I know that my family are sometimes behind me, sometimes beside me and other times ahead of me. What I can be sure of is that they are with me every step of the way.

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Parenting: making it up as you go….

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Parenting’s a funny thing. Never before have I experienced anything that’s such a roller coaster of emotions.  Seriously!

I’ve been a daddy for over six years now. In that time I’ve felt a complete catalogue of emotions; fear, love, joy, pain, anger, hurt, laughter, pride, embarrassment, amazement, foolishness…. lots of foolishness. The list really is endless. What keeps me sane though, apart from the kisses and the cuddles and the giggles from our three beautiful boys of course,  is the fact that we are not alone. It’s not only us who’s trying to look as graceful as possible , when in reality we’re a stumbling along blindly.

When we first became parents we felt a self imposed need to prove we could do it. As gay dad’s, and as individuals,  we wanted to show that we could do it as well as the next person. We could raise happy, healthy, contented children.

And that’s kind of what we’re doing. Just not without a few blips and a crisis or two along the way!

What I’ve come to realise however.  Is that It doesn’t matter. Gay, straight, black, blue, male, female, single or not. None of us can get it right all of the time. Nor should we.

Parenting is a messy business. Getting things wrong is a part of life; good parenting is picking things up and letting yourself and your children learn from the experience.  Great parenting is doing this when your covered in vomit and poo and still finding the ability to laugh along with your child at the whole thing…..when all you really want to do is cry into a large glass of red!

In preparation for being parents we read all the books in the world offering tips and routines on raising children. We sought advice from anyone and anywhere we could….all of which is stored in our parenting tool box to use along the way. But the truth is; no one has all the answers. Though some may think they do.

The reality is we’re all just making it up as we go along.  That’s ok though. Really it is. If you’ve been feeling the same, nows the time to take a deep breath and tell yourself “it’s ok if I cock up.” It doesn’t make you a bad person. It certainly doesn’t make you a bad parent. Quite the opposite.

We’re all trying our best and at the end of the day that’s what really matters.  I think what make truly deserving and successful parents are the one that are willing to try. And keep trying even when the going gets tough and it feels like you’re getting it wrong.

At the end of the day there’s no such thing as perfect parenting. It’s a messy, unpredictable chaos that pitches you from highs to lows in the beat of a heart.

