Social Question

Blackberry's avatar

Is it common for parents to talk to their kids about race and sexual preference(LGBT)?

Asked by Blackberry (33879points) June 30th, 2010

I realized awhile ago that my mother never told me anything about race or sexual preference; I’ve read some passages about parents being shocked when their kid says something biased or ignorant.

There are so many things to cover, how would a parent approach such a conversation? Did your parents teach you about these things? What did they say?

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30 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Living here in Brooklyn and being a part of the LFBT community, race and sexuality obviously do come up as they’re aware of our activism and join us often for protests but I don’t single out these topics as the topics for my kids – just as any issue comes up, I use it as an opportunity for discussion. My 4 year old asked once ‘why do some people have black skin?’ and I said ‘because they have more melanin in their system’ and that was the end of that. Before the NYC Pride Parade this year, I explained to him why the Parade happens and somewhere in the middle he replied ‘Of course, two men can be together and love each other’.

casheroo's avatar

I’ve made comments to my son, but he’s too young for a discussion (he’ll be 3 in 5 days). I’ve told him some people have two mommies, and some have two daddies. He also has never asked about black people, and doesn’t seem to notice any difference like that. If he ever has questions, I’ll gladly answer. I’ll also bring it up, probably around age 5, if he hasn’t asked me anything by then. But…kids ask millions of questions!

I will say, the only “ignorant” thing my child has done is be scared of a woman in full Muslim garb. She stood up close to him, and he was very upset..probably didn’t understand why someone was covered in a sheet type outfit (I assume he thought it was a ghost or something). He was only 2.5, so I can’t really fault him for that.

poofandmook's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir: Do your kids know about the unfortunate struggle that some people in the LGBT community face for who they are and that it’s wrong? Or do they just know it as normal and not aware that some people don’t think it’s okay?

ubersiren's avatar

My parents never brought it up with me and I’ve never brought it up with my kids. I don’t plan to. My son has black friends, latino friends and middle eastern friends. As long as I don’t point out that they have different skin colors, he won’t consider it strange or unequal. If he has questions or issues later in life, I’ll certainly not hesitate to talk with him about it. Same with sexual preference. My two best friends are gay (and many more family friends), and I don’t feel the need to point that out to him. I’d rather him be unaffected and objective. Exposed to it, but not made to feel any judgments, good or bad.

dpworkin's avatar

I have talked to my kids about the spectra of gender and sexuality, but they are way ahead of me, and race is just such a non-issue for them – They just had their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs (they’re twins) and their guests, ethnically, were like a mini UN. Jews, Muslims, Asians, Latinos, Blacks everywhere, flying around the room.

marinelife's avatar

No, they taught by example. My father was a career military officer, and I never saw him treat anyone other than with respect and courtesy.

Chrissi85's avatar

I taught my sister about relationships in general, that love is valid and everyone has the capacity to be attracted to anyone else. My mum went to an all girls school and was very closed mouth about the entire subject, but my dad is very liberal and when I was younger we had alot of gay friends so the subject came about very naturally. I do some voluntary work with LGBT groups, and young peoples sexual health advice and guidance, we try to encourage parents to teach their kids about tolerance and suchlike, but living where I do it really doesn’t happen very much to be honest.

fundevogel's avatar

It seems like tha parents here know how to handle these things beatifully.

My parents never really explained anything about homosexuality to me. It worked out, though it might have been a problem if I actually had been gay. At some point I picked up what homosexuality was ( I don’t remember how) which seemed pretty straight forward. I automatically assumed homosexual couples weren’t any different from hetero couples beyond being same sex. Consequently I was shocked and appalled when I found out they weren’t allowed to get married.

My mom was far too heavy-handed when explaining race. I remember it being something like “Don’t you dare think you’re better because they’ve got a different skin color!” This was the first time I had ever been introduced to the idea that skin color might affect the value of a person. And the vehemence with which she delivered this new revelation was frightening and transferred her anxiety about race relations to young me. She made young me afraid that I might accidentally be racist and consequently I was overly careful when interacting with the black kids. I wish she hadn’t handled the situation like that, she should have realized that hate is something children are taught and left me to my natural devices.

I’m convinced that these things will come up naturally when they need to be discussed, forcing the issue on children puts things in the wrong light.

DominicX's avatar

I’m sure my parents talked about race, although I can’t remember anything specific they said about it. All I know is that I’ve known how bad racism is from a young age and I knew the proper terms to refer to other ethnicities and such. Of course, being raised in a liberal environment helps with that as well.

