A collaboration between Community Links and Airdrie Pride Society is offering a peer-led, informative support group for parents of children who identify as LGBTQ+. Parenting with Pride, which kicks off Feb. 17, will provide a monthly meet-up for parents to ask questions, discuss concerns and network with others in similar situations.
“Even the most supportive parent is going to go through some feelings when their kid comes out – ‘what do I do, what do I say? What language do I use?’” said Candice Reed, a community support worker with Community Links who also sits on the Airdrie Pride Society board. “This will be a safe place for these parents to come and feel like they’re not alone.”
According to Reed, the idea for the program came out of the establishment of Community Links and Airdrie Pride Society’s community GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance). While the society was engaging with the community and visiting various GSAs at local schools, Reed said students began identifying a different need.
“What the kids really wanted, actually, was support for their parents,” she said. “I think what they really need is more understanding, so we decided it would be another great initiative for us to roll out.”
Reed said many parents currently access support services in Calgary, but as Airdrie continues to grow, she added, it’s important that people can find local service options as well. Parenting with Pride will provide participants with a peer-based support network, as well as plenty of information. Reed will serve as co-facilitator, along with a local mother whose transgender son attends school in Airdrie.
“She’s so knowledgeable – she’s been through it, and she’s still going through it at this moment,” she said.
Many parents, according to Reed, feel afraid when their children come out as LGBTQ+ – faced with concerns about bullying or discrimination. But as a society, she said, the past few years and decades have shown that we have made some headway in opening up the conversation and promoting awareness and acceptance.
“It’s so different from when we went to school,” Reed said. “Back then, it was so hush-hush and no one was actually out, but now, a lot of kids are able to be out and be themselves and have support within the school. I really think it’s the youth who are going to change the conversation for the rest of us – it’s going to take us a little bit longer.”
However, Reed hopes the new Parenting with Pride group will help bring that much-needed change to the community – “from micro to macro,” she said. Not only will it add value to the lives of the children whose parents get involved, she explained, it will create more opportunities for parents to learn.
“Most of us know the basics, but for parents, it’s really about trying to understand where your kid is on that spectrum – and even helping them to understand it,” she said. “If you have a kid who comes to you and says they’re questioning their gender identity, that doesn’t mean they’re just gay or lesbian. There’s such a big amount of information out there for parents to absorb.”
Participation in the group is free, and registration is not required – interested parents are simply invited to show up at Community Links Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. to attend the first meeting. According to Reed, the plan is for the group to meet on an ongoing monthly basis.
“We want everyone to come out,” she said. “The more awareness we can get out there, the more we can change the conversation to remove stigma and remove barriers.”