Hide me!

Shona

I had a good childhood in a warm stable family, so I saw it as part of my adult life to have the same. I wanted children from when I was a child myself and I started to think about it seriously when I married Robbie’s dad. At that time I would have identified as bisexual. I now identify as lesbian.

 

We were living in London and moved back to Scotland, near our parents, with a view to starting a family. I really longed for a child. I really wanted to have Robbie.

 

It was a straightforward pregnancy but after wanting a water birth, I ended up having an emergency caesarean. Robbie was very healthy from the start, which was the main thing.

 

Fairly soon after, I had quite a bad bout of postnatal depression. In retrospect, some of that was related to my sexuality. It was a hard time and it’s still quite recent. I don’t want to talk about it. I just wasn’t happy.

 

The depression lasted about two years and then, 15 months ago, I left Robbie’s dad because I knew I really wanted to be with a woman. Not a particular woman, just a woman.

 

Since then I’ve been happy.

 

If you have a young child and you’re not happy in your relationship, whatever that may be, it’s really important to make yourself happy because then the child will be happy.

 

It was quite an upheaval for a little boy to go through and that was something I had to take into account. He’s been great, quite resilient. He’s well loved. He sees his dad 50% of the time and I see him 50% of the time.

 

I respect my ex-husband. I was with him for a reason and we have a reasonably good relationship.

 

I have a girlfriend now, Caitlin. It’s been a gradual introduction to Robbie, to make sure we get it right.

 

Trying to be a parent and dating, trying to have relationships is a big challenge in itself. Trying to keep the two sides of your life apart, finding the time as much as anything! I would never introduce Robbie to anyone for at least six months.

 

I’m looking for different things in someone from the start. It has to be primarily a relationship I want but I’m also looking for someone who is responsible. They have to have a stable personality, be fun, ideally used to being around children.

 

Caitlin knew from the beginning that I have a child. Everyone I have dated has known from the start and it put some people off. It’s better to be honest about it.

 

When you meet the person you want to form a relationship with, you start to introduce them. It’s hard because Caitlin lives across the water. I’ve been there and she’s been here but it’s early days.

 

Robbie knows Caitlin is more than just a friend. I’ve tried to explain it to him in his own terms, his own language. We’re kind of feeling out what we want to be between the three of us and it’s not easy.

 

We hang out together, the three of us, doing the things I’d usually do with him like going to the park. We went to the women’s football at the weekend. It’s important not to rush things, to involve the child.

 

I found people very accepting of the situation and supportive to the LGBT family; people who I didn’t think would be, have been.

 

My parents have taken the longest to adjust to it because I’m emotionally closer to them and it has a bigger effect on them than on acquaintances. Robbie is their grandson. They have to be grandparents in an LGBT family and explain that to the world. They are gradually starting to speak to close friends about it. They met Caitlin at the weekend and they knew who she was.

 

Before I met Caitlin, I knew this was the shape of the family I wanted. I went to Rainbow Families in Edinburgh as a single mum and I found that quite helpful.

My job is being a GP so I see lots of different bits of life. I’d say to LGBT teenagers or whoever to come out as soon as possible so you can create the kind of family you want to have.

 

Wanting a family shouldn’t be a barrier to coming out. The fact that I wanted a strong, safe nuclear family is one of the reasons I didn’t come out.

 

There are people who have been through the same thing, who can relate to what you’re going through. You don’t have to stay where you are.

 

There are resources out there like Rainbow Families , the Stonewall website  and YouTube.  Look up The Real L Word and Beaver Bunch. There’s a particularly nice video of Michelle and her mum, talking about coming out.

 

I’d also recommend a book called ‘Living Two Lives: Married to a Man and In Love with a Woman.’ It’s about women who come out and it’s made up of people’s stories. They’re very honest. It’s very touching. Reading about how they acted at different stages was useful, because it’s not an easy journey.

Hazel

I didn’t think about having children until I was married. My husband was probably keener than I was. We had two girls. I had Isla then we decided we wanted another. After Rosie was born, my husband had a vasectomy – that was one of the things thrown in my face when we split.

 

I’d questioned my sexuality when I was 28, prior to meeting my husband. I hadn’t had a full sexual relationship then. I’d been living as a single person.

 

I’d gone through a difficult situation at work with a gay woman. We became close as friends. I told her that I really cared for her and she freaked, saying I’d got the wrong end of the stick. It was excruciating. If her reaction had been different, I probably wouldn’t have got married, wouldn’t have had any children.

 

When I met my husband, I thought, ‘This is fun, this is all right,’ so I thought that was that – that the woman at work was just a crush.

 

After six months, my husband was quite seriously ill and I did fall for him then. It probably pushed things along. We got married. We had the kids after three years.

Time passed then a couple of things happened and when I was 39 or 40, I realised I was gay but I’d been supressing it.

 

I went away on a work thing and met a Swedish woman. I thought, ‘Wow, she’s lovely.’ Nothing happened but I wondered why I hadn’t felt like that with anyone else – like my husband. It was quite funny. I went home on the plane thinking, ‘What was that all about? Forget about it, Hazel…’

 

Then I met another woman. We had some residentials through work, so it happened. We slept together and suddenly it was real. It was like comparing apples and oranges. It was right.

 

It explained why I’d never been very interested in boys at school. I hadn’t been interested in girls either but boys didn’t have that added wow factor they seemed to have for other girls. I just lived a single life throughout my teens and most of my 20s and was quite happy. I just didn’t go there.

 

I came back from the residential feeling dreadful. I had never strayed, hardly even looked at anyone else. I wasn’t worried about the kids at that point. I was worried about my husband, about committing adultery – and with a woman. Did that make it better or worse? What was I going to do?

 

I met up with her a couple of times after but she lived too far away for us to be together. It carried on for some time as a phone relationship but it got messy.

Her long-term partner found out. They split up. I think there were other things going on.

 

My husband didn’t know but he sensed something. I was more distant. I didn’t want a physical relationship with him. I knew I couldn’t go on with a heterosexual relationship.

 

I told her my marriage was on the rocks but she couldn’t cope with the idea of breaking a family up. We talked at length about my children, and I thought a lot about breaking up the family unit, leaving my husband, causing pain. She felt guilty, didn’t want the responsibility of the children, who were four or five and six or seven by then.

 

It was all a big change for me as I hadn’t had a troubled life before that. I’m easily contented.

