBTQ+ Caregivers
Back to school time is quickly approaching, and although school may look different this year for many families, the typical stressors of this time will likely be exacerbated by the pandemic. Many parents are concerned about the safety risks involved in sending their children back to school.
According to a report by the University of Michigan School of Medicine, about one third of public school parents in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio reported being unsure or planning not to send at least one of their children to school for in-person instruction. Parents of color were less likely to report they would send all of their children to school compared to parents identifying as white/non-Hispanic, and parents from lower-income households were the least likely to report that they would send all of their children to school than any other subset of parents .
The School District of Philadelphia recently announced a proposal whereby most K-12 students would participate in a hybrid model - the same group of students staying together with the same teacher for the entire school day and assigned to two days of face-to-face instruction, supplemented by three days of online learning .
Although the majority of staff and parents/guardians surveyed by the district reported feeling comfortable returning to school if all of the schools proposed safety measures were implemented, concerns remain for ensuring school cleanliness throughout the entire day, safety for students with asthma and other chronic conditions, and childcare needs for staff .
As of last night, the district remains in a deadlock as to whether this plan will actually take place, as six hours of criticism from parents, school principals, and teachers resulted in a delay on the school board’s vote on the plan. The issue continues to be fraught with fierce debate, with Superintendent William Hite, city Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farely, and the American Academy of Pediatrics urging schools to reopen in some capacity for the sake of the healthy development and well-being of the district’s most vulnerable learners. Parents and teachers cited concerns of maintaining proper sanitation in schools ridden by asbestos and other safety issues as some of the key reasons for their opposition to reopen .
The layers of complex uncertainties and concerns regarding sending children back to school this fall will certainly add to the typical stressors of this time of year.
Schooling challenges for Lgbtq+ led families
As if back-to-school time during a pandemic didn’t add enough anxiety to back-to-school time, starting a new school year is often much more stressful for LGBTQ+ parents than heterosexual parent families. The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education (GLSEN) network’s report on experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender parents and their children in K-12 schools found that more than two thirds (66%) of parents reported that they ever worried about their child’s safety at school. Over half (57%) of parents reported worrying that their child would have problems in school because of having an LGBT parent, and almost half (48%) reported that they worried about their child’s ability make friends at school .
Children of LGBTQ+ families do in fact experience mistreatment at school, with anxiety and levels of mistreatment increasing into and through adolescence. Teenagers of LGBTQ+ parents have reported peers using derogatory language and engaging in forms of violence against them due to their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity . Lack of inclusion and representation are also concerning for schooling children of LGBTQ+ parents. Many LGBTQ+ parents do not feel supported at school, and therefore are hesitant to involve themselves in school activities. Additionally, most American schools do not include diverse family structures within their curricula and few textbooks include LGBTQ+ issues .
Although the prospect of home learning may appear to mitigate these effects, more time online also means more opportunities for cyberbullying. Research suggests that teens who are “different” are at higher risk for bullying, including cyberbullying. According to GLSEN, 48.7% of LGBTQ+ students report experiencing electronic harassment, including bullying via text messages and/or social media . Although research is limited on rates of cyberbullying for children of LGBTQ+ parents, even students who deny overt bullying experience microaggressions related to their parents’ sexual or gender identity, including verbal insults or social snubbing . This can certainly be exacerbated online, where anonymity allows for the opportunity to harass and bully youth with lower chances of consequences than bullying at school. Luckily, many organizations are fighting for better schooling experiences for LGBTQ+ parents and their children, as well as LGBTQ+ youth, by providing guides and resources to help parents find the best school fit for their children in addition to providing trainings for educators and administrators on how to make their schools more LGBTQ+ inclusive. We have compiled some of this information below which we hope you find helpful. We have also included some books and videos that represent a variety of LGBTQ+ families.
Be on the look out for upcoming information about PFP's virtual book fair with Big Blue Marble Bookstore!
