"[A] powerful treatise on creating a more accepting world." Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
No matter who we are or where we come from, we all play on the same playground. There are certain collective societal messages we hear growing up that we either consciously or subconsciously believe. As a result, we develop certain belief systems from which we operate our lives.
Raising LGBTQ Allies sheds light on the deeper, multi-faceted layers of homophobia. It opens up a conversation with parents around the possibility they may have an LGBTQ child, and shows how heteronormativity can be harmful if not addressed clearly and early. Although not every parent will have an LGBTQ child, their child will jump rope or play tag with a child who is LGBTQ.
By showing readers the importance of having open and authentic conversations with children at a young age, Chris Tompkins walks parents through the many ways they can prevent new generations from adopting homophobic and transphobic beliefs, while helping them explore their own subconscious biases.
Offering specific actions parents, family members, and caregivers can take to help navigate conversations, address heteronormativity, and challenge societal beliefs, Raising LGBTQ Allies serves as a guide to help normalize being LGBTQ from a young age. Creating allies and a world where closets don’t exist happens one child at a time. And it begins with each of us and what we say, as much as what we choose not to say.
Chris Tompkins is a teacher, TEDx speaker, spiritual life coach, and LGBTQ inner-advocate based in Los Angeles, California. More importantly, he’s an uncle of five. Chris believes all kids are the future and teaches social-emotional learning throughout Southern California.
Section I: Awareness
1: MFTP Part 1: We All Play on the Same Playground: What We Believe and Why
2: MFTP Part 2: Language Matters: The Meaning Behind Our Words
3: MFTP Part 3: Change Our Beliefs, Change Their Story
Section II: Willingness
4: Gender, Sexuality, and Santa Claus: An Easy Approach
5: Benign Neglect: Not Communicating Is Still Communicating
6: Shame: Prevention vs Treatment
7: Trauma, Resilience, and Human Dignity: Raising a New Generation
Section III: Change
8: Building a New Playground: 6 Simple and Effective Steps
9: New Messages, New Playground, New World: A Mother’s Faith
10: New Toys: Instructional and Interactive Exercises
11: Uncle Chris: The Journey of a Soul
About the Author
Tompkins, a spiritual life coach and TEDx speaker, debuts with a thoughtful guide to creating LGBTQ allies with “open and authentic conversations within families and classrooms.” Using the metaphor of a playground for society-at-large, Tompkins asks parents and teachers to join together and recognize their biases, shift the conversations around gender and relationships, and talk openly about homophobia, transphobia, and bullying. Then, he offers concrete steps for ways to “build new playgrounds for all children.” When dealing with a child who is a bully, for example, he recommends a process of acknowledging their behavior, challenging their negative messages, and helping them forgive themselves. He encourages incorporating same-sex couple examples in lessons and conversations, stocking classrooms with LGBTQ-affirming books and resources, and having open, vulnerable conversations with children that involve asking questions about their relationships and interests. Along the way, Tompkins writes movingly of his closeted teen years, history of substance abuse, and how he made peace with who he is, adding a trenchant personal framework to the well-reasoned advice. Complete with discussion questions, meditations, and practical actions, this guide is a powerful treatise on creating a more accepting world.
Books are like messengers, Tompkins writes, and this volume conveys essential information for all adults with children in their lives about what it means to be LGBTQ, in the context of what he calls MFTP: Messages from the Playground. Playground is meant metaphorically, of course, as are messages. Playground is our mind or, rather, our consciousness, while messages are the dominant societal worldview. Tompkins says that one of the goals of his useful book is to help prevent bullying, heal queerphobia, and create allies on the playground. To this end, he writes extensively of his own experiences as a teacher and counselor with the goal of making the experience of having an LGBTQ child—or knowing one—something to revere. This is a tall order, but Tompkins rises to the occasion, offering thoughtful, informed, affirming, and, yes, inspirational advice on how to change a homophobic and transphobic society. In that context, he invites readers to change their traditional thinking and in so doing to eliminate queerphobia by being open and honest with children. He has succeeded beautifully.
Young Adult: Though targeted at adults, Tompkins' book will be informative and useful for teens, both straight and gay alike.
When Tompkins brought a female friend to hang out with his family in 2015, his six-year-old nephew wanted to know, “Uncle Chris, is she your girlfriend?” The rest of the family burst into uncomfortable laughter. That’s because all of the adults knew Tompkins is gay. But why didn’t the kid? It was a moment that gnawed at Tompkins, who realized that the supportive people in his life weren’t comfortable talking to their children about LGBTQ matters. What began as a letter to his family evolved into a TEDx Talk and now this book. Silence around the subject can hurt even more than insensitive language, Tompkins says, because it teaches children that there’s something shameful about being gay. For LGBTQ youth, that can lead to depression, substance abuse and even suicide. Drawing on his experiences as a closeted young man, a bartender at a gay bar and, now, an advocate and educator, Tompkins shares how this trauma manifests and lingers. In addition to several visualization and meditation exercises, he offers ways for parents to open lines of communication with their kids about the subject. For example, you can ask your children about what words they’ve heard classmates use at school to make fun of other kids, and have them list what they consider to be “girl activities” or “boy activities.” Only by challenging these ideas and discussing them, Tompkins argues, can we make playgrounds more welcoming for everyone.
When it comes to raising queer kids, families need true acceptance to thrive, but getting there can be a challenge. Raising LGBTQ Allies helps schools, mental health professionals, religious leaders, and families understand and create new LGBTQ+-friendly spaces in a heteronormative culture.
Parents and family members of LGBTQ+ youth who are not members of the queer community themselves may struggle to understand what real allyship looks like. This book points out that “the microaggressions LGBTQ youth face on a daily basis, including homophobic bullying, heteronormativity, and not being accepted by family or peers, is itself trauma.” Identifying, healing, preventing, and mitigating that trauma are key elements of raising happy, healthy people.
This important guide empowers allies to take steps to engage with homophobic and transphobic beliefs in culture and themselves. Its exercises for meditation and visualization are designed to instill empathy. The book is also packed with scientific research about the outcomes of bigotry, from conversion therapy to bullying. It shows what happens when those negative forces are removed.
The book emphasizes that homophobic violence isn’t limited to playground fights or name-calling. It is insidious, pervasive, and difficult to call out, especially when someone has never experienced it. This guide gives allies a lens to really see what LGBTQ+ kids experience, and a language to move from “acceptance” to true affirmation. It includes candid discussions of the consequences of staying quiet or looking the other way, such as the prevalence of substance abuse in the LGBTQ+ community, its drinking and drug culture, and intergenerational, unhealed shame and trauma. These topics are expressed in informed but authentic language that always centers the needs of the child.
Raising LGBTQ Allies is a courageous, necessary, big-hearted book with a vision for a more loving future for kids who inhabit every part of the identity rainbow.
This book is filled with Chris's hope for our children—that all children receive the message of inclusion and worthiness. It is also filled with his vulnerability as he shares his personal story and journey.
Chris Tompkins thoughtfully guides readers to a deeper understanding of themselves and the life experience of their LGBTQ loved ones. This must-read book serves as a blueprint to making the world a more loving place for queer and trans children—a shift that could save lives. Raising LGBTQ Allies is a needed resource for all youth-serving professionals. It should be part of syllabi and professional development trainings nation-wide and beyond.
6/7/22, Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen Podcast: Chris Tompkins talked about the book.