We were recently asked by a LemonAider how we came out to our children…
Our situation was somewhat different from theirs since our kids were the same age and already knew each other from various activities and social meet-ups together, so our transition into spending more time together looked mostly like a growing friendship to begin with.
The Early Days…
We didn’t tell them for about 6 months which, while sensible, was very difficult when we were in the midst of something so utterly life altering for us all!
However, we obviously weren’t quite sure (or ready to admit) whether this was something huge and important and love or just 30 odd years of pent-up latent lesbian sexual desire!! (I think we were both pretty darn sure it was the former but a bit scared to share that too early on).
A lot of our early courtship happened around the kids…
I had hardly any child-free time except when they were at school and Lea home educates hers so it was tricky! Needless to say we spent a lot of time at the cinema and in soft play centres (ugh) with them during those winter months so we could have the occasional illicit hand hold or cuddle between the seats or behind a giant wipeable block. Sexy, huh? Hide and seek was invaluable to us!
When we did come out and tell them all, they were relatively unfazed by it all.
The older two had an awareness that women could have girlfriends and men boyfriends but there was no-one gay with a partner in their acquaintance who they saw regularly. We kept it brief and simple to begin with – we started holding hands in front of them and being more tactile. Kissing was a spectacle and can still, even now, cause guffaws or calls of ‘gross’.
But what they’ve all witnessed and still do is our love, physical affection and, for the most part, our care and desire for one another, something that was lacking in our previous relationships with their fathers. We both really wanted them to have a healthier model of what a loving, adult relationship can look like.
On the plus side for the two older girls, they quickly realised that our relationship meant they could see more of each other and be the ‘besties’ they’ve become. The younger two have had their moments of jealousy with the mummy being ‘taken away’ from them narrative playing out at numerous times.
From the beginning however, we agreed that the family model we wanted to emphasise is that we are the parents and adults at the top of the tree (and that our relationship and partnership is pivotal to the success of the family as a whole), with the children in their roles as children, NOT rescuing any of their parents (a work in progress!), and that as our children our love for them is always there, but in a different way to the love of a partner.
None of it has been without its difficulties, not least of which has been my guilt…
We’ve experienced a period when the big girls were feeling a lot of anger towards their fathers and feeling let down by them, which led to them turning even more into their friendship with each other and discussing whether they were going to be lesbians (and even whether that would be with each other!!!).
That was a tricky one and Lea had to pull me down off the ceiling to deal with that one calmly and not go off in a state of panic!
Then there was the dawning realisation from Mali that sex isn’t just for procreation which led to us letting the big girls ask us anything they wanted to know about sex, including whether we’ve had sex with each other (bless!).
They haven’t yet asked how we have sex – they know how men and women make babies and that sex is also for pleasure but thank goodness their naive little minds haven’t joined up any more dots…yet!
Let’s Talk About Sex…
Since coming out, it’s been noticeable how sexualised a topic being gay is for many people. We’ve always agreed that sex is going to be positioned as something ‘normal’, natural and healthy, between adults…hell we’ve shown them pictures of Kim Anami weightlifting from her vagina (if you haven’t checked her out you really should – gay or straight she’s THE biz for all matters sexual).
We want sex to be a topic that we always talk about honestly (in an age appropriate way), that we’re not prudish around and connect to it as part of a loving, intimate, healthy, ADULT relationship. There are kids at school in the same year as Flo who have no clue how a baby is made or the correct names for their vulva and vagina…we want our children to grow up considering sex a natural form of connection (with themselves and others), and without the stigma or negative connotations so many of us feel.
…And Other Things…
Our coming out has led to many interesting conversations with all the children – the vaginal weight lifting for example, vaginal health more generally, stereotyping, gender fluidity, masculine and feminine energy and how interchangable that can be.
In many ways it’s putting the theoretical meat on the bones of the gender studies degree I did twenty years ago, albeit tailored to a slightly different audience!!
Two of the children are now aware that their uncle is gay, they know about Pride and rainbows and about feeling like you’ve been born in the wrong body. They know that some people prefer not to have a gender at all (that’s not as complex for them to get their heads around as it seems to be for adults!). They know that mummy stopped being friends with someone they knew because she believed gay people would go to hell. That led to some very interesting discussions about love I can tell you!!
Having Gay Parents…
They’re also learning and telling us about their experiences of having gay parents. At our old Primary School Flo encountered some negative comments about it being unnatural for two women to be together. The Head seemed more concerned with stopping us flexi-schooling than dealing with that! Similarly, at our current school we’ve just experienced an incident with another child commenting on the girls having parents in a same-sex relationship.
These incidents are so small and yet they each have an impact which we see when our daughters are considering whether to tell people at theatre school that their mums are ‘gay together’. They made friends with two girls who they did tell, but were much more discerning about telling some of the boys, recognising that they might make life harder for themselves.
Those are the only incidents we’ve had and generally people are warm, friendly and interested (sometimes a bit too interested!).
You can see people mentally trying to work us out as a family – did we each have sperm donors and settle on two brown and two white children?!? Did we each birth each others?! It’s quite hilarious to watch, and tempting to play up to!
Lea and I have only had two direct experiences of homophobia, once in a bar in Lincoln where a guy made a rude remark as we walked in and once when we went to a dance class together. On both occasions Lea, as the more masculine energy, is the one in the firing line from men who cannot hold or handle that.
We’ve not told the children this but they are aware that discrimination happens to gay people because of who they love, just as it does to people of colour, women, disabled people, and anyone who isn’t a white, of a certain age male.
There is already a sense of injustice in them all about this, and a matter of factness that this is their normal. It will be interesting to see how this changes or develops in their teenage years, and whether it’s different for our son and daughters…