 

I knew Alex at work and I confided in her. She’d had her own experiences of a family splitting up. It wasn’t the same but she was very supportive. Gradually we grew closer. It’s complicated because Alex and I got together as me and my husband were splitting up.

 

I told my husband the marriage was over and he moved out. The girls stayed with me. They were five and seven. They were devastated.

 

It was very stressful. There were lots of hurdles, different levels of complexity – my husband, the children, work.

 

I was Alex’s boss’s boss so I had to come out at work. I had to go to my head of department and tell them what was going on. They were good. They said, “People have relationships at work all the time,” but eventually I did have to move as the director wasn’t comfortable with me having line management responsibility for Alex. Now I wonder if there was a bit of homophobia there, you can’t know.

 

When I split up from my husband, I didn’t tell him I was gay, I just said the marriage was over, that I didn’t love him anymore, because I didn’t want him to be the one to tell the children. If I’d told him, it would have been out of my control.

 

Alex said it’s how the adults act that matters, so the children have always had contact with their dad. Alex has experience, as she had to fight Jaz’s dad for custody. Jaz is her sister’s child.

 

It took six years before Alex and I moved in together properly and that was really dictated by the kids, not just the timeline of selling our respective houses and buying one together.

 

Jaz has always known Alex is gay but I don’t know if she ever spoke to my kids about it. She’s a great kid and she gets on great with my two. They knew each other before we got together, because they met at a show.

 

We created situations with the children – visited each other, met up to see Santa at Christmas. It was gradual. They had the opportunity to become good friends. It helped that we lived in a really safe place, so we could give the kids a pound and send them off to the park together while we had some time alone.

 

As time progressed, we knew the children would begin to question the nature of our relationship. We were spending a lot of time together, going on holiday twice a year, seeing Alex more than any other friend.

 

One day, when Isla was about 11, we had friends visiting and the kids were upstairs. Isla came in as I was embracing Alex – nothing passionate, just kissing her neck. The next day, Isla was really quiet. She had a really long chat with Jaz and I think they discussed it.

 

I sat down with her later and asked her why she seemed troubled. Was it about me and Alex and whether we were together?

 

She burst into tears and said, “No, no, please say it isn’t true!” She was worried about being bullied at school but what troubled her most was her father finding out.

He and his family have quite bigoted views. “Gay people are all right but why do we need to see them kissing on EastEnders?” – that sort of thing.

 

I said there was no need for her father or people at school to know. It wasn’t a deeply guarded secret but it wasn’t any of their business. Things were not going to change on a day to day basis. I said Jaz knew about Alex and she was really cool about it but Rosie didn’t need to know yet because she was too young.

 

Once she got over the shock, Isla bounced back really quick. A few days later I was doing something in the house and she asked if she could help. Then she said, “My mum’s really cool, she’s good fun and she’s gay!”

 

She’s an intelligent kid. It was like a nine-day wonder.

 

Gradually she told some friends. I have to say that so far, none of our kids have had any problem. We did worry they’d get a bit of bullying but no, not once.

 

About two years later, we decided Rosie needed to know. The two older girls were worried about not being able to speak freely and said, “She needs to know.” Besides, Alex and I were sleeping in the same bed.

 

I just picked Rosie up from the after-school club one day and said, “There’s something I need to tell you” as if it was, “We’re going to the pictures.”

 

I said, “I’m gay” – and she reacted the same way as Isla. She burst into tears, saying, “Please, please, please say it’s not true, I’ll get bullied, I don’t want Dad to know.”

 

It helped that Isla could say that she’d known for two years and when I said, “Hadn’t you guessed?” she admitted that part of her knew.

 

I didn’t want to hurt them, to inflict this pain on them. It was something they would have to live with for the rest of their lives. But I knew they needed to know and it was a huge relief once they did.

 

Rosie had a bit of a harder time than Isla as she was closer to the local community and she was worried about the school having to know. I said if someone asked, she could tell them but they didn’t have to know, it was none of their business.

 

We were worried about Rosie because she’s a softer personality. She was getting bullied by boys at school anyway and some of her friends came from families who were gossips, so we gave her advice on who to tell.

 

Eventually, her friends and their families were quizzing her so we said, “It’s OK, just do it.” Our house was on the market by then and we knew we were moving anyway – but actually, it was completely fine. It was no problem.

 

One wee girl went up to Isla and said, “Is your mum a lesbian?” and she said, “Yes” and the girl just chewed her gum and said, “I like that.”

 

Another thought that because the girls referred to each other as cousins, it was worse. They thought that we were related and lovers! We had to put them right.

Another time, Rosie was a bit worried about having a friend over for a sleepover because she didn’t know. I said, “Well, if she asks and she doesn’t like it, you have plenty of other friends.” She thought about it and said, “OK.” The girl stayed over and it was fine.

 

The girls have had so many positive experiences that if they had a negative one they could cope with it.

 

The time that it all took, bringing the two families together, has been good for the children. Jaz still defers to Alex and mine defer to me but I’ve had no problems with Jaz. Whereas with my two, their mum and dad split up – for Jaz, I was an addition to her life.

 

We took some time choosing our new house because we knew we’d need to accommodate so many personalities. Alex and I are very different. She likes peace and quiet and she plays the piano, I like the TV on and the kids chatting. The girls all needed to have their own rooms because they’d had them in their other houses and we couldn’t take that away from them.

 

The last person to be told I’m gay was my ex-husband. We timed it so I got divorced first, before I told him. The girls were really scared about him knowing but he was, well, OK. It helped that I had been out of the marriage a few years by then. A lot of the anger and bitterness had gone and it helped him to understand why the marriage had gone down the pan.

 

The person who reacted worst to me being gay was my sister. I told her before telling the children and she threatened to tell them. She blamed Alex. She thought Alex had ‘turned’ me. She said, “How long have you been that way?”

 

That was really difficult for me. She has a mild learning disability and I think that means she can’t work out our relationship. She loved my ex-husband and really missed him. She said vitriolic and hurtful things but she doesn’t cope with change well and she was in shock.

 

Now, the girls see their father every Saturday and they each go for tea on a different night during the week, so they can each develop their own relationship with him.

 

At first, he’d only take them overnight once a month as when we split, he was: “You want this, you look after them, don’t expect a penny from me.” There’s still a bit of that, even after all this time.

