One thing I’m proud of, is when I’m held up as an example to convince people that they needn’t fear that fulfilling their own desire to have kids would be too cruel on that hypothetical kid. The number of happy, proud, confident LGBT+ people I meet, who somehow think that there’s no way children of gay parents could be happy or normal, astounds me.
A lot of people ask if my parentage has been cause for bullying. My answer is yes. But not nearly such a big cause as my geekiness, or my body hair, or my height. The main reason I got bullied when I was younger, was that I was interested in class: I wanted to learn and I wanted to work hard. I always had my nose in a book. At my school*, that didn’t really go. On the other hand, my half brother and his brother claim never to have been bullied – so there’s no guarantee that having same-sex parents will automatically generate cruelty among other kids.
As we all know, when children pick on other children, they choose the easiest thing to pick on. I used to be perplexed when kids I’d never met would pass me in the street and shout “Your mums are lesbians!”. Yes, I knew that – it was a factually accurate statement and not one that bothered me. Still, it’s not nice being yelled at.
I remember being in the playground aged around seven. A lot of kids were curious about the technicalities of lesbians having children. It was a question that could get aggressive. I hadn’t quite perfected my scientific answer, but was impressed when Seb, another child of lesbian mothers, explained the turkey baster method in full. I think that satisfied everyone. What that says to me, is that the other children were simply curious. Gay parenting wasn’t something they were used to, nor something they understood, and so they were naturally suspicious to start off with. So long as we explain different relationships and family structures to children, they’ll be able to accept them as normal, valid choices, and won’t feel threatened or defensive.
It seems to me, that if you’re worried that kids will get picked on because they’re different, well that results in a really uninteresting gene pool going forwards. I’m different for lots of reasons – I have lesbian mothers and I’m mixed race. I’m from a minority religion too. I’ve never wanted to change any of those parts of me, even though each has been the cause of bullying at various points in my life.
The great thing about children whose complex backgrounds might give rise to prejudice, is that they’re also great at recognising and combating that same prejudice. I was raised to be aware of the complexities of race, gender and sexuality. I never had my breakthrough feminist moment, because feminism has always been natural to me. I was never shocked to discover structural racism in our society, because that’s something I’ve always observed. And I never felt too confused or worried about my own sexuality, because I was brought up knowing that whatever would be would be and that the people around me would love me no matter what.
I in no way want to downplay the severity of bullying, and its implications. Suicide and depression rates are horrifically high among LGBT+ youth, who are two to three times more likely to commit suicide in their teenage years than their heterosexual peers, and five times more likely to skip school because of bullying. A lot of the time that’s because they are subject to persecution at the same time as being isolated, without support structures and people they can turn to (attempted suicide rates decrease in more accepting families). That’s something that’s really terrible, and that we need to act on.
The difference for me, was that I was surrounded by unconditional love. I was bullied, yes, but surprisingly little of that was due to my parents, and what’s more important is that I was perfectly equipped to deal with that bullying. I was brought up to believe in myself, and had people I could count on for support whenever I needed it. That’s what’s most important when you raise a child – not the prejudice that might come from other people, and over which you have no control, but how you bring someone up with self-confidence and assurance that they’ll always be supported.
I’m pretty sure I count as a healthy, well-adjusted young adult. I’ve done pretty well in education and work, and I don’t harbour dark thoughts or practise satanism at night. That’s not to say that the children of LGBT+ parents must be perfectly turned out to prove that this great ‘experiment’ has worked. The whole reason I set up this blog is because I’m sick of all the ‘whats’ and ‘buts’ and ‘ifs’ that accompany conversations about LGBT+ parenting, and I hope to prove by my very existence and experience that there is no big debate to be had. Yes, there may be some bullying, but not necessarily any more than other kids face, for a myriad of reasons. And yes, some of us might be screw ups, but so are the children of heterosexual parents. What matters when you raise a child is how you bring them up, not what your sexuality or gender is, and the sense of identity you install within them, not the names they sometimes get called. Bring up a child who is willing and empowered to tackle prejudice and educate others, rather than worrying too much about what’s outside of your control.
* my first secondary school – I moved because of the bullying, and was much happier in my second school