Raising LGBTQ+ Allies in a Heteronormative World (with author Chris Tompkins)

For gay parents, teaching LGBTQ+ allyship to children may seem like a no-brainer. While many of our straight family and friends may be great allies themselves, raising kids who are allies to the LGBTQ+ community may not exactly be second-nature.

In fact, according to Chris Tompkins, author of ‘Raising LGBTQ+ Allies,’ even queer parents can have blind spots when it comes to teaching kids how to be an ally.

“It takes a specific level of awareness to realize; ‘Okay, we’ve all played on the same playground. So there are some messages that I received, that maybe my kids are receiving,” Chris explained. “I ask questions, like ‘What are things that kids call other kids at school?’ You know, start to have that open dialogue by asking questions.”

On Season 2 Episode 5 of Gays With Kids the Podcast, Chris Tompkins joins host David Dodge to talk about how all adults can better guide the children in their lives to be allies to the LGBTQ+ community.

“Heteronormativity is like humidity,” Chris told David on this week’s episode of GWK. “You can't necessarily see it, but you can feel it. It's like a force.”

The influence for Chris’ book, “Raising LGBTQ Allies: A Parent's Guide to Changing the Messages from the Playground,” came from his experience as an openly gay man who discovered his young nephew had no idea he was gay.

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“I’ve been out of the closet all of my nieces' and nephews’ lives,” Chris said. “I live in Los Angeles, they live in Arizona. I was at a family function, and my 6-year-old nephew at the time asked me if the girl [there] with me was my girlfriend. Which led me down this whole new journey of uncovering the nuances of familial homophobia.”

Following his nephew’s question, Chris started reflecting on how kids understand the world, and that no one was having conversations with his siblings’ kids about the LGBTQ+ community.

Chris said he realized the youngest members of his family weren’t broaching these very important topics, which might help them understand him as an authentic person, and maybe even better understand themselves.

“Up until that point, I didn’t even think about the conversations that I wanted to have with my brother and sister,” he added. “It helped me to see the nuances of how societal messages, that we all absorb throughout our lives, really inform children's questions.”

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On top of being a Guncle (gay uncle,) Chris also teaches social and emotional learning for children. Whether straight or queer, Chris said he believes some parents are simply not aware of how their words, actions, and even gifts can influence how children understand the lives of LGBTQ+ people. That’s why he started buying books that would help them have those discussions.

“I really wanted to incorporate ways that I can teach, and help them have the conversation even when I’m not there,” Chris said. “So I started getting them LGBTQ+ friendly children’s books. That’s something to be mindful of; What toys am I getting? What activities am I offering for my children to do? Those kinds of things.”

Listen to the full episode of GWK the Podcast with Chris Tompkins here, or search for GWK on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

Find Chris’ stocking-stuffer-perfect book "Raising LGBTQ+ Allies: A Parent's Guide To Changing The Messages From The Playground” here.

Posted by Brit Smith

Brit Smith is a Staff Writer & Associate Editor at GWK. A native of London, England, Brit started her American adventure nannying and waiting tables in Texas in 2006, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Berkeley in 2017. Brit has previously written and created podcasts for WBZ NewsRadio, iHeart Media, and Different Leaf.

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