But it’s SO worth it don’t you think? XxX

A father’s struggle: mystery illness

Now that it’s published on gayswithkids.com I can share my latest article. For the published article (and to see the video) please visit https://gayswithkids.com/frightening-symptoms-little-sons-mysterious-disease/ It all started last summer. We’d had a perfect family summer holiday in Hunstanton, Norfolk. A beach from my childhood, a trip down memory lane and a great catch up with my big sister Lorraine. Such a great holiday; little were we to know it would be a prelude to our son Louis getting ill. We got back home from holiday and a week or so later were seeing to our horses with all of our children; Wil (5), Louis (3) and Connor (2). Out of nowhere Louis started to fall over. He was giggling maniacally when he did it – so much so that I got cross with him thinking he was fooling around.  It really looked like he was just mucking about. His legs would buckle and spasm and he would fall to the floor. When he did manage to drag himself up he would stagger around like a drunkard before falling to the floor again, all the time smiling  It was only after a few sharp words and a near miss with some barbed wire and the water trough didn’t stop him that I started to worry. We picked him up time and time again, but he kept falling down. It just didn’t seem to bother him that much.  I took a video – just in case we needed to show it to anyone, it was so odd. Louis picked up a bit when we got home and after he’d had a bit of a sleep. When he got up he was still a bit wobbly and didn’t seem himself, but not wanting to worry unduly we decided to wait, watch and see.  Still worried I posted the video online to see if anyone had experienced anything similar.  Now when I look back at the video I’m cross that we didn’t do something sooner – it seems so much worse than I remember – we were just so undecided on what to do for the best. We had loads of responses to the clip. The most common thought was an inner ear condition. I wasn’t so sure. The next morning Louis was a bit better, but still wobbly and not quite right. I received a message from a friend who is a nurse. The friend had kindly shown the clip to a paediatric Dr who said to get Louis into hospital immediately.  I rang my husband Ivan in tears. Why hadn’t we taken him straight in? What if our delay had made things worse?  I was so scared. We took Louis straight to the emergency department without delay. The Dr there was clearly concerned and he was admitted straight away to the children’s ward for investigation. By this stage Louis couldn’t walk in a straight line. His speech was slurred and he was starting to drool. His right eye was wandering and his fine motor skill was off. We were terrified. We couldn’t lose him, but it felt like that was a very real possibility. The Dr’s explained that the wobbling that Louis was suffering from was called Ataxia and that it could be caused by a number of things. The most obvious being a brain tumour. Louis was rushed in for a brain scan while we waited nervously. Thankfully the results came back clear. The following week saw Louis having test after test. He had a lumbar puncture to check for meningitis and related conditions – all came back clear. He had numerous blood tests to check for various conditions and illnesses, all of which came back clear. They put Louis on IV antibiotics and anti-virals as a precaution. He has been left with an intense fear of needles. Slowly Louis’ symptoms stabilised. He wasn’t the same as he was before, but he wasn’t displaying the same dramatic symptoms that he was when he was admitted to hospital. His walking was steadier and his eye had settled. His speech continued to be slurred and his gross motor skills were off. It’s hard to put into words but, whilst he was still the Louis that we love beyond words, he was a shell of the boy he was prior to the incident that hospitalised him. I mean he played and giggled like he did before, but there was a delay and a vacancy that wasn’t there before.  We felt utterly helpless. As his parents we wanted to be able to kiss it all better as you would a scuffed knee. It just wasn’t possible. It felt like we were failing him. After a week or so of tests, all immediately life threatening conditions were ruled out. It was a big relief. But we still had no answers. However, they let him home. It was great to be back too. The family back together as it should be. We’d each kept a vigil at hospital. One with Louis and the other taking it in turns to spend time with our other kids who were staying with family. Having Louis home we managed to get back to some sort of normality. We had a long journey ahead of us however. All of the obvious things had been ruled out, but we still desperately needed to find out what was going on.  Louis was referred to a top paediatric neurologist who repeated all of the tests and carried out more. We now know plenty of what isn’t wrong with Louis and so are hopefully narrowing down what it might be. It’s coming up to 8 months of investigation now. At present we’re waiting for the results of various genetic tests that they are carrying out to see whether they reap any results.  As Louis is adopted it makes things a little bit more complicated. We have a rough family medical history, but it’s not as involved as we’d like it to be. Both birth dad and birth mum were asked for consent to check their medical records. His birth Dad has agreed,  but birth Mum hasn’t. The tests they are currently doing are for some pretty horrible things. Things we don’t really want to consider, but have to. Most of these are degenerative conditions that just seem so unfair. Some of them aren’t however. Sure, they’re still serious, but not deadly. Whatever happens we’ll get by day to day as we always do. Louis has clearly gone backward from where he was prior to the incident in the summer. He’s still our gorgeous little man with the cheeky smile, the glint in his eye and the oh so fiery temper! He goes to pre-school now and his vocabulary is expanding and he’s a bright little lad. Daily though we deal with his wobbles. Some days minor, others he can’t stand or walk more than a few feet without falling and he’s always banging into things. His speech is slurred and he drools on and off. It wrenches my heart when I see him struggling to stab his food with his fork due to his wavering fine motor skills, but we let him keep trying to maintain his independence. There are days where he’s so alert and bright that you can’t imagine there’s anything the matter. Then there are others where he’s dull and vacant, a shell.  There’s no obvious pattern to any of it. We’re lucky to have some great support – not just family and friends who were their usual amazing selves  –  but the medical professionals who have been really amazing. They’ve assessed him and supplied equipment to help. We’re in talks with the best way to transition him to school and the Dr’s continue to strive to find us a diagnosis. In the meantime we’ll stay strong as a family. We’ll deal with the ups and downs and carry on regardless, as is the only way.  We’ll continue to hope and pray for a positive outcome. He is and always will be our ginger ninja.  He is the lad who never lets it bother him and just picks himself up time and again. We’ve learnt a lot from him. We have learnt a lot about us. If we had any doubts, it’s proven that we are family. We are strong.  Together we’ll deal with whatever comes our way. We love you Louis. Wobbles and all. DSC_0119_20140603093132731