 

I don’t think the kids have been damaged by it all. I think they’ve grown, that they are richer people in many ways. They just laugh at things now.

 

If there’s ever a “Why do you do this?” or a “How do you do that?” – like how Alex does a great Louis Armstrong impression – it’s always, “It’s because she’s a lesbian!”

 

 

Read Alex’s story

Rick

I’m from a family of four. There’s 10 years between me and my brother. I’ve always had family around, the house was always busy with folk coming and going.

 

You always know you’re gay but growing up in the 80s in a council estate in Aberdeen, life wasn’t like it is now. Twenty, twenty-five years ago the whole gay thing was different. It wasn’t as socially ‘acceptable’ as it is today. I didn’t know there were gay bars where you could meet people and in my teenage years I wouldn’t have got in, let alone got served anyway. There weren’t any of the support groups around. There was the Gay Switchboard but it was only open once or twice of an evening during the week.

 

I had no gay friends to talk to about my feelings and I couldn’t talk to my straight friends or any of my family about it, I didn’t even know another gay guy. I lived under this cloud of ‘I’m gay but what can I do?’ So I did nothing, hoping it would all go away.

 

My family wasn’t down on gay people but I remember the odd comment in the family about poofs – not derogatory but enough to make me feel it wouldn’t go down well if I came out as gay.

 

I met Anne, this girl who I worked with and it all just sort of happened. I got engaged in 1990, aged 23, and a year later we got married. I lost my mum the year before to cancer so it had been a difficult time. She was only 58.

 

I went with the flow of get-engaged, get-married, have-children. It seemed a natural process and I thought the gay thing would go away, or I would hide it, or because I was married I wouldn’t have any urges.

 

It’s not that you don’t want to be with a woman, it’s that – at that stage, for me – you don’t really know, because you haven’t had your first gay sexual encounter. I felt under a lot of social pressure to get married and have children. And then you do that, and nothing changes – you’re still definitely gay.

 

It wasn’t until about a year after I was married that I had my first gay experience. I didn’t have any gay friends or know anyone who was gay. I realised I couldn’t sit on being gay anymore and that I’d have to do something about it. I stumbled across a gay chat line and arranged to meet someone. That was it. It just happened.

 

I’d thought that, because I was married, I’d be able to suppress it but once I’d done it and realised, ‘I am gay,’ I couldn’t suppress it. Before, it had been locked up but now I knew what it was like to be with a man, I wanted more. I thought, ‘It’s not going to be easy to put these feelings away’ but I kept trying.

 

Anne and I had been trying for a child but she wasn’t pregnant at that stage. I knew that being with a man was what I should be doing but I was too chicken to do anything about it. So I just carried on with my wife, thinking, ‘It will all go away. I’ll just do it a few times and get it out of my system.’ But that never really happened.

 

Anne fell pregnant but then she had a severe bleed, a miscarriage. It was fairly distraught stuff. No-one prepares you for that. You don’t get a handbook. Although the doctor says it’s nature’s way, when nature says you’re not going to have your baby when all your friends are having their babies, it’s a difficult time.

 

I felt I had a decision to make – do the socially correct thing and carry on or stop, stop it all and come out as being gay. Despite thinking about it for days and weeks on end I couldn’t do it.

 

When Anne had a miscarriage, I thought it was a sign, like a ‘get out of jail card.’ The right thing to do would have been to leave Anne then – but I didn’t. There was an element of me wanting children but it was tied up in thinking that having children would make it (being gay) all go away.

 

Anne fell pregnant again and Marie was born in September ’93. That turned everything upside down. The focus was on Marie and the gay thing was put on the back burner.

 

Marie was here and taking her round to see all the relatives, doing all the dad things that you do, felt natural. I was absolutely over the moon.

 

But you are what you are. You think getting married will make it go away and it doesn’t. You think having babies will make it go away and it doesn’t. You may think bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower will make it go away but it won’t. You’re brought up to think you should do this and you should do that but another part of you is telling you it’s not right.

 

Eventually I plucked up enough courage to tell my best friend Michael. I let him into my secret about four years after Marie was born because I’d started to get very depressed. I wasn’t getting involved in family life. I wasn’t interested in anything except myself – very selfish.

 

Michael was very supportive. He was a similar age to me but he had no experience of being gay so all he could do was listen.

 

Probably around April ’95, I met a guy called Keith who was also not out. We started seeing each other on a casual basis every now and then. He wasn’t married, didn’t have any children. We got on really well, not just as casual partners but on a social level as well. We clicked. So I had that going on as well: being married, being a dad and for want of a better phrase, having a bit on the side.

 

Keith had been away for a month with work when I decided I’d tell Anne I was gay. I’d say to Michael, “I’m going to tell her tonight, I’m going to tell her tonight” and then I’d get a phone call from Michael saying, “Did you tell her?” – and, no of course not. How could I do that to her?

 

Anne and I used to work together but I’d left the job the year before. Once I’d started working for another organisation I had my own routine and that gave me more opportunities to meet men. The more I met, the more I wanted more and more.

 

Eventually the guilt got too much. I couldn’t deal with the lies I had to tell on a daily basis. I realised, if I didn’t do something about it quickly, I’d risk ruining not only Anne’s life but Marie’s as well.

 

I thought, ‘If I get out now I won’t ruin her life,’ so I left in the summer of ’96. I just came home one day and said I’d been to see a solicitor about a divorce.

 

I couldn’t tell Anne I was gay. I thought she’d say I couldn’t see Marie again, that I’d be shunned by my family. I didn’t know how it would affect my work.

 

I left Anne, went through all the legal stuff and changed jobs again. It meant working away Monday to Friday. It got me out of the house during the week but I’d go back home at weekends to see Marie.

 

We made a separation agreement which said I’d have Marie every second weekend and continue to support her financially. It was all very difficult, very difficult for everybody. Anne wanted to know why I had left, Marie wanted to know why Daddy didn’t live at home any more. I didn’t have any of the answers. I didn’t even know what was going on myself.

 

About three months later I was still working away but I’d come home one weekend to see Marie. I’d bought copies of ‘Gay Times’ and they were in my bag, which I’d left unopened in my room. It was a Saturday afternoon and Anne phoned while I was out shopping and said Marie had found something in my bag and did I want to go home and discuss it? Of course, Marie couldn’t have got into my bag.