Washington Post - Queer families and back to school
The Next Family - Tips for LGBTQ+ parents on picking a school
Lesbian moms - How to talk to teachers about your family
Lesbian moms - Back to school (LGBT parents spoof)
Queer Kid Stuff Just 4 Grown Ups - 5 tips for making your classroom queer-inclusive
Human Rights Campaign - Learning about school policies
Human Rights Campaign - How to exercise your rights
Human Rights Campaign - School resources for parents
Human Rights Campaign - Cyber bullying resources
BOOKS AND VIDEOS
7 LGBT books for kids
LGBT family books for adults
Books about raising children as an LGBTQ+ parent
Mombian - Books, music, and more
Pop'n'Olly - LGBTQ+ edutainment for kids
Welcoming Schools - Great LGBTQ inclusive picture and middle grade books
- Post written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern
Legal, medical, and societal advances have allowed for enormous expansions of options to build families led by LGBTQ+ parents. The prospect of becoming a parent, a gift unavailable to the LGBTQ+ community for centuries, is both exciting and overwhelming. Through my time here at PFP organizing and helping to facilitate our summer series of prospective parenting classes, I have learned just how complex this process can be physically, legally, and financially. Gaps in family planning between LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ people are narrowing, with 48% of LGBTQ+ millennials (18-35) reporting a plan to grow their families compared to 55% of non-LGBTQ+ millennials. However, young LGBTQ+ individuals are relying even more on methods outside of intercourse for building their families than previous generations of LGBTQ+ folks, with 63% looking to foster care, adoption, and assisted reproductive technology (ART) to grow their families . These methods often include complex legal, physical, financial, and socio-emotional challenges that are distinct and challenging compared to conceiving via intercourse. Additionally, some of these methods, such as private adoption and ART, are financially impossible for many LGBTQ+ folks, who face poverty and gaps in health care at a rate much higher than their cisgender, heterosexual counterparts .
The endeavor can be even harder for LGBTQ+ folks of color, as evidenced by a 2018 study outlining the experiences of queer women of color within the family formation space. Qualitative interviews of 13 self-identified parents of color who used donor insemination to conceive their children reported feelings of hopelessness while interacting with sperm banks, citing a lack of anonymous donors of their racial identity to choose from. Many were also concerned about transracial adoption and anonymous donors, citing concerns for their potential child’s future racial and cultural identity development. Most parents chose donor insemination by a known donor over adoption or anonymous donor insemination for this reason, citing cultural beliefs about knowing one’s origins . Transgender parents also report barriers to family building, citing unique challenges such as feelings of being rushed into making decisions about physical transitioning without receiving sufficient information and options for preserving fertility or reproductive organs . Thus, the most important strategy for combating these challenges appears to be preparation, information, and support. The more knowledge acquired about the complexities and nuances surrounding building a family as an LGBTQ+ prospective parent including costs, affirming providers, methods, and legal considerations can help make the process smoother and more positive. Please see our recordings of our virtual prospective parenting classes on our Facebook page (also linked below) which will hopefully aid in providing some of the vital information needed to make your family planning process as positive as possible. Additionally, we have compiled resources below regarding building your family as a member of the LGBTQ+ community which we hope you find helpful.
- Post written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern
Gender roles within LGBTQ+ led families tend to model much more variation than the heteronormative structures largely represented within U.S. culture. A common myth about LGBTQ+ parenting includes the false narrative that children without distinct cisgender male and female parental role models will experience detriments to their development, particularly within gender identity and sexual orientation. Of course, this is far from the truth, as evidenced in several bodies of literature. A 2010 study examining differences in psychosocial development and gender identity between children in lesbian parent families compared to children in heterosexual parent families found no differences in psychosocial adjustment between the two child groups. Furthermore, they found that children with lesbian parents felt less parental pressure to conform to gender stereotypes and were less likely to view their own gender as superior than those with heterosexual parents . Additional evidence has shown no differences in knowledge of gender stereotypes or preference for current or future activities based on parental sexual orientation . It is suggested that divisions of labor have more influence on gender-based occupational aspirations of children than the gender roles or expressions of their parents. In a study examining these influences, children whose parents practiced equal divisions of labor within the household and had more liberal attitudes about gender were shown to be more flexible in their own career aspirations and gender stereotypes than children whose parents practiced unequal divisions of labor and conservative views of gender roles, regardless of parental sexual orientation .
