Growing up with two dads

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Credit: Flickr / Benson Kua

Lily Clarke
Writer

Lily Clarke opens up about life with same-sex parents

For the past 17 years I have grown up and lived partly with my two gay dads. This is something I usually tell people quite early on when I meet them, to try and avoid those slightly awkward conversations and misunderstandings you seem to have when people ask, “Oh, but was he always gay?” or “Are you adopted? Do you have a mum?” Which I can answer maybe, no and yes to all, as there really is no one clear answer. Although I now feel my family situation could have not been any more positive, I didn’t always feel this way.

When I was really young I was pretty oblivious to my situation. I had two houses but that was my normal – I didn’t think to question what normal was for everyone else. The first time I remember realising my family situation was a bit different was in primary school. We had to take photos of our families to show and promote that not all families were the same, but that they should all be equally celebrated. My family took a photo when we were visiting some of my dads’ friends, who were also a gay couple, with a daughter, so the photo showed two gay couples and three children. I remember my dad sending this photo in and by the next week it being displayed in the corridor of my school. I felt embarrassed every time I walked past this photo, side by side with all these other pictures of more conventional families – what I soon began to think of as “normal families”. My friends would always say “Oh, Lily look, there’s a photo of you” and be a little confused by the whole set up of it all, but as primary school children are pretty naïve, no one really questioned my family or my dads until secondary school, where I feel it became a bit of an issue and definitely something I was made aware of.

My dads were both headteachers and therefore both in the public eye. To top it off, both their primary schools were feeder schools to the secondary I also attended. This meant that before I had even entered the school, many of the children firstly, knew who I was, but secondly, what seemed most important, knew that my dads were gay. Gay was used as an insult, a homophobic slur, largely something negative, and something you should be ashamed of. I remember constantly being told, “Eh, your dad’s gay you know”, which, when I look back, is the most hilariously pointless thing to say because of course I knew he was gay, I lived with them! This led me to become slightly embarrassed about my dads and, apart from my primary school friends and a few others, I kept that side of my family life quite private and withheld. I wouldn’t say my secondary years were particularly that hard, but it definitely added stress to the already traumatising years of being a teenager.

However, I began to see a shift in the attitudes of my peers as society began to progress: the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act and the increased diversity and equality education. People started to say things such as, “Wow, your dad’s gay? .. that’s so cool”, which although perhaps better than previous things said to me, is also a statement with many problems. But I learned that this was their way of saying, “Oh yeah, that’s fine.”

I was never ashamed of my situation, but I definitely felt apprehensive about what others may think. Now I’m older and more mature, I realise how immensely proud I am that my dads came out at a time when being gay was so negatively portrayed, but continued and pushed through because of their love for each other and our family. I am so proud that they never denied their relationship, or tried to hide it, even when people on the periphery felt “uncomfortable” when they found out. I am so proud that they became role models to not only me and my brother, but also to the thousands of children they have taught and influenced. Through their continuing pride of their relationship and sexuality, they taught children to be resilient, to stand up for what they believed in, and to not let negativity hinder or prevent you from being you. I could not have wished for two more positive men to have had such an influence in my life, and I am forever grateful for their constant love and support.