What I've learned as a same sex parent
Tomorrow is the start of LGBTQ+ Adoption and Fostering week. An annual campaign to encourage more LGBTQ+ people to explore these parenting routes and to tackle some of the ongoing misconceptions around starting a family.
Last year the number of children in care hit a ten year high with some 80,000 children in care in the UK. There is an urgent and real need for more people to adopt and foster.
Considering this and as an LGBTQ+ adopter, I thought I would share with you my experience and lessons learnt.
Disclaimer: There is no such thing as the perfect adopter, just as there is no such thing as the perfect child. This blog is self-reflecting. It is therefore MY experience. It is not exhaustive either. It might resonate strongly with you. You might think I am completely mad. Either is fine.
You’ll be more out than you ever where
Yep, it surprised me too. When my partner and I adopted the dynamic of our relationship changed. It was not about us anymore. I have to be proud of my family because I want them to be proud of our family. 1 in 6 adoptions in the UK is now to LGBTQ+ individuals and couples. Therefore, we need to be proud of who we are and who our family is and establish and maintain this foundation unconditionally.
Most people don’t mean to offend
Your children will steal the show, no two ways about it. People will want to meet them and ask about them. At this point, you may be asked ‘Where is Mum?’. When we respond, ‘No, it is just us, two Dads’ there is a moment to process, before panicked apologies, to which we reply it is fine.
I don’t mind if people need a moment to process our family structure. It’s “new” and I say new in quotations because it isn’t, but it is to most people. As long as there’s respect for who we are, people can process openly and can ask us about it and it won’t offend me. I think visibility matters for LGBTQ+ people, including LGBTQ+ families and I’m willing to support, educate and pioneer that, for my children and my community.
“So, which one of you is Mum?”
This is ignorant, and as the more feminine in our relationship, it is usually directed at me. It is a reminder that for some, our family is somewhat lacking, and the presumption that I, the more feminine of my partner and I, must fulfil that role.
I find this also only reinforces the mainstream definition of mum and dad gender stereotypes, that a woman should look after the children, cook and clean while the man should go to work and provide for his family. This not only alienates same-sex couples but leads to self-doubt that their child/ren is missing out representatively and emotionally.
Our family structure more than fulfils the needs of our children. Thank you, next.
You will parent differently
As a community, we have spent a lifetime going against the grain of what society deems ‘normal’. We live by our own rules, so why would our parenting be any different? There are no defined roles. It is fluid. Embrace it.
Karen, this is my friend Damian, Damian is (INSERT CHILD’S NAME) and his boyfriend, yes boyfriend, is Andrew! Isn’t that great!
Same-sex parents could just be called parents. Call it out! Tokenism and exceptionalism have no place in parenting. It is hard enough just getting the kids to school.
Do you think your child will turn out gay?
Hopefully, but there is no pressure!
The message I impart to my LGBTQ+ friends is simply this: they can be a parent if they wish to, and while the journey may be nuanced for someone in the LGBTQ+ community, the result is the same. Love is love, and if it is what you want, take the plunge to parenthood.
There is a load of resources out there to support too, New Family Social, is a charity dedicated to the support of LGBTQ+ adoptive and foster families, Adoption UK who are fabulous, the #adoptioncommunityuk network on Instagram, Some Families podcast, which I am obsessed with and my beloved Wales-wide adoption agency St David’s Children Society, who without them, our family dream would never have come true.