I’m a lesbian mum to a two year old and my experience as a gay parent is significantly different to being a straight parent of a two year old. How do I know that? Remember those experiments at school where you could only change one variable for it to be considered a “fair test”? – it’s a lot like that. The only variable that changed, in the eyes of those around me, was stating my sexual preference.
For reasons a plenty, it took me time to fully acknowledge and accept my sexuality, by which point I was married to a man and we had a child together. My desire to be a parent was always very strong and was certainly one of the reasons that I kept my true self hidden for so many years. I was in a relationship of convenience, friendship and care also, but it was convenient for us both.
We’d been together since we were teenagers and although I always knew something wasn’t right for me, I wasn’t prepared to take a good look at what that thing was.
On paper, he cared about me and treated me well enough, I cared about him and we got on. Sex had always been an issue, he’d wanted me to go to therapy but never pushed me into it either. I wanted a child, as did he and I felt he’d make a great dad. What reason was there to leave?
So we had a child together and what joy that brought into my life. I’d never had a career, I’d struggled with Arthritis since childhood and something else seemed to make it difficult for me to be in the workplace, which I never understood. My social circle had always been limited and largely my life was about hiding away.
Suddenly, I had this purpose, this tiny person who needed me and my life felt meaningful. I had to draw on a strength that I never knew I had and that changed me. I started to know what it was to really love.
I began seeing myself a little differently, or maybe I just started to see myself – I wasn’t so afraid to look. About a year after the birth, I asked my GP to be assessed for Autism. After a discussion, she agreed and referred me. The referral took some time, almost a year but after a long assessment, it was confirmed that I was on the spectrum. I felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for myself, suddenly many of the parts of me that would spill out when I was around other people, that I’d been so ashamed of, made sense. Ways I’d struggled that seemed so irrational – being at school, in the workplace, not quite fitting in wherever I was – it was all ok, not my fault. I’d been so hard on myself but started to feel a sense of self-acceptance that I’d never had before. I was allowing myself to fall deeply in love with my beautiful, flawed self, with a total acceptance.
But there was something else. Some deep, old part of me that I knew was there and knew would be the hardest part to accept, because when I tried to go there it was terrifying. I had a sense that my whole world would fall apart if I did. A part that I’d buried under layers and layers and years and years of appearances and doing what was expected of me. But it was surfacing, whether I liked it or not, it had a will of it’s own and was starting to say “enough. I am nothing to be ashamed of either. I am your truth.”
My first experience as a lesbian mum was simply knowing I was a lesbian mum.
I’d look out at my world – my home, my baby, their routine, my husband, the furniture in our house, our income and know it was all going to change. That it had to.
It took me about a year from that point, to have an honest conversation with my husband. I went all around the houses, struggling to simply say “I’m gay. I want to end our marriage.” I knew he would be devastated but more than that was the crippling fear of losing my child. Perhaps not entirely, but the thought of not having them sleeping under the same roof as me every night was too much to bare. That their sweet, soft skin and chubby little feet that grew inside me, from me, would be elsewhere and if they woke in the night, it wouldn’t be me holding them close, soothing them back to sleep. Even writing this now, I cry, it brakes my heart deeply. It brakes often, for all the parents over the decades, across the world, knowing their truth and facing the very real possibility of losing all contact with their child if they told anyone. At one point, I decided I couldn’t do it. I would live a lie until they’d grown up and left the nest. But I quickly began to see the affect that would have on us all.
I was becoming deeply depressed and unable to care for my little one, who could see that mummy wasn’t happy. I was snapping at my husband, resentful at him just for being around and what remained of our friendship was being eroded. It was an unhappy home for all three of us and what was I teaching my child about self-acceptance?
So, my first task as a self-expressed lesbian mum was to let people know. I’d have to break some eggs to make this omelette, there was no other way. I’d finally come out to myself and two close friends who’d been supporting me over the past year but it was time to come out to my husband and start making the life for myself and my little one that we both deserved, that I so very much deserved.
I was terrified.