These behavioral patterns appear to hold true regardless of same-sex parent family make up, as evidenced by a 2018 study which observed gender-typed behaviors related to toy preferences in preschool children. In this study, researchers found no significant differences in gender-typed behaviors between sons of lesbian mothers, daughters of lesbian mothers, sons of gay fathers, or daughters of gay fathers, and that, on average, self-reports and observations of gendered behavior in each of these groups were more likely to reflect gender conformity than gender nonconformity. This held true into and through middle childhood, as evidenced by similar observations in the same children five years following the initial assessment, suggesting that factors outside of parental sexual orientation, such as age and gender, have greater influence on gender development in children of homosexual parent couples . Although the studies mentioned above focus on effects of parental sexuality on gender development, there is also no evidence to suggest that having a transgender parent has an effect on a child’s gender identity, sexual orientation development, or any other developmental milestones . Clearly, children are more drawn to social representations and parental and societal attitudes about gender and gender roles as models for their own behavior than the sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression of their parents. Additionally, it appears that children with parents who identify outside of the hetero-cisgender space are actually less distressed about their gender because of the flexibility their parents have demonstrated in attitudes toward gender identity and roles. Thus, the literature surrounding the influence of having LGBTQ+ parents on a child’s gender identity development and understanding of gender roles suggests that there is much more involved in these processes than the simple reality of having a LGBTQ+ parent. We have compiled the following resources which explore navigating gender in LGBTQ+ led families in addition to suggesting strategies for discussing gender with your children.
Lesbian Moms - What do your kids call you?
Queer Kid Stuff - NO MORE GENDER ROLES!
Queer Kid Stuff - What do you call queer parents?
Queer Kid Stuff Just 4 Grown-Ups - How 3 queer parents handle kids and gender
New York Times - How same-sex couples divide chores, and what it reveals about modern parenting
Harpers Bazaar - I live with a woman – we’re not immune to emotional labor: How LGBTQ couples navigate gender roles at home
Parents.com - Explaining nonbinary: How to talk to kids about gender
Post Written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern
Reproductive technology and legal advances have allowed for a growing number of LGBTQ+ folks to create and build families. As of 2016, about 37% of those who identify as LGBT have parented children, and the proportion of same-sex couples with adopted children more than doubled between 2000 and 2010 from 10% to 21%. Although these strides have brought the gift of parenthood to our members and friends, being an LGBTQ+ parent brings unique challenges, many of which have been underrepresented in the media and understudied in scientific literature. Arguably, one of the most challenging aspects of queer parenting is the choice of disclosure of sexual and gender identities to children, family, school, and the greater community. Disclosure can have significant implications for children’s experiences among family and peers, particularly when the family identity is challenged. However, early communication with children about their family identity has shown to help children prepare for questions they may face from peers and others, and has been described as an ongoing conversation rather than a specific moment of “coming out". Each person’s coming out experience is unique to themselves and their family situation, and as such we have compiled a list of resources by LGBTQ+ parents and children of LGBTQ+ parents on the topic of coming out which may help facilitate the conversation across various settings and circumstances.
Gays with Kids - Coming out to your kids
COLAGE - What to do when your parent comes out
Ask the Therapist - How should I introduce my boyfriend to my daughter?
Ask the Therapist - My son wants a mommy, how do I respond?
Rainbow Relatives: Real-World Stories and Advice on How to Talk to Kids About LGBTQ+ Families and Friends
LGBT Parents - Telling your kids about your family
Stonybrook Medicine - Gay, lesbian, or bisexual parents information guide
The Body is Not an Apology - Talking to children about the trans* experience
New York Times - My mom never tried to hide the fact that we are a family
Queer Mamas of Color - All the ways people make families
Queerspawn Resource Page
Post written by Taylor Goldberg, PFP Intern