Why A2’s Pride Festivities and Books are for ALL Families

Three children laying on a bed.
Motown Multiples on Instagram.

Celebrated throughout the entire month of June (& in Ann Arbor’s case, also August!), Pride is dedicated to LGBTQ+ people. And the month of Pride, along with many of its festivities, is the perfect month to learn about and celebrate queerness with your family.

To hear a Montessori childhood educator’s favorite litmus test for answering your family/friend’s argument of, “this queer content is inappropriately sexual!”, to honor the impact of stories, and to other questions around the family-appropriateness of Ann Arbor’s queer events, read on! (Note: they’re not ALL family-friendly–and that’s okay.)

“What if my marriage/kids are straight, not queer? Are Ann Arbor’s pride festivities still important?”

Great question!

Even if you or your family are not LGBTQ, it’s important to learn about LGBTQ people and their struggles and strengths — just like it’s also important for white people to learn about Black history, or able-bodied people to learn about how they can be supportive to disabled people.

A photo of children sitting with books next to them.

Daniel A., a local married dad with one child, agrees, “Just as we hardly expect only veterans to celebrate Veteran’s Day, or Irish people to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Pride is a celebration for everyone. I attend to support my LGBTQ friends, but also to celebrate an attitude: ‘ There is no love between consenting adults that is wrong.’ I will happily stand, march, and celebrate love every time.”

Abby, a local mom and preschool teacher, said, “As a parent and early childhood educator it’s extremely important to me to foster a love for all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.”

Furthermore, it’s difficult for parents to know whether or not their children are/may be LGBTQ. It is extremely common for a child to not tell their parents they are queer or questioning, at least for some time. It’s difficult to estimate how many children or adolescents identify as LGBTQ, but one national study puts it at 7-9% — however, it easily could be as high as 28%; another study says of current highschool students, 1 out of 4 are queer.

If you have several kids, there’s a high chance one of them is (or will be) queer or questioning. So diversity representation is not only important for helping your child gain compassion for other people — it could very well be helping them gain compassion and understanding for themselves!

Abby said that her children are learning early to love people who are not only similar to themselves, but different as well. “We do not all need to be the same; we can celebrate who we are. I hope that being in a community that is accepting of others will empower my children to always be their true selves.”

books displayed in a bookstore.

A local parent, Michael G., parent of a 4 year old and 6 year old and co-owner of Literati Bookstore, said, “I’ve always aimed to teach my children about the core values I believe in, namely that everyone deserves equal treatment of kindness, respect, love and understanding. So it’s important for me to seek out ways to share with them the vast array of people, backgrounds, identities, places, and heritages in this world.”

Abby notes the intersectionality between queer rights and other minorities: “My family is fortunate to have a diverse circle of friends and acquaintances. My children are biracial, so even both sides of their own family look very different from one another, and their classmates are racially diverse as well. Our circles include several same-sex couples and trans individuals. Being around such diverse people at a young age really helps foster inclusion and acceptance.”

So, creating awareness and openness around LGBTQ rights is valuable for all families, straight or queer. But are Pride festivities a good place to do this?

Yes! Many of Ann Arbor’s Pride festivities are explicitly family friendly. The Ann Arbor District Library, for example, hosts multiple crafts, poetry readings, and queer-themed events throughout June for the whole family, from preschoolers to adults. You can enjoy their entire Pride calendar here.

RELATED: Pride Photo Contest

Ann Arbor’s Pride, on August 3 on Main Street, is family-friendly until 6pm, then it shifts its focus toward adults.

And Ann Arbor’s Drag Story Time is a fabulous family friendly event — no, really!
you can check out storytime in several locations on August 3 here, at the Ann Arbor District Library and at Avalon Cafe.

“Wait, drag queens are family friendly?!”

There’s been a lot of unfortunate controversy and drummed-up moral panic over this topic. Drag queens and drag shows certainly can be inappropriate for kids–just like many movies and books can be inappropriate for kids.

But they can also be entirely family friendly: it just depends on the content and the intended audience. Just like not all movies are for kids, but some are. Not all drag shows are for kids, but these are! (Remember, “Mrs. Doubtfire,” a movie widely acclaimed as a fun family film, features drag.)

In Ann Arbor’s case, Drag Story Time features drag queens who creatively play with various expressions of femininity or masculinity. At Drag Story Time, drag is about playing with sparkles, costumes, magic and story — introducing various expressions in a fun way.