Dolce & Gabbana gate: families matter

We were contacted by The Sun newspaper today to ask whether we had an opinion over the whole D&G thing – whereby they flippantly claim that “The only family is the traditional one” in an interview with Italy’s Panorama magazine. They go on to say “We oppose gay adoption….no chemical off springs and rented uterus. Life has a natural flow there are things that should not be changed.” Dolce adds “You are born to a mother and father – or at least you should be. I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Uteri for rent, semen chosen from a catalogue…”  Gabbana states “Family is not a fad…”

Do we have an opinion? Too right we have an opinion!  We work bloody hard, every day, proving to people that we’re exactly that. A ‘normal’ family.  So when people of such influence so carelessly and publically share their somewhat limited and unpalatable personal views, with apparent disregard to the damage and offence they are, without doubt, going to cause it really does piss me off a little.  Just as it seems society takes a step forward, who are they to risk causing it to take a step back? Who the hell do they think they are?!  Ironically, as both gay adopters and having had a child through surrogacy D&G have managed to doubly offend us!

We started our journey into fatherhood with thought and consideration. We knew that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together – and we knew that we wanted to share that with our children.  We knew that we had a lot to offer a child. Sure we weren’t perfect – chances are we weren’t going to get it right every time. But we were willing to give it a bloody good go.  After all, what does a child need. To us it was simple; they need opportunities to learn and grow. they need to be kept safe, but learn how to take risks. They need to be fed and cared for physically and emotionally. They need someone to pick them up when they fall and to kiss away their tears. They need someone to love them unconditionally and to have someone whom they can love back. They needed us.  What part of that dictates that it is a mother and a father who can provide that? Or a father and a father or mother and mother or any combination or singular that you can suggest. All it takes is someone that is doing it for the right reasons to the best of their abilities.

We started our family back in 2009 through surrogacy. There was nothing forced or contrived about it. It was a natural extension of our love for each other, my sisters love for us and her knowledge, as a mother herself, that we would make great parents. It certainly wasn’t born of some fad or fanciful idea. I ask you D&G. Would it have been better if we’d fallen drunkenly pregnant without thought or consideration of the consequences? Or decided to have a child for the financial or material gain as some seem to do? Or perhaps you’d rather we’d had a child to use as a pawn in a bigger game? That seems quite ‘normal’ to some.  No thanks. We’ll stick to doing things our way.

Having successfully started our family we wanted more. Not only were we proving to ourselves that we could do this parent thing, we were actually quite good at it! Wil was thriving under our love and care.  We decided to expand our family – this time we chose to adopt. We considered surrogacy again, but ultimately decided that we wanted to offer a home to a child that was already out there – that through no fault of their own needed the secure, loving home that we could offer them. Ironically a child that may need a home due to the actions of its ‘traditional’ birth parents – perhaps a mother and father who had made some poor decisions in life that put that child at risk. Wasn’t the case for us in reality, but even so. Who cares. In reality it didn’t make a difference – we wanted to offer that child the home that, for whatever reason, its birth parents could not offer. And that’s the point. We could. Sure, it might not be ‘traditional’ but who gives a fuck! What’s traditional anyway – no two families are the same – nor should they be. Life moves on. Things change. People adapt. Except apparently D&G who choose to demonstrate their archaic and limiting views so publically. We are family. We are our children’s world and they are ours. It doesn’t matter one iota how we created that family – what matters is that we continue to strive to always be the best parents we can.

