Drag as Life-Affirming and Central Iowa Rainbow Families
When my family walks into the room, we look like the “typical” midwestern family.
My spouse is an attorney and I am a nonprofit consultant. We were both born and raised in the Midwest. We both run our own small businesses and enjoy being close to our family and friends. We have a kiddo who is going into 6th grade next year in a great school district. We volunteer in our community and donate to causes we care about. We are thriving.
But despite appearances, we are a family who feels on the edge – what if people learn more about us, will they still respect us, treat us differently, or give our kid a hard time? What if our school district or state lawmakers create legal barriers to access medical care, learn about our history, participate in sports or celebrate with our friends?
And to be honest – we are an outlier – many in our community are not thriving.
We are an LGBTQ family and in June – Pride month – we got a moment to connect with other families like ours and celebrate our strength, diversity, and perseverance.
It also provides the opportunity to share our story and highlight how you can support families like ours – year-round.
I am a lesbian and my partner is a transman – which means everyone assumed he was a female at birth, he was raised as a girl but has lived as his true self for nearly two decades. And our kiddo identifies as gender-fluid. We represent many of the colors of the rainbow.
Our fears have materialized. Parents have stopped calling for playdates after they saw our rainbow flag or didn’t answer the birthday party invitation. Our school district, and many others in the state, have pulled books about our community from library shelves. Our legislature passed a law that limits young transgender and gender-fluid people from participating in sports. State lawmakers around the country have passed bills limiting access to life-affirming medical treatments.
These actions have severe impacts on LGBTQ folks – especially kids. Here are a few startling stats (data from The Trevor Project):
- 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth
- LGBTQ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their straight counterparts
- Only 26 percent say they always feel safe in their school classrooms — and just five percent say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ people;
- Sixty-seven percent report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ people.
But what is different for our kiddo – and the other LGBTQ kiddos in our life – is that they have a supportive adult in their life.
Research has shown that just one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt by 40 percent for queer youth.
Each time adults get upset about books reflecting the queer experience, teachers wanting to teach about LGBTQ historical figures, or kids wanting to express themselves through drag and theatre, it shows queer youth that they are not all right, they don’t belong and they are not welcome in our schools and homes.
And that is what this is all about. Inclusiveness is not about being en vogue, woke, or a phase. It is about saving our kids’ lives. We need to ensure queer kids have access to safe spaces and affirming adults so that they know they belong and they are welcome in our schools and homes.
So, as you see kids draped in rainbow flags, or attending all-ages drag shows, wanting to learn more about Harvey Milk or Martha P. Johnson, or reading books with queer kid protagonists – I want you to see these actions as life-affirming. These activities save kids’ lives.
Central Iowa Rainbow Families
And this is why my partner and I started Central Iowa Rainbow Families. Rainbow Families provides opportunities for LGBTQ parents with kiddos and straight parents with LGBTQ kiddos to meet each other and have fun. We create inclusive spaces where kids, their parents, and other allies can feel safe and enjoy their community together.
As one mother said to me at a recent playdate, “We have never been to a park play date where we didn’t feel judged. We felt so welcomed and accepted here.” And her transgender daughter danced around the playground with joy, laughing with the other kiddos.
And that is what is this all about. Watching that child grow up – and grow up healthy, happy, and loved.
About the Author
Bethany Snyder and her family live in Urbandale, Iowa, and lead Central Iowa Rainbow Families which provides support, social, and advocacy opportunities for LGBTQ families in central Iowa. They have lived all over the country from Washington, DC, to Minneapolis, and Northern California, moving to Iowa in 2019. They enjoy hanging out with their dog, Brownie, and cat, Viking and traveling in their travel trailer whenever they get the chance.