As for sexual orientation, I remember my parents telling me about homosexuality after I learned about heterosexuality in sex ed (homosexuality was not even mentioned in sex ed, despite how liberal the area is). I also remember my parents telling me and my siblings that they wouldn’t care if we turned out gay, bisexual, transgendered, etc. That’s part of the reason why I knew what their reaction would be when I came out to them (and part of the reason I was not surprised that they had guessed I was going to be gay since I was a young child).

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

They never talked to me about sexual preference and their birds and bees talk was done through interpretive dance…actually,no it wasn’t.LOLIn fact,I barely remember having one with them.
As for race,my mother had told me of some ethic slurs directed at her.She just explained that some people don’t know any better.She took the high road,you know?
We weren’t given a lecture about it,just taught to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@poofandmook That’s a good question. I’d say that mostly it’s a normal part of their lives to have non-straight people in any sense around them so they already know there are variations…which means in discussions I usually stress that while we all know and love everyone for who they are…other people don’t do the right thing…I still think he’s too young to really grasp what we’re talking about but I say these things nonetheless.

silverfly's avatar

I never had those conversations with my parents, but I know that they were always supportive of sexual preference and racial “acceptance” – for lack of a better word. My Dad travelled a lot and loves other cultures so I was exposed to that. My mom was very open minded and would often make comments like, “I don’t care if you’re gay, just don’t do drugs”. And I had friends of all gender, race, etc. growing up.

So I think the lack of bigotry and racial or sexist comments in my family has replaced the need for a conversation like the one you describe. In this case, it seems that leading by example has done its job.

MissAusten's avatar

I don’t remember my parents talking to me specifically about race or sexuality. They never said anything negative, that I can recall, but didn’t discuss it in a positive way either. If they even socialized with anyone homosexual, I’ve never heard about it. They did set a good example as far as race was concerned. Our next-door neighbors were black, and the father in that family was our doctor. His son was my age, and we were best friends from the time I was three until he went to middle school and was too cool to hang out with me. We also had neighbors who were Greek, Indian, and Jewish and my parents got along very well with everyone.

The only time I remember having a talk about race was when I was in grade school and, not knowing what it meant, called my little brother a nigger. My mom came flying at me from across the room and my life flashed before my eyes. I will never forget the look on her face. I probably heard that word at school or in a movie, and after I tearfully told my mom I didn’t know what it meant she explained it to me. I’ve never used it again.

As for my own kids, I answer their questions honestly when they ask. My daughter and I have talked about homosexuality and race. We’ve talked about the civil rights movement and gay marriage. We have a good friend who is gay, and my daughter didn’t ask why he referred to himself as “Auntie” until she was 8 or 9 years old. The thing I want my children to learn, above all else, is that people should never be judged for race or sexuality or religion and that they should always treat others the way they want to be treated.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

My parents never discussed it with me. Dad only judged people on their ethical behavior. Mom is a bit different…she’ll tell a story of going to the grocery store and being helped by a black woman. I’m sure that had the lady been white, her skin color wouldn’t have been mentioned. She also struggles with understanding homosexuality, which I only discovered a couple of months ago.

As for your child, @fundevogel brings up a good point. Should a parent be ‘heavy-handed’ in discussing it, it could have an impact. Hopefully, we are growing away from prejudice. My recommendation would be to discuss it if the topic comes up or if he says or does anything that is improper.

janbb's avatar

I never had “the talk” with my kids but there were plenty of teachable moments as they grew up during which we discussed race, gender and sexuality. Theyknew from an early age a couple of my friends were gay. I am delighted with the open and liberal minded menschem they have become.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I forgot to mention that my parents raised me in a homophobic, racist household.

Blackberry's avatar

Interesting, so it appears the ‘talk’ is not very necessary because it can have a worse impact; it is better to bring it up if it is an issue. I think most people don’t see these things as problems anymore so there is no need to explain a lot of it. I certainly was able to figure it out as I grew up.

janbb's avatar

@Blackberry I don’t think having one “the talk” is necessary or productive, but I do definitely think talking about these and other issues as they arise naturally is crucial.

Pandora's avatar

Not a thing. The only conversation close to this would be my mother suggested I not get married or have children. She loved my dad and being married but she didn’t care for the having kids part and she said it would be hard to find someone who wouldn’t want kids. So her suggestion was stay single and childless. (Funny thing is years later when my sister was in her 40’s and not married she thought it unnatural she never got married) Go figure.
Anyhow, that was as close to a sex talk we ever had.
Now with my kids, I simply explained further what they didn’t know already. They both took sex education class in the 7th grade and they explained it all pretty well. The kids had a few questions but nothing really about sex, mostly about societies views and my own views on it.
As for race, my kids are mutts so I really don’t care. Didn’t before when I dated and don’t care what race they date. Only care that the person is special and treats them well.