So what’s my opinion?  My opinion is that D&G can keep their thoughts to themselves – they’re perfectly entitled to think what they like of course, just don’t trash us and all the others like us in the process. I really am annoyed at them and feel stupidly let down by them – people I don’t even know. Without a doubt they have caused some damage with their recklessness. Drawn a bit of bad-light on the situation of ‘gay’ parenting. But you know what – it won’t last. It’s really only the haters that listen anyway – one’s that want backing to their thoughts no matter how ridiculous – and I genuinely think they’ve done more damage to themselves than to the future of gay people parenting children.

So while D&G are busy picking through the ashes of their spring collection, myself and my husband, with our three wonderful children – who are doing rather well despite their upbringing – will be out there showing the people who matter that we are a normal family. Proving to the old couple in the supermarket, the parents and teachers at school, medical professionals, friends, family…..most of whom need no proof at all because when they see us all they already really see is just another normal family. Dribble and all.

So up yours D&G. We are family and family is what matters.DSC_0098_20140517163154278

Mothers day twist: Pugs and kisses

“Daddy”

“Yes Wil”

“You know mothers day?”

“Yup”

“Can I send Aunty Lorna a card?”

“Of course you can Wil”

Now that might seem like a strange conversation to some…unless of course you’ve been following our story and then you’ll realise it’s not quite as odd as it seems.  You see our son Wil’s Aunty Lorna is actually his birth mother.

Being gay, my husband Ivan and I can’t have kids the usual way. I mean don’t get me wrong. We’ve tried and tried, but never quite succeeded….and that’s where my sister Lorna, AKA ‘our angel from above’, stepped in. Oh that sounds wrong on so many levels! But it’s not. Back in 2008 she offered to act as a surrogate for us. Wil was subsequently born in 2009 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Lorna never wanted more kids. She has two beautiful daughters of he own (they’d better thank me for saying that) and that was enough for her.  Lorna didn’t want any more of her own children, but she did want one for us! Completely selflessly Lorna was willing to go through god knows what to enable us to have a child. If that doesn’t make her an angel I don’t know what does. It certainly went some way to making up for how mean she was to me when we were little!!

When we started talking about the why’s and where fore’s one of the main discussion points was how we approached the situation around him knowing how he was created.  As I said, Lorna didn’t want another child of her own – as far as she was concerned he was going to be her nephew and she his Aunty. We were all comfortable with this. If it felt right for Lorna it felt right for us.  And that’s how it’s always been – Wil is just another of her many nephews. But we were never going to deceive him. We were adamant, and Lorna was in agreement, that Wil would always know where he came from and how he was made – age appropriately of course. Should Wil wish to identify Lorna as his Mum we would have to accept this. And, should it come to it, Lorna would have to accept that Wil may wish to identify as her child and she would have to have her door open to this possibility. Despite not wanting more kids. Of course she shared this view too.

I recently wrote a blog about the birth parents of our other children, who are adopted. I wrote about the support that  we would offer them, when the time came, if indeed it did, when they wanted to meet and form relationships with them. It was much the same with Wil and Aunty Lorna.

We can’t, won’t, never shall deny who she is or where he has come from. It’s part of his history. Part of what makes him Wil.

Wil knows her as Aunty Lorna – but is well aware that she’s his Tummy Mummy – that she carried him as a special gift to us….a baby that we wanted so much but couldn’t create without the amazing gift from Aunty Lorna.

Naturally we want to be the only ones that matter to him as parents, as with all of our children we want to be the ones that they need above all others. But I can’t deny, there’s always been a bit of a niggle at the back of my mind – that their relationship could overtake ours…insecurities slipping in. Then I kick myself and realise that it’s not something that I need worry about. Our children, each of them, know that they are our world. We love them above all else and nothing will come between that.  Part of that love though is accepting that we have a duty to encourage them to know where they have come from, even if that’s a little bit scary sometimes.  That’s my problem, not theirs. If it means that they form healthy relationships with significant others then I just need to suck it up and be confident in their love for us.

