In this day and time, we are so caught up in the traditional ways of how a family should be formed which is with the mom, dad, child(ren) and maybe a pet. Some people fail to realize or even accept that there are foster homes, children living with their grandparents, group homes, legal custodianship, single mom or dad and then families that are made up of the LGBT community. Many of these families are more acceptable than those that are from a LGBT family. There are more books that represent the traditional families more so those that relate to gay and lesbian families. There are some books that are out that can be read to children to help them understand that some children have two moms or two dads. In the stores especially in the toy department everything is separated by gender. There is the fighting, legos, swords, boy colored toys for the boys and the pink, dolls, Barbie cars, tutu’s, and other “girlie” things for the girls to play with. Even at the center that I work at, the owner’s husband told one little boy in my class to “take off the dress because he was a boy and not a girl and little boys do not wear girl’s clothes.” I was confused because I thought we were supposed to let children play freely and with their imagination. As educators we should “not allow teasing about “not acting like a [girl/boy]”. To bully a child into acting as she or he is “supposed” to regarding gender roles. Work with children to create and live the classroom rule “Everyone gets to be different! Everyone is safe here.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, p. 98). The safety, education and self-expression should be the ultimate goal.
In my response to those that believe that early childhood centers should avoid the inclusion of books depicting gay or lesbian individuals such as same-sex partnered families, I would say that they are wrong. I believe that early childhood centers should have books with stories and pictures with gay or lesbian families because they may have a child or children in their center that has this type of family. Every child and their family should be represented throughout the classroom to help them feel welcome. What better way to teach children about the different types of families than through books? If we do not teach our children or incorporate books into the classroom how will they be able to know that the family that they are living in is accepted and they will not be picked on because their parents are gay or lesbian? Sanders and Mathis (2013) states that “Classroom discussion must include talking about LGBT themes; if not, silence regarding LGBT characters or themes in a text only reinforces the idea that homosexuality should be kept hidden” (p.4). Homosexuality should be discussed in reading such books as Mommy, Mama, and Me and Daddy, Papa, and Me to give the children a deeper understanding on their developmental level as to what a gay and lesbian family consist of. No matter what type of family our children are raised in, it should not affect us as educators to put our bias to the side. It is best to teacher the children now because sooner later they will meet a child whose family is not like theirs in that they may have a mommy and daddy while the other child might have two daddies or two mommies. If we include the books in our daily conversations, it would not be new to the children if there was a student and their family to come to the center whose family is of the LGBT community.
I am not going to sit here and tell a lie. I have many times used homophobic terms such as “fag,” “homo,” “gay,” “sissy,” “tom boy,” and “lesbo” plenty of times in my life. Sometimes in playing with my husband and wrestling and if he would hit me I would call him a “punk faggot” or I would even call him “gay.” This was the way that we played and I meant no harm by it. Then I heard my son who was about three at the time say the same exact words and I realized then that this is not what I wanted my son to hear. I used the word out of context and meant no harm by them but when I heard it from the mouth of my son I felt offended after I heard him say it to another child. We have to be careful as to what we say around children because they are like sponges and soak everything up. Saying these words can have a negative influence on all children because they would in return say the words that they hear and think nothing of it. Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2010) mentions that “such slurs reflect biases against people who are gay or lesbian; however even teasing another child as being “girlie” or “acting like a boy” are hurtful. Young children may not understand the full significance of the words but do know they are put-downs” (p. 99).
Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Sanders, A. M., & Mathis, J. B. (2013). Gay and Lesbian Literature in the Classroom: Can Gay Themes Overcome Heteronormativity? Journal of Praxis in Multicultural Education, 7(1). doi:10.9741/2161-2978.1067