Chrissi85's avatar

Oh and as for race, my dad raised me to judge people on their actions and not their background or colour, I have done the same with my sister but it’s a little more difficult as she has Downs Syndrome so reacts to ‘different’ things in a very innocent manner. Luckily no one has ever taken it the wrong way, and they would be idiots if they did.

silverfly's avatar

“I’m not racist, I’ve had 3 black people at my house”.
“If you know how many black people been at your house… you racist like a mother fucker.”

DrasticDreamer's avatar

My parents never actually talked about those things with me in depth. I remember when I was about five-years-old, we had a neighbor named Bambi who was gay and living with her partner. I asked her one day, “Who is your friend?” and she said “Oh, that’s my girlfriend. We’re in love with each other”. I paused to think about it for a second (first time I’d ever met a gay person) and then said, “Oh, okay! :) Are you married?” I didn’t think twice about it once she explained it to me, and my parents always let us run up and talk to her when we saw her getting home from work. My parents didn’t make a thing about it, and I know now they (my mom, at least) did it intentionally. She wanted us to see that there was nothing to talk about, that Bambi was to be considered perfectly normal. I’m sure if my sister and I had questions beyond Bambi’s explanation, my mom would have explained more, but she didn’t need to because my sister and I accepted it from the get go.

Race didn’t need to be explained, either, for the most part. My mom made sure my sister and I grew up around diverse groups. That’s not to say I didn’t encounter racism from certain family members once I got a little older – but it was in those times that my mom made absolutely sure my sister and I knew that what they were saying was both horrible and to never be tolerated. She didn’t need to convince me, because I had already made friends with people of varying backgrounds, and if I thought people were talking shit, I got really pissed off and defensive – even as a little kid.

Jude's avatar

Race was never discussed, nor was homosexuality (in my home).

Coming from a Catholic background, the kids at my high school were cruel. Two effeminate boys were picked on incessantly. I knew that there was something different about me back then, though. I was emotionally (as well as physically) attracted to few of my girlfriends, but, I kept my mouth shut and played the part of the straight girl. I dated guys until I was in my early 20’s.

I really wish that I could have come out sooner.

augustlan's avatar

While my maternal grandfather was extremely racist, my mother never said a word… positive or negative, about race while I was growing up in a very diverse area (just outside of DC). It never even occurred to me that she might be racist until I came home and told her I’d started dating my good friend (who was black). She about flipped her frickin’ lid, and I was shocked! She ordered me to break it off. I told her that while she could prevent me from seeing him, she couldn’t prevent me from liking him. She relented, and grew to love him above all of the other boyfriends I’d ever had. (Honestly, I think she was shocked at her reaction… it was a knee-jerk thing, I think.) Homosexuality wasn’t an issue at all, for some reason. She had good friends who were a gay male couple, and I’d known them from a very young age.

With my own kids, social justice of all kinds has been a very important talking point throughout their lives. It hasn’t been one big talk, but an ongoing discussion. We’ve discussed religion, race, sexual orientation, gender, and the like, all with the main point that people are people and they ALL deserve our respect. They ALL deserve the same rights we enjoy. They are also aware that there are people in the world who don’t feel the same, and that efforts should be made to change that.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

Has anyone else noticed that any comment that starts out with, “I’m not racist, but…” or “I’m not against homosexuality, but…” always ends with a racist or homophobic story?

fundevogel's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer It’s true. There ought to be a natural law about it. Something like:

“The the likeliness of exposing a negative character trait or prejudice increases in correlation to personal protests denying the possibility.”


“Any claim dismissing personal character flaws ending in ‘but’ must be immediately followed by a statement disproving the first claim.”

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I am proud to note that my daughter and son-in-law teach and live the values of respect and inclusion and have actively taught these values to my grandchildren.

They live in a small, very conservative town where their values are foreign to many other couples their age. The children who attend school with my granddaughters hear things from them they don’t hear in their homes.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I think your comment is very judgemental. If someone chooses to share their experiences with you, that is commendable, no need for name calling.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@YARNLADY Your comment is respected and appreciated. My response was based upon personal experience.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Sexual orientation, yes, we discussed with our children, and told them that sexual preference, income and politics were things that were not topics for discussion with people they didn’t know very well, and were not things they were entitled to comment upon. Race was discussed because they went to urban schools that attracted a diverse population, but only in the sense that people have different skin colors, as they do hair and eye color; it is not their choice, and has nothing to do with the quality of the person. We played a lot of “Guess Who” when they were little, and the description of “brown eyes, black hair, brown skin” as applied to a girl from India, an African-American boy, a Jewish boy, and a cheerleader who spent far too much time in a tanning bed.

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