As kids have a habit of doing, Wil kind of simplified things for me.  I asked him if he wanted to make a special ‘Tummy Mummy’ card and he said no.  Just an ordinary mothers day card will be fine.  To him it’s a no-brainer. Let’s not complicate things. You’re my Dad’s. I’m lucky to have two Dads. Aunty Lorna’s my mother. It’s a simple fact.  It doesn’t matter to him how this happened or the why’s or where fore’s. He’s just content in the fact that he has two (great!) Dads and a lovely mother Aunty Lorna.

He astounds me all the time in his maturity and openness to life.  Wil I am so proud of you, we’re proud of you. I’m proud to call myself your Dad.  We must be doing something right.

So Wil, let me join you in wishing your wonderful Aunty Lorna a truly brilliant happy mothers day!  Thanks Lorna. Love you.

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Work, rest or play?

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Following on from being published on the Gays with kids website, please find my latest blog on the decision to go back to work or not….

It came to the point recently when the adoption leave pay I was getting from the police came to an end. We were now broke!

The trouble was, I really wasn’t ready to go back to work. It wasn’t the role. I LOVE and miss being a police officer. I had just become too used to being a stay-at-home Dad.

My husband and I now have 3 children.  Wil (5), Louis (3) and Connor (2).  I adore the time I get to spend with them. The days are busy and full. Wil’s at school all day. Louis’ at pre-school for half a day and Connor and I get to spend the day together, when he’s not napping. I usually get to enjoy one to one time with each of them throughout the day and somehow manage to fit in the rest of the day to day bits and pieces. I’ve become a whizz at cramming 4 hours worth of cleaning and laundry into a 40 minute window. Don’t tell me any stay at home parent doesn’t have new and impressive time-management skills to add to their resume!

The problem was I didn’t want to change the routine and life I had become so accustomed to. Asides from this we really couldn’t see how we could manage with both of us working shifts – my husband’s still a full-time police officer and policing hours really don’t match the hours your average childcare provider offers.  Also, rightly or wrongly, we really didn’t want to put our kids into childcare just so I could go back to work. That’s not why we had them. Now I know it’s not for everyone, but I want to spend as much time being with my kids throughout the day as I can. I couldn’t bear the thought of breakfast clubs and after-school clubs and a quick hour’s play before bed – no disrespect to those parents for who that’s a choice or those for who it’s a necessity – it just wasn’t for me.  I wanted to do everything I could to avoid going back just yet.

We’ve scrimped and budgeted everything we can off our bills. We’ve developed money saving meal plans. We’ve accepted any offer of hand-me-down clothes that have come our way. We tried anything to save a few pounds. Sadly, it wasn’t enough. We quickly came to the sad realisation that we just couldn’t afford it! Sometimes reality sucks!

Shortly after, I managed to secure a job which is incredibly flexible, though completely un-police related. The new role means that I can take the hours that suit us, our life, and my husband’s hours and more importantly, the kids. I can earn enough to cover the shortfall we had and pay for a few extras. It’s also meant that we have avoided the need for childcare.

To my surprise, I love it! I love the change of scene, talking to adults, and the using my mind for something other than ABC. Sure I miss the kids – though luckily I still maintain the bulk of the time with them, and wouldn’t want it any other way. I also realise that me wanting to stay at home all the time was more about me than them.

And you know. The look of joy on their faces when I come home from work after not seeing them for a few hours, more than makes it worthwhile! I will return to the police, but right now I’m taking a career break. Now’s not about me. It’s about us. Us and our little family.

Link to original blog https://gayswithkids.com/back-work-stay-home/

Steve PONDER-SIGSTON (10/01/2015)

Country life: Breaking the prejudice

Old blog for new readers..

