The phrase ‘you don’t know you’re born’ came to mind as I left the cinema one evening after seeing the brilliant film Pride last year. My partner and his best friend, who are lets just say a ‘couple’ of years older than me, were telling me about what it was like to be a gay man in London in the 80s, how tiny the gay scene was, the challenges that gay people faced and how political it all was. It really hit home how easy I’ve had it and how lucky I am.
I came out in 2002 to a family who accepted me unquestioningly; and I’ve lived my whole life in London, one of the most open and tolerant places in the world. Being gay has never affected my education, career, relationships, friendships or even my chances of becoming a parent. It’s probably for this reason that I’ve never felt particularly connected to or strongly about the various gay political movements.
Of course I sympathised with the plight of people in countries around the world where being gay is illegal. I’ve been horrified by stories places like Saudi Arabia and Jamaica where people are persecuted because of their sexuality. But I suppose I’ve been a bit ignorant about the causes and issues that are important to so many people who still feel disadvantaged or marginalised here in the UK; the people who still feel unable to come out to their families or people at work or the people who grow up in less tolerant towns and villages and face verbal or physical abuse for being themselves.
Even Pride, arguably the biggest gay event of the year, with it’s all it’s political history tended to pass me by. My one and only attendance at Pride was in 2002 when there was a festival in Hackney Marshes. As a newly out bright-eyed twenty-two-year-old Pride was just a great big fabulous excuse for a party. I went with a group of friends and spent the day drinking and dancing, oblivious to the march or any of the issues that Pride gives a voice to.
Now, as a gay adoptive father of two, I finally feel like I have something to get angry about. When articles like this utter tripe are being written about gay adoption; when prominent gay people such as Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana can denounce non-traditional families; and when Republican presidential candidates can call gay parents ‘unconscionable and a destructive’ it makes me realise how much work there is to be done to educate against the ignorance that still exists. Despite research showing that children living in same sex parent families are not negatively impacted, a quick look in places such as the comments section on any same sex parent related article on the Daily Mail will uncover a whole host of backward and bigoted views.
This ignorance could be directed at my children at the school gates or in the playground. This ignorance could prevent a gay person from choosing to adopt out of fear for how they or their child will be accepted. This ignorance might cause a child to be left in care for even just a second longer than is necessary. And this makes me mad.
I feel that the best way to tackle the bigots is to just be ourselves, to be the best parents that we possibly can be. Every child that we raise to be happy, confident and prejudice-free is a kick in the teeth to those who believe it is somehow wrong or unnatural for us to parent children.
So I finally get what Pride is all about. I now see that Pride, with the attention it demands in the media, is the perfect opportunity to proudly show the world that same-sex parent families are here, happy and doing just fine. This weekend, I will be attending for the first time in 13 years and I will be there at the march with my partner and my children to show solidarity, not only with other gay families (those who have already fulfilled their dream of a family and those who are still on their journey) but with every LGBT person affected by discrimination or prejudice. And then I’ll have a drink and a dance. Because, well, it would be rude not to wouldn’t it?