Last weekend we went to London. But instead of our usual Harley Street haunt, we visited The Alternative Families Show at the Grand Connaught Assembly Rooms, just off Great Queen Street. I know, could it get any gayer?
All in all, this was a really positive experience. We attended loads of interesting seminars, from the highly academic Changing Perceptions of Alternative Families, to the brilliantly titled Gay at the Gate. Being slap bang in the middle of all our options (adoption, fostering, IVF, sperm donors, egg donors…) confirmed to us that we are on the right track for the right reasons.
Other than that, here’s what we took away from the event:
1. I am not as comfortable with public displays of affection as some. Put a load of lesbians in a gay friendly space and there’s hair stroking, interlocking limbs, back rubs – IN A SEMINAR!! I honestly felt I should sit with my hand nonchalantly resting on my girlfriend’s boob, just to fit in.
2. My hormones are getting unruly. I welled up slightly as one gay dad told us how he introduced his son to the concept of adoption. He told the boy that his mummy and daddy weren’t able to look after him as well as they wanted to, so a judge started a search for the best new parents in the whole world. The judge found his dads and ruled that the boy would be with them forever.
3. Stonewall do some pretty amazing work in schools. Director of Public Affairs, Ruth Hunt, delivered a most excellent put down when some misguided audience member bemoaned the organisation’s lack of militancy. She told him that she could wave a banner wearing jeans but she knew that didn’t work. Suits worked, so she wore suits.
4. School is an even bigger hurdle for gay parents. It’s a good idea to meet with the head and tell them about your situation, find out if they have any kids’ books featuring LGBT characters or references, ask if they would consider getting in said books and above all, find out their policy on homophobic bullying. Stonewall have created some fantastic resources for schools; take a look here.
5. Lesbian mothers were only really recognised in the seventies when they began to fight for custody of their children following marriage breakdown. At that time, they lost every case on the grounds that their children would have a confused gender identity or be turned gay. These days, a case would not be contested on the grounds of sexuality. Hurrah for progress.
6. No-one’s bothered to do much research on gay dads until now. There are studies going on in the UK and US and results should be out around next year.
7. On the very difficult issue of what to call yourselves as parents, most people seem to opt for Mum and Mummy, Dad and Daddy, Mum and Mama, Dad and Papa, Mum, Dad and No The Other One.
8. It’s a good idea to see IVF as a long process, rather than a short, bob’s-your-uncle solution. It may take several attempts but many people do get there in the end.
9. Children of gay parents are sometimes bullied on the grounds of being children of gay parents. Children are also sometimes bullied for being fat, thin, ginger, quiet, loud, pretty, clever, owning a blemish, having the wrong trainers, and taking an interest in jazz. It might happen; you can equip them to navigate right on through.
10. Children of gay parents generally thrive because they are meant and wanted.