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So following on from the birth of our Son, Wil, who was the first baby ever to be born to a gay couple (us) by a UK surrogate (my wonderful sister), following a change in the law, we try to settle into family life (see previous blogs for full story). Instead a move is forthcoming and a challenge on our own prejudices…

We settled into parenthood with suprising ease,  reiterating to me that we could not only do this, but could actually be good at it. Wil really was a contented baby, and still is a contented child. He ate, played and slept well, and stuck to a rough 3 hour routine. This didn’t seem to change whether he was at home or out and about. Oh, and to the frustration of a few Mums we know, he slept through the night from about 6 weeks. We can’t really take…

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A bittersweet occasion: The boy is ours

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We had some amazing news yesterday. Our youngest son is now officially ours! Its been a long journey which has sometimes been tough, sometimes scary. But always worth it.  The courts awarded us the adoption order and we couldn’t be happier.

To be honest though, it’s felt like he’s ours forever – always a risky feeling to have when dealing with adoption – after all until that adoption order is granted, nothing is set in stone. But you can’t help what the heart feels and our hearts have loved him for a long time now. Thankfully, we can breathe a sigh of relief, boy three is ours. He’s stuck with us!

In a way though, it’s a bittersweet moment. I can’t even begin to pretend that there aren’t two people out there who are feeling an overwhelming loss at our gain. His birth parents.

You know, when we first entered into the adoption arena – this is our second time adopting – the one thing I never really considered was the feelings of the birth parents. I just always assumed that they wouldn’t deserve their child anymore. That they had given up that right through their choices and actions. I know that sounds harsh, but my role as a police officer has put me in contact with so many parents, and I use that term in the technical sense of the word, who just couldn’t give a shit about their kids. Parents who would always put themselves first. Their drugs first. Their drink first. Their chaotic lives first. Anything but their child first . The one thing that really needs them. Their children would be neglected or abused or both. Under-fed and under-clothed, their parents next fix more important than their kids next meal.

Then there’s the other, more common, yet almost equally undeserving group. The ones who had their kids as a meal ticket. A means to a bigger flat. A steady ‘income’. Once the kid had done the trick they become a nuisance, an obstacle. Their kids become exposed to a completely unsuitable lifestyle. Inevitably becoming part of the same cycle as they grow, unable to avoid it, it’s what they know. It makes me so mad. These people who couldn’t care less about their children and yet fall pregnant at the drop of a hat. So unfair on the hundreds of loving couples out there who spend their lives, their savings, their health, their sanity in trying to conceive – often without success.    And then there’s people like us. People naturally unable to conceive and yet so sure, so determined that kids, a family, is what we want. Willing to do almost anything to make that desire a reality, to make parenthood a reality. Sometimes it’s soul destroying.  It’s hard not to judge sometimes.

So it was with this mind set that we initially entered into the adoption process. We believed that we would be adopting a child who’s parents no longer deserve to be able to ‘parent’ their child. That we would almost be the child’s saviours. In fact, that wasn’t how it was for either of the children we have adopted. You see both sets of their birth parents have varying levels of learning needs. They didn’t want to give their kids up. They just couldn’t look after them sufficiently or safely.  I struggled with this for quite a while. My perception of helping a child in need was almost shattered. Surely they didn’t deserve this.

It took me some time, but eventually I got my head around it. Clearly there was more to each case than the birth parents just being unable to support their children. There were recorded incidents of harm and neglect, whether intentional or not. Social services had offered intervention and support at every step. The birth parents were either unwilling or unable to make sufficient changes to their lives, even with support, that would mean that their child was raised in an environment where they were safe, loved, nurtured and developed. The paper trail showed us that social services had explored every avenue and done everything they could to enable these children to stay at home with their birth parents. Their support just wasn’t enough and ultimately I am in no doubt that being put up for adoption was in the best interest of each our children.