 

Anne’s first question: “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“Well, I didn’t know how to tell you, how you’d react.”

 

I think it was a bit of a relief for Anne because now she knew the reason, though she was still quite upset.

 

It didn’t change things as we had agreed from the start that for the sake of Marie we didn’t want to make things difficult for her. Looking back I was quite lucky really. The whole saga could have turned into a very nasty split but that didn’t happen – no point – it would only have been Marie that would have suffered.

 

I eventually returned to Aberdeen to work and got myself a one-bedroom flat around December ’96. Anne and Marie managed to get a nice council house where she grew up, so she had a lot of her friends and family around her. We started living as separate entities, with Marie staying with me most weekends.

 

Marie would have been three by then. It was difficult for her because once I had a flat, it wasn’t a case of “Daddy’s working away.” It was, “Daddy’s at his house, why’s he not here?” I didn’t have a proper chat with Marie about my sexuality until she was about 10. It was just, “Mummy and Daddy aren’t living with each other anymore” and she accepted this.

 

I was finding my feet being a gay man, discovering the scene, meeting new guys, developing new relationships. Eventually Keith moved in with me but I wasn’t openly gay and there was still a lot of pressure.

 

After about a year I tried to take my own life. It was an overdose. I can’t remember much about it thankfully. But obviously it didn’t work and I’m glad that I’m still here. I did it because I couldn’t cope. I didn’t want people knowing I’d gone from being married, being a dad to being a gay man with a child.

 

My boss came round to see me afterwards. I explained to him what had been happening in my life. He was very supportive and said if I had any trouble at work, to tell him and he’d sort it. (Ironically, about 10 years ago he came out but he made no mention at the time).

 

Eventually there was a work’s night out and someone asked me if I was gay and it all came out. Surprisingly no-one had a problem with it. It was quite an eye opener. Obviously things had changed in the past five years.

 

As I became more confident about being gay, I started to tell more people about it. I told my brother and my sister. The only person I didn’t tell was my dad. There was a 40-year age gap between us. I wasn’t as close to him as I was to my mum. I took the view that it wouldn’t make any difference to his life so he didn’t need to know.

 

My sister died in the summer of ’96 before Marie was born. If I’d been going to confide in anyone back then, it would have been her but it was not to be. Life just carried on.

 

I moved to Edinburgh with my job in 2001 and settled here. I still had the flat in Aberdeen and I went back every two weeks and Marie came to stay.

 

Keith and I had split up before I moved to Edinburgh and being a single man I was enjoying exploring the scene in Edinburgh. I joined a support group called Gay Dads as I wanted to get to know other people who were in my situation and how they coped. Marie was getting older and I thought, “How do I tell her about being gay?”

 

I was very nervous going to my first meeting, and for the first few months I just sat there and listened to what others had to say. There are a whole lot of different experiences and I was amazed at how, after all, I wasn’t the only gay guy who had been through the getting married/having kids cycle in an attempt to make the gay thing go away.

 

Eventually, I plucked up the courage to say, “This is what I’ve been struggling with.”

I went on to explain I was worried about how to tell Marie I was gay. What would she say or think? What if she didn’t want to see me again? What if her friends at school found out and she got teased or bullied? Lots and lots of questions.

 

The advice the other gay dads gave me was: don’t make it into a big deal; don’t sit her down and say, “There’s something I want to tell you” – just bring it up in conversation and see how it goes. So I did.

 

We were walking to the supermarket one day and I can’t recall how I started the conversation but I said, “Normally boys fancy girls and girls fancy boys but now and then you’ll get boys who fancy boys and girls who fancy girls. Those boys are called gays and the girls are called lesbians.”

 

I said that sometimes people don’t know who they fancy or they get a bit confused about girlfriends and boyfriends. I said I fancied boys but I didn’t know that I fancied boys until just recently. I went on to say that no matter what happened I would always love her very much. I said it didn’t change anything but it’s not something to go telling everybody because not everybody would understand.

 

She said very little. She was: “Well, all right, I see.”

 

I’d said, “You’ll probably need to think about it and you may not know how to deal with it so if you have any questions, ask me or ask Mum because you don’t want to keep any questions to yourself.”

 

I think she did speak to Anne about it and since then she’s slowly told her friends, who have all been quite accepting and supportive.

 

I met Ryan in 2005 and we moved in together quite quickly, within four or five months. Marie knew who Ryan was and what our relationship was but I’d take her out on my own or all three of us would do things together, rather than Marie and Ryan doing things on their own, until I was sure things were going to last.

 

When we realised the relationship was something bigger, we looked for a larger house with a spare room which Marie could use when she was down or so we could have friends to stay. I had given up work to go to university for the first time. It was time for a complete change.

 

We lived quite happily. Marie was a frequent visitor, coming down for a couple of weeks in the school holidays, bringing herself down on the train as she got older.

 

Ryan and I had been together about 18 months when he first mentioned wanting a child. It had never entered my mind at all, having a child again. I was graduating soon. I was happy with the lifestyle we had – no ties. We could do what we wanted, when we wanted, go on holiday, go out.

 

It was quite serious in that Ryan had always wanted to be a biological dad but I had reservations about it all. We spoke about it and spoke about it and spoke about it. I was very undecided. Two men bringing up a child on their own? Would we cope? Would we have support? Would they be bullied at school? What would Marie think? How would the rest of the family react?

 

All the ifs, buts and maybes just kept going round in my head and I didn’t really have anyone other than Ryan that I could speak to about it.

 

At the back of my mind was, ‘Well, I know what it’s like to be a dad… but I can’t deprive Ryan of that, it would be unfair.’

 

Ryan did a lot of research into the legalities and all the different methods of conception, like getting a friend involved or surrogacy. From there it was a case of, ‘Surrogacy is probably the preferred option’ and we met an agency.

 

I didn’t say, “Let’s do this,” I didn’t say, “Let’s not do this.” It just happened with Ryan’s determination.

 

There were a lot of ups and downs, a lot of hoops to go through. I tried to support him through it the best I could.

 

As things went on, the process wasn’t going to plan or how we had hoped, being let down by prospective surrogates and an agency that didn’t know its arse from it’s elbow.

 

I could see all the distress Ryan was going through and I didn’t want to open myself up to that. I felt it was more important to support him than to generate another roller coaster.

 

I kept my feelings fairly locked up, even from Ryan, which in hindsight wasn’t the right thing to do.

