What do I do if I meet resistance from the other families or community members?
Now, you may have done all the work to embed diversity into your philosophy, policies and orientation conversations.
You may still come into contact with families and colleagues who feel afraid of incorporating LGBTQIA+ culture into conversations about cultural diversity more broadly.
In these instances, the most powerful thing you to do is have a dialogue.
You’re an expert at scaffolding. Use these skills to scaffold people who disagree to a more neutral, or even positive and supportive viewpoint.
But this can be confronting and scary.
I like to start these conversations by understanding the feeling that’s driving the concern.
In most cases it’s fear. Even if the concern presents as anger or aggression, its typically fear that’s driving it.
Begin the conversation by trying to acknowledge and frame their concern as fear-based.
Ask what their concern is – it may be that it’s inappropriate for children to learn about this, that it sexualises children, that it will expose children to adult ideas, that it is immoral, that it will promote LGBTIQA+ cultures and that may influence their child’s identities. Perhaps they’re scared it erodes the sacredness of family, and of traditional male and female gender roles.
You may say
“I can see you’re really concerned about this, that must feel hard. Can I ask what is troubling you the most?”
“I can see this is really hard for you to accept, can I ask you why you feel fearful or threatened by this broader understanding of culture?”
It’s important to listen to the person speaking, use active listening skills to help them feel seen and heard. Once you feel like you have a handle on their perspective, repeat it back to them to show you see them.
“Oh, I see, you’re scared your child may move away from your family’s values.”
”What I hear is that you’re concerned this will confuse your child. I see that.”
If the person continues to aggress, ask them to stop speaking to you in that manner and explain that you will ask your manager to make a time to speak to them.
If acknowledgement works, reassure them that you’re trained to explore family and cultural diversity with young children and do it in an age appropriate way.
You can reassure them that exposing children to different ways of being doesn’t change their identity, that discussing gender diversity won’t change their gender – we don’t set these ideas as seeds in children’s heads. It is true, some children, from all cultures, will identify with the LGBTQIA+ community, but it’s not exposing them to it in EC that will do this.
In fact, all we do by exposing children to diversity is make them more tolerant and accepting of themselves and others. The reality is 4% - and this is way underestimated – of the whole population is LGBTQIA+. This is one person out of every 25 people. This is one child in each kinder room. 2 parents in each kinder room. 4 children and 8 parents across a 100 place service. These children and their families are in your service, even if you don’t know it. The ally and advocacy work you do is critical for them. Perhaps you’re the first person who has supported them.
If you’ve done all this and the issue isn’t resolved, or if you feel uncomfortable, escalate the issue to management. You can say
“Thank you for sharing your perspective with me. I am going to stop you there and speak to my manager to make a time to speak with you. Thank you.”
And then walk away, and find someone (even your workplace Employment Assistance Program) to debrief to, and then raise with your manager and ask them to make a time to speak to the person.