OK, so our children’s birth parents aren’t crack heads, alcoholics or child beaters. But I have no doubt that their children are in the right place with us now. But I would like to make a promise. A promise to our children and to their birth parents. We will never hide from our children where they have come from or the reasons behind it. We have had the privilege of meeting both of their birth parents. We will tell our children what lovely people they were, how warm and friendly despite the circumstances.  We will pass on their love and their letters as the years go by. And when the time comes, if it does, when they may wish to meet and form relationships with their birth parents we won’t stand in their way. Far from it. We’ll be there supporting them, helping them, guiding them every step of the way, because it’s the right thing to do, the only thing to do. We’ll do it with pride in our children. Confident that as their parents we will have given them a family that they are proud to be a part of. Confident that they will never doubt our love for them. Confident that they will always be our sons and we will always be their Dads.

Welcome to the family boy three.

A time to be honest: coming out Aqua style

Now that it’s been published in attitude magazine (available to buy digitally now. On shelves Wednesday) I can post the article….

Someone once said to me, when I was freshly out, that as a gay man you come out every day. Every new person you meet, every new job you get, every link you ever make; at some point during conversation the question will arise, “So what does your girlfriend do?” Or something similar. You see it’s no ones fault, but unfortunately we have a way to go before society see people as anything but ‘straight until proven gay’. Of course there are exceptions to this, if you fall into a particular stereotype of what is perceived to be gay,  it can work in the opposite way.

But that one defining coming out moment? To myself, it was when I was fourteen and started to experiment sexually with men. My experiments had me pretty convinced I was gay, but I also had a few girlfriends to make sure. I didn’t want to make a big proclamation that I was gay, until I was certain. It was a big step to take. With regard to girls, though I loved their company, I never enjoyed the sex. Men were so much better!

It wasn’t until I was seventeen though that I came out to my family. You see, it was when I was seventeen that I fell in love. Head over heels in love. With a man I’ll call John. He was handsome, kind, funny, and I was besotted. He was also twenty-one years older than me. I kept our relationship a secret for a while, but my feelings were so intense that I couldn’t contain it. Also, at the time, a great girl friend of mine started to show an interest in being more than my friend. It came to a head one night when, after a brilliant evening out with her, we went for a kebab. She started to come onto me and in a panic I blurted out that I was gay and in love with a man! After the initial shock, my friend was amazing and very supportive. Amusingly the rest of the patrons cheered my decleration, and arm in arm, my friend and I left. The next day though, because she worked with me, my friends and most of my family, I went back and told them I’d said it just to put her off. It feels cowardly now, but I wasn’t quite ready to be fully honest.

Over the next few months I slowly told my family. My mum first. She was cool with me being gay, after all she was in a relationship with a woman herself, since her marriage to my dad had broken down. Mum was most worried about me seeing an older guy, but trusted my judgement. I was more mature than my seventeen years and had always preferred the company of older people. Once she had met John, her worries faded completely.  I remember my middle sister Lorna found out purely by chance. I was on the phone to my boyfriend, in the bathroom at our family home.  Our relationship was very tempestuous and, in a state, I remember shouting, “But I love you John!” My sister overheard and ran down to my mum going “Oh my god!!” Mum explained to her that she knew and was cool with it. Lorna gave me a hug and told me she loved me whatever. Bit by bit I told the rest of my family. I was lucky, no one had an issue. We are a very accepting family and I felt very loved. My other sisters Lynda and Lorraine can’t even remember me coming out. It’s just who I was.

By this stage though I was getting confused who knew the truth, who didn’t, and who thought I was just pretending to distract my interested friend.  It was at the work Christmas party in 1998 that all the pretence got too much and, in a drunken blur, I stood up in the middle of the restaurant and shouted “Yes, I’m gay!!” I then remember Barbie Girl by Aqua coming onto the stereo. The way I boogied to that must have left no one in any doubt I was telling the whole truth now. I have never looked back since – though I no longer dance.

Inevitably, despite me being so in love, that first, tantalising relationship ended in 2001. It had run its course. It taught me a lot, but I realise it was never meant to last for ever. I’m glad to say we are still friends though.

Now, 16 years later, I am married to a truly wonderful man, who I believe I am meant to be with forever. Together we have 3 amazing children. I couldn’t be happier. I love being gay. I love life. I love my family.DSC_0119_20140609212012609