 

It all seemed to go on for years. Because of all the problems with the agency and then the surrogacy, part of me was a bit: ‘This is never going to happen, we’re never going to get there.’

 

Once I had met Samantha, the final surrogate, a few times and we had a confirmed pregnancy, it all became certain that it was definitely happening – that’s when the realisation kicked in.

 

We hadn’t been doing the happy ‘going out and looking at prams or buying clothes’ thing. We’d been through hundreds of ups and downs, then bang! It was going to happen.

 

And that’s when I started to open up my emotions. Ryan had the excitement, I knew what it would be like in practical terms. But, how were we going to cope? How could we afford it?

 

And what would people think? The child growing up, nursery, school, becoming a teenager… I remembered what it was like for me, growing up on a council estate in the 80s when ‘gayness’ wasn’t as accepted. I thought we would be shunned.

 

Samantha was somewhere between three and five months gone and I thought, ‘There’s going to be a baby here by the end of the year.’ Time was progressing and it was becoming more real. Money was an issue. We were living in a rented house. Something was just not right.

 

The stress started to affect the relationship. We even split up for a while.

 

A lot of my fear was about what was going to happen in terms of becoming a parent.

I know that’s strange because I was a parent but I knew what was involved.

 

I told Marie that Ryan and I had split. I was up in Aberdeen for the weekend and I didn’t build it up, I just came out with it. I said we were splitting up, that we hadn’t been getting on for some time and that Ryan was having a baby. I had to go into the details of the surrogacy arrangement and some of the story of what had been going on over the last few years. It was strange, I had gone from not really getting involved, then to getting involved and excited about it, to not wanting to be part of it at all.

 

I think Marie was quite taken aback and surprised by it all, because two guys with a baby is a fairly rare thing. It’s not something she would have known about where she lived, even if she’d seen that documentary ( http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-weird-wonderful-family/episode-guide/series-1/episode-1. ) about the two guys down south who’d had children by surrogacy. It was a lot to take in.

 

Her reaction to the split was mixed. Ryan and I had been together five years and they got on well but Marie was older now. Being a teenager, it was difficult for her to express her emotions and for me to understand them.

 

Ryan and I spent May to September apart but we were still in close contact, in touch nearly every other day. We had the odd weekend away too, to celebrate a birthday. We gradually came back together again. I think that once we’d split, the pressure was off and we could talk about things again.

 

We moved back in together at the end of August, and then moved into a one-bedroom flat before going away on holiday for two weeks. Then it was me, Ryan and the dog in this small flat. It sounds a nightmare but we saved a fortune and one of the stresses, money, had been taken away.

 

After we got back together, it was only two months before Erin – the baby – was due. We didn’t really have much time so it was all about getting the flat ready, getting stuff into storage and getting the place decorated, buying prams and all the other things you need. It was a fairly brisk two months but it was enjoyable, plenty going on to keep us occupied.

 

There was still a bit of nervous apprehension there – like how are we going to manage in a one-bedroom flat – but all the fears about how people were going to react had gone. It had all come out when we had split up.

 

When we split there was surprise, and when I mentioned the baby, there was more surprise – but nobody had had a bad reaction to it, which was a relief for me and made the whole process of telling people a lot easier.

 

One of the pressures I’d felt was knowing how Marie would react: would she reject the baby? How would my wife react? When Marie realised Ryan and I were back together and this was going to happen, she was like, “Right, fantastic, I’m going to have a sister.” That pressure had gone. It was all out there. There wasn’t the worry of being shunned.

 

The people at work were quite excited for us and with all the equalities nowadays, when I talked about paternity and parental leave, it was fine. In a normal couple, if there’s a baby coming along, mum gets maternity leave and dad gets paternity and parental leave.

 

Despite equality laws, there was the fear that they would say I wasn’t the father because my name wasn’t on the birth certificate – but colleagues and senior management have been very supportive. I had normal paid paternity leave plus time off for antenatal appointments, scans, visits to hospital.

 

I didn’t have to push very hard but the way I pitched it was that in normal circumstances, the father would get to go to antenatal and parental support but I didn’t need all that, I just needed certain half days off to go to these particular things.

There weren’t policies at work for what I was going through but there were policies for adoption, fostering etc. If your employer is not very supportive, it’s worth mentioning that.

 

After that the worries were just about how we were going to cope with bringing up a baby, of taking her to nursery and saying, “Hello, I’m Erin’s dad and he’s Erin’s dad.” Obviously she’s in nursery because we both work and we both hate that. If Erin’s ill and has to be taken out of nursery, there’s no problem if Ryan can’t take time off and I have to.

 

Yes, there’s the worry of what happens when she goes to school and what the people in the playground might say – but once we finally had Erin in her cot in the hospital, the biggest part of the apprehension was over.

 

There was a bond in the hospital. Ryan was there and he knew what to do as well as any new father does but I was able to step in if it all got a bit chaotic.

 

Marie was two-and-a-half or three when I left, so I have some knowledge of what it was like, before I left and only had her at weekends.

 

In the early days, Erin would just eat, sleep and poop as they do but as she’s got older, if there’s a night when she’s not sleeping and Ryan’s, “What shall we do?” – well, there’s things they don’t teach you that you just pick up. Like, when you’re winding her and it’s not working, you try a different position or leave it a while and try again. Or if she’s crying and there’s no reason and Ryan’s like, “Why is she crying?” I say, “She’s just crying.”

 

Now we’re like a normal family. The only difference is the difference that other people might make out of it – “Oh, you’ve got two dads” – but that hasn’t happened yet. The fact that it’s two dads doing the cooking, changing the nappies, it doesn’t really matter.

 

Not long after Erin was born, a neighbour brought a present over for us and said something like, “Where did you get her from?” or “Who’s she?”

 

I thought, ‘You’re just being a busybody and said, “Oh, she’s ours” and kept walking.

 

That had been one of my fears, having to say about the surrogacy, “Well, we’ve not stolen her.”

 

When Marie was Erin’s age, it was new, it was my first child – and in the back of my head I had all the gay issues going on. It’s different this time. It’s just like having a baby but without that unexplained side of things. Maybe I’m an ‘experienced’ Gay Dad now compared to 18 years ago.

 

The other difference is that Marie is quite involved with Erin. She looks after her, sees her very much as a sister. You wouldn’t know she wasn’t a sister. From day one it was “my sister.”

