I’m posting this blog a little earlier than usual to coincide with LGBT Adoption & Fostering Week (plus I’m going on holiday so won’t be here to press Send on Friday).
In one of our most recent meetings with Denise, our social worker, we were asked about stressful situations in our past. In the last two blogs I've talked about stresses in my family but one of the most stressful times in any gay person’s life is ‘coming out’. Thankfully, both Tom and I have really supportive families but, as seems to be the case in most events, my story has a little more drama.
In some ways I have three coming out stories. The first is when I decided to tell my friends and brothers. I was 14 and had just attended the Pride march in London. I already knew I was gay (why else go to Pride?) but if there was any doubt in my mind, by the end of the day there was none whatsoever. The following week at school I told a close friend, then another, and by the end of the term most of my year group knew I was dating a guy two years above me. I was lucky enough to go to a school where being gay was widely accepted and I didn’t encounter any bullying or homophobic comments. I also told my brothers, who were amazing. Annoyingly, quite a few of my friends and my eldest brother’s girlfriend had already worked it out, which rather took the wind out of my sails. Even at this tender age it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t have a family of my own one day. And although the specifics of how that would happen remained hazy – I somehow knew it would.
My second coming out was when my mum found out by accident. I was 15 and it was New Year’s Eve. For one reason or another she was looking for the telephone number of the party I was at and whilst looking in my filofax (remember those?!) found a letter from my then-boyfriend. She discovered more about me in that letter than any parent should know about their child – gay or straight! The next day was awful; she was barely able to look at me. But day by day, and week by week, she came round to the idea, and by the following Pride march she was waving the banner of the parent support group FFLAG with Sir Ian McKellen.
Years later, she described her anguish at my coming out as mourning for the son she thought she had, for my future marriage she wouldn't attend, and for her future grandchildren she wouldn't have. Well since then, she got to know the son she has even better, she was at my civil partnership with a big hat and a damp hanky, and hopefully by the end of the year she’ll have two more grandchildren.
My third coming out was when I told my dad. Fast forward ten years - Tom and I have been together for about a year and are thinking of moving in with each other. Everybody in my life knows I’m gay except my dad; when my mum originally found out, she made me vow not to tell him since at this point, being in his mid-60s and quite vocally homophobic, he would not have accepted it. So against my mum’s wishes, I came out to my dad whilst my mum was sobbing upstairs. To this day he still believes my mum found out at the same time as him. There were a lot of tears. The defining moment came when my mum asked if my dad still loved me. Without missing a beat, he answered “Of course I love him, he’s my son”. Cue a lot more tears and the knowledge that everything was going to be fine. My dad was at our civil partnership, treats Tom like a second son, and is slowly but surely coming round to the idea of us adopting.
For my dad, coming to terms with me being gay was a e=result of him recognising that it’s really not a problem anymore. I think he was worried what people would think about me (and indeed him), but as time has gone on and he’s seen how normal it is, those fears have dissipated. And I hope that’s how he’ll feel about the adoption.
His initial response to being told we were adopting was that it wasn’t right for two men to bring up a child but he was unable to explain why he thought that. He know Tom and I are in a loving, solid relationship, and he has seen that we're both great with all our nieces and nephews. As the months have passed and I’ve spoken about the adoption around him (if not directly to him), and have left a few books lying around for my mum to read, I think he’s seen again that it’s fine. No one bats an eyelid any more at the myriad ways families are created.
In the twenty-two years since I came out so much has changed. The age of consent has been equalised, Section 28 has been repealed, civil partnerships and then marriages have been introduced, and of course the LGBT community are no longer barred from adopting and fostering.
I have no idea what it’s going to be like for our children having gay parents, but, as my mum has pointed out to my dad, isn’t it better that two children live with Tom and me in a loving home as opposed to languishing in the care system? Surely no-one can argue with that. And if the experiences of the children of gay parents we’ve spoken to are anything to go by, they’ll be absolutely fine.
Hopefully by the next LGBT Adoption and Fostering Week I’ll be able to tell you...
My husband and I have adopted two wonderful children. Duckling is 5 and Gosling, her little brother, is 3. I'll be keeping track of our journey here...