The Building Bridges Handbook has been developed in order to begin the discussion and understanding of what lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) families need in early childhood environments. Utilizing this resource means engaging in the process of social change on behalf of children and making a commitment to understanding the scope and complexity which exists within LGBTQ families.
Babies enter families in many different ways, and the families they enter take on different forms. Lesbians and gay men must indeed go out of their way to have children – something that most heterosexuals do not have to do. (Casper, 2003) Children usually enter LGBTQ families in a planned and conscious way. There are few “accidents”, making parenting within these families a particularly meaningful experience. Children enter these families in a myriad of ways through birth with known and unknown donors, surrogacy, co-parenting adoption, and through previous heterosexual experiences. This resource will address questions that commonly arise when ECE teachers meet a LGBTQ parented family for the first time. It aims to provide concrete suggestions for policy and program practices that will enhance equity and respect in ECE environments.
LGBTQ parents face unique challenges despite an increasing range of acceptance within some segments of Canadian society. Although the human rights of LGBTQ individuals have been included in both provincial and federal laws within Canada, when LGBTQ individuals make a decision to become parents, new barriers must be overcome. The basic right to exist as a family is a political issue and a lightning rod for controversy. When LGBTQ parents “come out,” they face many risks to the safety of their children and their families. For complex reasons, some LGBTQ parents may choose not to come out, and ECE teachers may not even realize they are working with LGBTQ families. (Lesser, Burt, Gelnaw, 2005) The fear of coming out is tied to the history of homophobia throughout time.
Despite the growing recognition of the ability of LGBTQ people to parent, many heterosexual people do not perceive LGBTQ families as a legitimate family form. LGBTQ people are often perceived as unfit to be parents. (Berger, 2000) These kinds of negative perceptions, fear mongering and common homophobia often prevents parents from coming out even though discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal in Canada. Although LGBTQ parents have fought hard to win the right to be recognized as parents legally through the birth and adoption process, LGBTQ families continue to face isolation and homophobia in their day to day experiences of parenting and social interaction.