 

One of the whole psychological things for me is that if I’d known about being gay before I met Anne, I would never have got married and never have had Marie – but then I’d never be sat where I am today. It’s been a hell of a roller coaster getting here but it’s alright now. Marie comes down a lot which we all enjoy. I think it’s a bit strange for Marie having her family life at home and her family life with us.

 

As the years have gone on, things have been more settled and relaxed. There’s more support for gay men. It’s more accepted and with famous people like Elton John and David Furnish doing the same as us, it’s not as bizarre. I’m just glad we did it before they did.

 

My brother hasn’t met Erin yet because of where he lives but he’s seen pictures and my sister and my nephews and nieces are completely accepting of her, making a fuss of her and all the rest of it.

 

Anne dotes on Erin almost as much as Marie does. When we go up, we stay with her. Anne is very much a part of the family. Technically, we’re still married.

 

We’re not a disjointed family. We see each other a lot. We may not be the norm but what is the norm nowadays?

Jay

I see myself as genderqueer, closer to male – a trans man.

 

I became aware that I wanted children around age 25 and started to think about it seriously at about 28. I now have two grown-up children, conceived with my partner of the time.

 

Basically, I was so desperate for children – but so pessimistic about finding a long-term partner – I chose the first decent-looking male as an unknowing sperm donor.

 

Low self-esteem made me very difficult to live with, and not being at all at ease in the traditional gender role of mother did not help. Still think I’d have made a better father.

 

My elder daughter was five when I found myself single again, which was extremely difficult. This forced me into thinking of my children at all times instead of trying to find stability for myself and it had a poor effect on my mental health: I am cyclothymic*. I was also prevented from coming to terms with my gender identity, which caused additional stress.

 

What helped me were happy pills, the local LGBT association, resources put online by organisations in different countries and having time to think for myself now the children are independent.

 

 

 

* Mental health charity Mind  defines cyclothymic disorder as: short periods of mild depression and short periods of hypomania.

Donald

My civil partner and I have two children each. Our kids are now 22, 20, 19 and 16.

I first became aware I wanted children when I was 31. I had married – wrongly!

 

It would take too long to tell my story. We’ve faced homophobia by the eldest child and in the education system. It’s hard work and difficult accepting others find us hard to accept.

 

Gay Dads Scotland was our main source of support.

 

Don’t get married to have kids. Accept your life may be easier without children.

Stevie and Lauren

Stevie: I wanted kids since I was wee, maybe about 15. I’m 20 now. I’ve got nine brothers and sisters. I used to have a business with my mum and we worked it so that I could give my sister her feeds. We did the same with my wee brother.

 

Lauren: We got together in June last year. My wee boy was born in July, not long after. I’m 17 now.

 

Stevie: We were mates before and started going out when Lauren was pregnant. I knew in my head that I wanted to be with her before she was pregnant but I just didn’t have the balls to ask her.

 

Lauren: We’d known each other two or three years. I got pregnant, experimenting with a friend. It was complicated, a stupid mistake. I was at the stage, when I asked Stevie out, of thinking about whether to keep the baby or have it adopted. We decided to keep it.

 

Stevie: She thought she was going to lose me and that was why she thought of getting rid of the baby but I managed to talk her round when I said I would be there for her no matter what. I’d known for a year that I wanted to be with her.

 

Lauren: I knew years ago, just after we started talking the first time.

 

Stevie: Lauren didn’t want another baby after the baby was born but I did.

 

Lauren: I didn’t, not after I had to have a C section. The pregnancy was rough. My baby was premature.

 

Stevie: We were lying in bed one night, watching a film, Knocked Up. I went downstairs for some water and she went to the toilet. We didn’t know it but her waters had broken. In the film, the woman’s waters had broken at the same time.

 

Lauren: I didn’t realise it was my waters breaking – I thought I’d wet myself!

 

Stevie: I got concerned because she didn’t move all night and her bump had disappeared: it was just a baby shape.

 

Lauren: I had an appointment with the midwife the next day. She said the baby was OK. I was having pains from when my waters broke but not serious ones. Then I started having shitty ones and we called the midwife again. She said he was coming – the baby. He was six weeks early.

 

Stevie: I had had to leave, because of work. I was virtually living at Lauren’s mum’s, apart from when I had to go south to work. I got a phone call at 9pm to say Lauren was going into hospital. I got there the next day. I met her mum downstairs in the café and she took me up to her.

 

Lauren: The day after, I got my C section. I was in labour for four days. They gave me a jab and tablets. I didn’t have an epidural because I freaked out when I saw the needle.

 

The baby was feet down and his cord was wrapped round and pulling at my belly button. If I’d pushed him out it would have ripped me and killed him, so they had to do the C section.

 

Stevie: I was sitting with her mum and her sisters, a bag of nerves. I had to get a cuddle off her sister because I didn’t know what to do. It was my first experience of the whole lot. No-one came to tell us how the baby was. We even had to stop Lauren’s midwife to find out if Lauren was OK. They said they couldn’t tell me much because Lauren hadn’t come round but the baby had flatlined and had to g o to intensive care.

 

Lauren: He was out, not breathing, for 40 minutes. They told me while I was still coming round and asked me if they could pass the information on.

 

Stevie: You don’t remember anything about the two days after that.

 

Lauren: I can’t remember anything after they told me he’d flatlined apart from going to see him for five minutes. I remember holding him, leaving him in there, in intensive care but nothing after that. I was away with the fairies because of the drugs.

He had all these tubes in him. He had a thing on his foot, a splint on his arm, a drip in his leg, pads on his chest, a hose thing for breathing. He was in intensive care for five weeks.

 

Stevie: We had to wait until he weighed 5lb 10oz ’til he could come out of hospital. Even then there were complications. It was his second week home.

 

He was feeding and there was food or mucus stuck in his throat. He just flopped in his gran’s arms. He’d gone blue.

 

Lauren: It was horrible. He was taken back to hospital. He’s been back three times. The day after he had to go back because he wasn’t peeing. There was nothing in his nappy. They got medicine for him and it seemed to work.

 

Stevie: Your mum said he was taking the mick because he came home and peed. The he had to go back in again because he had reflux. He projectile vomited all over me. From there we just had to be careful how much we were feeding him. We had to go back to the premature food. Now he just eats everything.

 

Lauren: He’s OK now, there’s nothing wrong.

