LGBT FAMILIES: LIZ'S STORY
When I was growing up, everywhere you looked there were mums and dads with two kids and a dog. My family were “pretend”
I’m never sure what people expect me to say when they ask me what it was like growing up in a family with two mums.
I was born in Birmingham in the mid 1980s. My parents divorced when I was two because my mum came out as gay. She bought a house at the opposite end of our street so my brother and I moved house on a weekly basis for the majority of our childhood.
Some people may think this was hard for us, and sometimes it was a pain to have to pack up your things when all you wanted to do was test out the new Mario game for my Gameboy, but through a kids eyes all you saw was two bedrooms, two Christmas stockings! You also got loving parents in abundance.
Looking back, it was exceptionally brave of my mother to come out when she did, and for my father to support her as much as he did. This was the eighties. Back then, mothers who came out as gay quite often lost custody of their kids purely because they were gay. Decriminalisation of gay sex for men aged over 21 in Northern Ireland and Scotland was a new thing. There was growing hysteria around the AIDS crisis. In 1987, the year my mum came out, the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said, “Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.”
She later introduced Section 28, which banned local government bodies from promoting or publishing material that “promoted homosexuality.” This included schools “promoting the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
This meant that my teachers were cautious of addressing any problems my brother or I encountered at school because of our parents. Unsurprisingly, it was the parents of some of the kids, rather than the kids themselves who had “issues” with my family. And some friends were not allowed to come over to my house to play, although my parents always protected me from this kind of attitude as a child.
It meant that no books in the school library or programmes on children’s television (or any television!) represented my family. Everywhere you looked there were mums and dads with two kids and a dog. My family were “pretend.”
In 1996, my mums had a Commitment Ceremony. All their friends and family were invited to celebrate and we had a brilliant day with confetti, cake, dancing and a whole lot of love. But the ceremony gave my mums no legal status or protection, and in the eyes of the law.....