Groping in the Dark

Ruthie Patriquin
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Address your child's homophobia immediately

Amherst - Groping in the Dark...parents searching for answers on kids and sexuality

A parent asks:

Q: My children sometimes make very negative remarks about gays. Weve never discussed this topic. How important is it to address this issue with my kids?

A. Homophobia is another kind of prejudice. And it hurts people. (Homophobia is fear, hatred and discrimination towards lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.) We all take part in homophobia if we tell or laugh at jokes about lesbians or gays, or tease, harass or attack people because we think they are lesbian or gay. Each year, May 17 is set aside as the National Day Against Homophobia to raise awareness of this serious issue.

Your childrens remarks need to be addressed. Ask your children how they would feel if they were the brunt of the joke or focus of name calling, etc. We live in a culture where gay, lesbian, bisexual, as well as transgendered (GLBT) youth are still discriminated against, taunted, and are at risk of verbal or physical violence. This undermines their self-esteem, confidence and sense of safety. It also decreases their hope for a happy, successful future.

Growing up can be a difficult time for youth as they try to figure out who they are and find their place. With lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth, these feelings are intensified. They often describe feeling isolated, confused, ashamed, different and afraid.

The understanding and support of others can have a significant, positive impact on them.

We can all help by:

- not assuming that everyone is heterosexual

- watching our use of critical or stereotypical terms to discuss GLBT

- not allowing biased or stereotypical comments to go unchallenged

- discouraging humour that offends

- using inclusive language like partner

- and encouraging the discussion of lesbian, gay and bisexual issues

Its very important to talk with your children. By doing so, you will teach them that ignorance, intolerance, and hate are unacceptable, and that we need to respect and care about one another regardless of our differences.

For readers who are a family member or friend of someone who is GLBT and would like to talk to someone who will understand, there is a local support group that can help. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) (1 506-536-4245) meets bi-monthly in Amherst.

For information on talking with your family about any aspect of sexuality contact a local community resource such as the Sexual Health Centre for Cumberland County, 12 LaPlanche Street, Amherst, 667-7500; the Department of Public Health at 18 South Albion Street, Amherst (667-3319), the teen health centre (located in Amherst Regional High School), a program of the Amherst Association for Healthy Adolescent Sexuality (661-2383), youth health centre (located in Springhill high - 597-4253). These youth health centres both have Gay Straight Alliance support groups.

Parents, grandparents or other caregivers can submit questions to this column by emailing

Organizations: Sexual Health Centre, Department of Public Health, Amherst Regional High School Amherst Association for Healthy Adolescent Sexuality Gay Straight Alliance

Geographic location: Amherst, Cumberland County, 12 LaPlanche Street 18 South Albion Street Springhill

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