 

Stevie: He’s nearly walking. He’s a happy boy now – he was quite narky when he was wee.

 

He’s staying up north with his gran while we sort out the flat, then he’ll come down and live here.

 

Lauren: We just see him at weekends at the moment but he’ll come here when we’ve moved everything in and he’ll go and see them at weekends.

 

Stevie: I started nagging Lauren as soon as he was born, about me having a child too. I think she felt insecure because she thought I wanted to have a child with a man, so we didn’t talk about it for a while but once we’d cleared that up, we started talking about it again.

 

Lauren: We want them [the children] to have the same skin tone as us, so they don’t look too different.

 

Stevie: We’ve got someone – a donor – in Edinburgh, someone in Glasgow and someone in Dundee, who we’ve discussed it with. One I know, the others we met through some online sites which are registered and where all the donors are checked. They check out if the family has genetic problems and they have medical checks.

 

I knew before Lauren got pregnant that there were ways I could go about it because I’d seen a programme. I decided on this way more for Lauren, so we can do it ourselves through artificial insemination.

 

The person [potential donor] I know, we were having a discussion about how I wanted kids and how I wanted them to have my skin colour. It was just a general conversation and he said he would do it but he’d have to speak to his wife. He’s married with kids. He wasn’t sure if she’d allow it, him not seeing the kid or her knowing he had a kid out there but not by her.

 

We spoke about if he did go ahead with it, would he want to have contact.

 

Lauren: I’d prefer it if we had a donor who then walked away and had no contact.

 

Stevie: It might be OK if they wanted contact once in a blue moon, sent a birthday card…

 

Lauren: I don’t know if I would be comfortable with that. It might cause complications.

 

Stevie: There was a donor in Edinburgh who said he wanted to buy everything until the baby was born and then walk away but we didn’t think that was fair.

 

We’ve got a number one donor who really wants to do it, who’s constantly in contact asking when we’re ready. And we’ve decided we really want to start next month, after we get the flat ready. We need to find out my ovulation days and then tell him we’re ready to start. Now that we have our own place, we might have him over to stay.

 

Lauren: I’m not sure about that. He was OK about staying in a hotel.

 

Stevie: We’ve thought about it so long now. This month we’re just counting the days. I’ve got a test to find out when I’m ovulating, so we know when it will be next month. I’ve got syringes to use on the night.

 

My advice is to do a lot of research online or even just go to one of the youth groups. Get into some of the forums and ask around. Find out about the different ways of doing it – it’s not just sleeping with a guy or IVF, there’s artificial insemination.

 

It does put a strain on a relationship so make sure you are steady before you do it. Trust is the main thing. Be supportive of the other person, especially when they’re pregnant – be prepared for mood swings!

Lauren: You still need to do everything a normal couple does while you’re pregnant, have fun, just more carefully.

Stevie: Realise the partner needs to bond with the bump. I found it quite easy. I would put my head on the bump and talk to him, feeling his foot move against my finger. He knew my voice straightaway.

Lauren: Enjoy the pregnancy while you can. Make sure your partner’s not going to run.

Stevie: Start saving now. Just make sure you’ve got a steady income.

Lauren: Some people think a baby just costs a couple of pounds here and there, they don’t realise how much it costs.

Stevie: Research it. You need to talk about it all in depth, to know you both want it – not one person wanting a baby and the other being put on the spot and saying “Yes, let’s do it,” then chickening out.

Lauren: If the wee boy asks, we’ll tell him about his dad but if he doesn’t I don’t see the point. His dad is not showing any interest so far and he only lives a couple of doors away.

Stevie: We’re not really wanting the complications of one child knowing their dad and the other one not, or one getting more presents than the other one.

Lauren: My family’s been really supportive.

Stevie: My mum has never really accepted that I want to be with a girl and doesn’t really acknowledge that we have a kid already. She’s been brought up the way her mum was brought up, the old way where girls shouldn’t be with girls and boys shouldn’t be with boys. She’s just stubborn when it comes to this. She doesn’t even mind when it’s outside the family, it’s because it’s me. My cousin’s scared of coming out because of the way the family treated me when I came out. I’ve got concerns about when my children go to school, about being bullied.

Lauren: I don’t think our wee boy will be picked on.

Stevie: I know quite a lot of gay people who have got kids. I don’t think they’ve had any problems.

Lauren: I know someone in my family who hasn’t had any problems and her wee boy is 10.

Stevie: There were a couple of women who came out and their kid got picked on. They moved away. My home area is bad for people who come out, so it would be bad for bringing up a kid. I was getting on a train and someone threw a bottle at my head.

I think when the wee boy gets to a certain age, we’ll be wanting to move away. My brother’s in Australia and I’ve got a career that means I can get a transfer across there.

Jo

Being transgender is something I’ve been living with all of my life. It took a long time to realise and when I did, ‘transgender’ wasn’t a term in everyday use.

 

I remember early on, looking in the mirror and seeing a person and knowing it wasn’t me because it was a boy. I remember stealing a doll and getting into real trouble. I have no memory of it but my brother says I used to argue with my family because I wanted to play with girls’ toys. I was obviously very unhappy being a boy.

 

I was sent away to boarding school when I was eight. In those days it was considered wrong for boys to be too close to their mothers. At the time it was like what’s now known as reparative therapy [a controversial, pseudoscientific ‘treatment’ which aims to change sexual orientation].

 

It was probably when I was about 14 and in school plays that I began to realise I’d be happier as a girl. That terrified me and made me feel great shame. I began to associate being on stage with that fear and shame. I thought that if I continued to be so conspicuous, people would know I wanted to be a girl and they would hate me.

 

That was in the early 60s. There was no general awareness of transsexuals so the only option for me was to try to suppress it and try to live what was seen as a normal life.

 

Now I look back and think, that’s 40 years of my life that’s been lost because I now know that I can act, that I enjoy acting – but at the same time I’m thankful because that’s what made me a good playwright, that and being transsexual. It made me a good parent as well.

 

When I was 18 a lovely man called Mike fell in love with me. I really liked him but he feared for his job, and with reason. (Homosexuality was still against the law at the time.)

 

My wife was the first person I had a proper relationship with. Before I met her, I had come to realise that I’d probably never have a sexual relationship – but we fell in love with each other and she was the first person I told. We were at university. I was 21, and she was a bit older, 23.