“But it’s inappropriate to be sexual or feature sexuality around kids.”

As an early childhood educator of over ten years and as a mum myself to 10 month old triplets, I absolutely agree it is critical for parents, educators, and caregivers to be mindful of when and how they expose children to sexual content!

But a queer identity is not synonymous with sexuality, anymore than a heterosexual person is being sexual just by existing.

I don’t look at a man and woman holding hands in the park and think, “Eww, they’re imposing sexual content on my children!” But I would think a couple making out in the park is inappropriate in a kid’s space–regardless of if they were a heterosexual couple or queer.

There have lately been many attacks on queer rights, stemming from homophobia. Daniel said, “When there are those trying to divide people, I know I need to support the most marginalized among us. By supporting Pride, I also protect my own family, my own way of life, against those who insist there’s only one right way to live. Supporting my friends ends up only strengthening everything I value.”

“What’s an easy way to determine if it’s family friendly or not?”

Here’s my favorite litmus test to determine if a queer person/event/experience is family friendly: If I think something is inappropriate, I replace the queer person with a heterosexual person, and ask if it’s still inappropriate.

For example: Replace a drag queen reading, “Make Way for Ducklings,” with a heterosexual person reading “Make Way for Ducklings” — say, Mr. Rogers, my favorite kid-friendly heterosexual man.

A parent holding their child.

Is it still inappropriate to have Mr. Rogers read Make Way for Ducklings? If I think it is inappropriate, then my problem is with the content of the book. If I think it’s totally fine for Mr. Rogers to read it, then my problem is with the drag queen, which is more likely to be a homophobic response.

Similarly, if your friend or relative has a negative response to a children’s book or storytime featuring LGBTQ characters, you can consider: do they have a problem with the books featuring heterosexual characters, like a mom and a dad, or a boy having a crush on a girl?

Conflating queer identity with sexuality is still common, but harmful to our children when considering appropriate LGBTQ representation for them. If we wouldn’t respond in a negative way toward a heterosexual person or couple, it’s important not to respond negatively toward a queer person or couple.

The Ann Arbor District Library’s events this Pride might be our favorite way to introduce LGBTQ identities and queer ideals to children. Stories (in Drag Story Hour, poems, and more) is a great way to do that–but so is making yarn rainbows with clouds, tutus and gumball Pride necklaces!

One of our favorite ways to incorporate diversity and representation into family life is through story.

As a preschool teacher, Abby has put a lot of thought into the books she cultivates in her personal library and in her preschool class: “Not everyone has personal relationships with people of different races, religions, sexual orientations, etc. When building my home and school libraries, I always start with who is in the room. My children are African American, so I seek out quality books with Black characters. Same thing at school. I started the school year by searching for great books that had characters that represented the children in my class. The children can see themselves and their families in the diverse characters and families in our books. After we represent our own children, we add books to represent the diversity of our community and the world.”

Michael agrees and Literati Bookstore makes a point to stock books that represent families and perspectives from all walks of life.

“One effective way to share diversity with young children is through books. Books, especially books that feature characters who are LGBTQ+, are wonderful ways to help instill in them the values I believe in.”

Abby shares a compelling anecdote from a personal experience her son had with literature: “A favorite recent picture book is called Calvin. We had no idea what the book was about when we checked it out from the library; my son picked it out because his name is also Calvin. The book is about a child who comes out as trans. After reading the book my son, who was 5 at the time, said, ‘His name is Calvin just like me, and he’s a boy just like me!’ It was so sweet and beautiful.”

To Abby’s surprise, this story’s impact would resonate powerfully beyond her own family.
“I bought the book for my classroom at the beginning of the year,” said Abby. “Little did I know, one of my students’ parents came out as trans during the school year! We never know when kids are going to come into contact with those different than us, so I believe it’s never too early to teach children about all the different kinds of people and families, that we are all amazing the way we are and that we all deserve love.”

We are all amazing the way we are and we all deserve love.
We couldn’t say it any better than that.

The AADL has a host of wonderful LGBTQ+ books available; ask your librarian! If you want to support a local bookstore and build your LGBTQ+ collection, some of my family’s favorites, available at Literati, are:
Love Makes a Family,” “Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle,” “Bathe The Cat” and “Bodies are Cool!

What are your favorite ways to share LGBTQ+ diversity with your family? Let us know in the comments below!