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  • Writer's pictureDamian Kerlin

How are we perceived?

My partner & I adopted twin boys. At the time they were only three. Making the leap from coupledom to adoptive parents of twin boys was exciting, exhilarating, and wonderful. It was also exhausting, exasperating, and worrisome. Maintaining a vivacious relationship post-child takes a lot of time and energy, exactly what we had the least of then. Yet in the chaos of everyday life we slowly found calm. We had to, otherwise it can run away with you, and children can run fast, undeterred, unaffected while showing no sign of lacking in energy anytime soon.

Fast forward, and boys are on the verge of celebrating their 6th birthday, I’m often asked, ‘I bet you can’t remember what life was like before you got them?’ and every time I’ve managed to manifest a smile stipulating agreement, when in reality; of course, I still bloody remember!

Yet, since becoming a Daddy a little over two years ago I have lately begun to feel distanced and at times ostracized from the community I once thrived being part of and fought mercilessly for. We strive for equality and to live our lives as our true authentic selves. As a community, we dispel stereotyping, yet internally we thrive on social categorisation and are often perplexed by those whom we can’t place e.g. Twink? Daddy? (a completely different type of Daddy!) Bear? Otter? Jock?

Yet how does the LGBTQ+ community view same sex fathers and where exactly do we ‘fit’?

New Identity?

‘we don’t have the freedom we once did, so I suppose for many, we have fallen off the radar’

Gone is the social norm us gays our renowned for, I mean who knows how to celebrate better than us, and hello parenthood where spontaneity is a thing of the past! The dynamic of our identity has changed, and part of that is still the person we “used to be” and still very much are. It is imperative that we hold on to that. So why is it we feel so disconnected from the community, we once prided ourselves on. When speaking to a number of same-sex Daddy’s, I recorded comments such as:

‘friendships have been harder to maintain, and for the majority, we just aren’t as close anymore. Our lifestyle has changed, and not everyone was as accepting of that, as we had hoped. They just thought we would still be at every dinner and party. It was just as easy as ‘getting a babysitter’. It is sad.’

‘the gay community can be really selfish, and rightly so, we have fought long and hard for the freedoms we are granted today but suddenly you don’t come first, your child does, and that can take some time to get used to, particularly for others’

‘in the gay community you can sometimes feel pressured to act a certain way to fit in, but no-one knows how to act as a father. It’s unknown, every case is different, you don’t know it until you are in it and that uncertainty can unsettle people’

As these conversations continued, the more the consensus developed. It was not that of abandonment but that we had peaked. We are no longer worthy of categorisation because we are no longer desirable. We are partnered and/or have children. We have achieved what is perceived as a ‘happy ending’, like a Disney princess, it would appear, we only deem ourselves worthy having once found our prince.

No Fairy Tale

Us same sex parents now need the LGBTQ+ community more than ever, not only for ourselves, but for our children. We fought long and hard for the same rights to adopt as our heterosexual counterparts and it was only this year (2020!) that same-sex couples could register to marry in Northern Ireland.

There is no myth that internalised homophobia is rife within our community; only last week I saw those who once preached ‘be kind’ tear down a group of friends on Twitter for simply taking pride in their appearance. These ‘jocks’ or ‘masc’ men stray from the societal norm of the more feminine or camp gay man often stereotyped in mainstream media, so is it so that when our personalities or decisions stray from what is possibly perceived as normative in society and more so within the community, are we are actually unequal?

At a time when as a community we should be standing united and raising each other up we are instead, subconsciously or not, isolating current same sex fathers who once found a safe haven within the community but also those potentially thinking of starting a family too. I can’t help but think when we conceptualize how far we have come as a community, do we then put pressure on ourselves to achieve the same as an individual. It was fought so hard for us, so must we now adhere to what has been ‘won’?

I don’t have the answers and nor do I pretend to. What I do know, is that I found it disheartening that in many ways we perceive ourselves as one-trip ponies; us fathers, who were once social butterflies have well and truly had our wings clipped. When in fact we have started on a brand-new journey. One which requires a new set of skills and competence, and one which doesn’t solely focus on ourselves. Surely, we can’t be as selfish to not want to put others happiness ahead of our own.

The decision to become a parent is not one taken lightly, but once decided upon should be celebrated. We need a strong, resilient and united community. Let’s educate our children so they celebrate their differences without discrimination, and don’t have to fight as hard as we did, possibly not even for themselves, but for us, their parents and their future children. I want an inclusive space for my children to grow up in, where they feel supported and proud regardless of their sexuality. They are part of our community not add-ons as the children of same-sex fathers. The fight is still rife, but it is a different fight, a new one. It is for a generation who we are now so fortunate to be able to call our children.

So, to those single, partnered, married, child-less, raising an army or still figuring it all out our ‘happy ending’ is STILL our right to equality and living as our true authentic selves. The opportunity to raise beautiful children and call ourselves a parent is a bonus (but not the be-all!).

This article was originally written for and published by DaddiLife. The original can he found here.

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