 

When I told her she said, “Yes, I knew there was something feminine about you, that’s why I’m attracted to you.”

 

That was the beginning of the long journey of me coming to terms with who I am. I came out to her very quickly because it was tormenting me.

 

It was very wonderful to discover, after a lot of trying, that we could have sex. Establishing full sexual relations took a long time.

 

In January 1980, my wife became pregnant with our first child. We weren’t trying to have children. Our lives were very unsettled. I was trying to be a writer and she was an artist and journalist. We were living in a lot of poverty.

 

But a child loves you. They don’t pass judgement. That’s very liberating when you carry all the stigma of being a transsexual. When you are loved, that helps you to have the confidence to work.

 

What cripples us is internalised transphobia. By that I mean that from an early age I had this sense that I wasn’t quite right as a boy, that playing with girls’ toys was sick and shameful. I believed society’s view that I was a bad person, that I couldn’t be loved. From my conversations with other trans people I know that’s very common. It’s common in all oppressed groups.

 

My partner was a very strong feminist. We were determined that in bringing up our children, we would not follow traditional gender roles. For half the week, I did the things a mother would do, which was unheard of then. For the other half of the week I was writing.

 

In 1985 we had our second child. I would recommend anyone, transsexual or not, to be as involved in bringing up their children as they can be. Being a mother to mine was amazing for me, for them, for all of us. I loved looking after my daughters. It gave me huge happiness and pleasure.

 

I also remember pushing the pram and feeling that I was the only man in the world looking after their baby. That felt very isolating.

 

I was in the closet as far as the rest of the world was concerned. I so wanted to come out to my children from the very start but because of the prejudice that existed when they were young, I waited before telling them.

 

My eldest was bullied in her first school. She went to school with an Asterix the Gaul lunch box and she suffered because they told her it was a “boy’s lunchbox.” This made me very aware of bullying and gender issues.

 

I didn’t want my daughters to suffer because of my transsexuality. I didn’t want to expose them to any bullying or to be ostracised by their friends and I couldn’t come out to them and ask them to keep my identity a secret. So I didn’t tell them, dressed as a woman outside the home and would pick them and their friends up from school dressed as a man.

 

This became more and more unbearable, so when they were both in secondary school and firmly rooted in their friends, I came out to them. This was around 1998/99.

 

I told my eldest daughter first. We’d been to see a lovely film called ‘Ma Vie en Rose’ [a Belgian film about a child who was born male, who insists that she is supposed to be a girl]. I said to her, “You know, that could be my story.” It was very hard for her at first. She was very distressed. She’s great now.

 

I think my younger daughter found it easier. She took it in her stride. I remember performing a show about being transgendered in 2003. She and her friends all came along to see the show and were so supportive of it, fiercely protecting me against a journalist they perceived as hostile.

 

 

If I was starting a family again now, I would be open with them from the outset. I think my eldest daughter found it hurtful because I’d concealed it from her for so long.

I wanted to fully transition when my wife was still alive but she said if I did, it would mean the end of our relationship. So I put it off. Soon after, she contracted her brain tumour and died, so I am so glad I did what I did and waited.

After her death in 2005, it simply became unbearable for me to continue living as a man. So I told my daughters. Everyone has to find their own way to do it but when I decided to transition, I told them, “Whatever happens, I love you profoundly.” I said that however much I might physically change, I would always continue to love them and be their dad. And that’s how it’s been. We remain a happy and united and loving family. I have a new partner and my daughters are very fond of her.

Obviously, I couldn’t come out to my friends before coming out to my daughters, that would have been wrong. By that stage I’d also started going to support groups. I’d met all sorts of people who lived double lives, keeping it from their families and I thought, ‘That’s no way to live.’

The good friends were absolutely fine and not at all surprised. It was the same when I transitioned. The bad friends just stopped seeing me.

I wish I’d been able to come out to my mum. I think she would have understood. She died in 1962, when I was 12. My dad died in 1986.

I have three big brothers. One of them was very upset about it. He’s Christian and couldn’t accept it for a while. I also have a step mother, a half-brother and a half-sister. I am not in touch with them anymore but in a sense I think I’d separated myself from them before I transitioned.

Both my daughters have grown up to be well adjusted, successful and happy individuals in stable and loving heterosexual relationships. My being transsexual caused us all suffering and difficulties but this came from the prejudices in the world around us. I feel my daughters have benefited from my being a transwoman, and from my willingness and delight in being able to play a ‘motherly’ role with them as well as being their dad.

When my eldest daughter told me she was expecting a baby, she said, “Dad, you’re going to be a grandma.” It’s been wonderful, having a grandchild and it’s been lovely, the way my daughter sees it. I am her dad but I am her son’s grandma. She was very clear about that when she got married and when she registered the birth. It’s very touching. I love it, actually.

My grandson is growing up in a completely different society and culture from the one I grew up in. The world is transformed. Back then, there was a profoundly transphobic feminist writer, Janice Raymond, who was forceful and eloquent. I didn’t have the confidence to cope with the kind of hostility we encountered in those days. I didn’t come out to my friends until I was 50. Now, it’s possible for me to be the person I am in a way which wasn’t possible when I was young or when my children were small.

I hope that when my grandchild grows up, he’s free to express himself however he wants, that society is more open and forgiving and generous. I hope the work I do, the being open in public, helps that come about. Even now, girls grow up in a different environment from boys. There’s not the same visceral fear if a girl is a tomboy for a bit too long, that there is if a boy wants to plays with girls’ toys.

It’s very important to me that I’ve had the children with me at key points in my artistic career. It wasn’t until my first child was born that I discovered I was a playwright. It just happened. I had a translation of a Spanish play put on at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. I would go to performances with my eldest daughter in a sling and hear people laughing at jokes I’d written and that’s when I knew I was going to be a playwright.

It happened again with my younger child. I had a big hit with a play at the Traverse Theatre and again, I had my baby daughter with me in a sling at the theatre. Now, I’ve just had my first grandchild and another play is about to go to the West End and Channel 4 is interested in a short film.

I think my writing has helped me and changed me enormously, mostly because I have written about being transgender directly, partly because success has helped me to cope, to see things in a different way and not always take the negativity on board.

I can remember being laughed at by a group of girls when one of my plays was being performed at the Lyceum. I thought, ‘You’re laughing but I am entertaining 250 people every night – what are you doing?’