A new school year brings a dicey question for a growing segment of the parenting crowd: How “out” to be.

It’s a major question for the increasing, but still minuscule, ranks of gay and lesbian parents. When a family is the first, or one of the few, of its kind in a school, it’s hard to know how to be both trailblazing and supportive.

The answer, according to the Family Equality Council, which just issued a new back-to-school advisory to its 80,000 members, is to be “as out and visible” as possible.

“Be as out as you feel you safely can be in your community. Meet with your principal and teacher to introduce your family. Introduce yourselves to other families at school. Let your child’s teacher know what language you use to describe your family relationships (e.g. Daddy/Papa, Eva has two moms),” reads the council’s advice.

“… Volunteer in your child’s classroom or help out in the school. Take on a leadership role — join the PTA, site council, diversity committee, or curriculum review committee. Make your voice heard.”

Such a stance is far different than what same-sex parents might have done a decade ago, when overt bias was more common. Still, bullying remains a primary concern for gay parents and parents of gay children and the advice might not sit well for all gay parents.

But as same-sex parents become more visible, some gay advocates say, so to do the opportunities — and responsibilities — to expand cultural acceptance.

“I think we need to be active partners with our children’s schools and especially with their individual teachers,” said Equality Council’s director of programming Brent Wright, who is also a parent.

What about a child who would rather blend than stand out? I asked Brent about the conflict a gay parent faces when their child would rather fit in.

“I think we need to be in regular communication with our child and the school about how things are going, ensuring we appropriately and in informed ways guide our children through the school-peer experience. Honesty takes courage but it’s also powerful.”

Are you a same-sex parent entering a new school? What obstacles have you faced? Do you feel a responsibility to trailblaze?

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