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

The adoption agency tells us ‘No!’

IMG_113058317152226_20140625181023482

First I must apologise. My last blog on wanting more children left you on a bit of a cliff hanger. I never meant to leave it so long before writing this follow up. Sorry!
The thing is, we were turned down by the adoption agency initially. Not quite the words they used, but that was how it felt. It wasn’t exactly a no, more of a not yet. For us though,  it was still a not soon enough.
After we’d attended the adoption agencys’ information evening and signed to say yes! We want to adopt! We were assigned a social worker to complete an initial report on us.
We received a call from a lady from the adoption agency a few weeks later. She made an appointment to come and visit us at our home. As is my usual style, as the day approached I was nervous and fretting. What would she be like? What would she ask? Would she like us? What if I buggered it all up?!
We spent hours cleaning the house from top to bottom. Ivan baked cakes. I washed the dogs. It was more like we were trying to sell the house. In a way though, I guess we were trying to sell ourselves.
The evening she was due arrived in a haze of nervous excitement. This was the first real step to expanding our family. All we had to do was get this meeting out of the way and our journey would begin it’s next exciting leg. Or so we thought.
At the alloted time a formidable looking lady arrived at our home. I immediately felt like I was about to be interviewed by a governess. As is the true social services approach, we were grilled for hours. At least that’s how it felt.  We revealed all; who we were. Where we’re from. Our families, friends, loved ones. Our relationship history. What we were like as a couple. Where we lived, our neighbours, local amenities. Wil. The list went on. Once she’d exhausted us with her questioning, the social worker left.

Her parting words were “I’ll be recommending you wait for 18 months”. Shit! So much for the next leg of our journey. It felt like we’d been yanked back to the real world by the elastic on our breeches, like daydreaming schoolboys.

Of course she discussed the reasons for her decision with us. If I’m honest, it didn’t really sink in though.

We were devastated. We’d truly thought this was the start of the journey and that we’d be going full steam ahead. It felt like our dream was being taken away from us.
Her reasons were sound. Wil was only 6 months old at the time, they like an age gap of 2 years. Also she felt by waiting it would add longevity to our relationship, we’d been together for about 2 years at the time.
We were gutted though. The visit left us feeling like she had disapproved of us, as a couple, as people, as parents. Not from anything she said, just a feeling we’d got. In reality I know she was just doing her job, but we felt dismissed. Like she hadn’t given us a chance. We really felt we were ready. We knew we could make it work. Why couldn’t she see that? I realise that they have to go on policy, experience and learning from past situations and best practice. It just felt so wrong. We were a loving couple, already demonstrating we could raise a child – and there were so many children trapped in the care system it felt unethical, wrong, insane to wait. We also knew what a long process it could be, surely we should get the ball rolling, not wait 18 months?!
A week or so later we received the full report. Along with the formal recommendation that we wait for 18 months. As gutted as we were, the report was incredibly complimentary and a stark contrast to the impression she had left us with. It spoke about our qualities as a couple. Our beautiful home. The great job we were doing with Wil. Whilst it didn’t change our mind that we wanted more kids….and we wanted them now! It did make us appreciate that the decision wasn’t based on any form of disaproval, but instead on the social workers experience and best judgement.
Still, I wasn’t giving up. 18 months was such a long time to wait…