Dear Andrea Leadsom,
As a mother to two sweet little boys who are due to start school in September, I have to confess that I am afraid.
Until now I have been able to protect them from people who think that their family is less of a family because they are being raised by two mums. They will chat away happily to anyone, family and friends and strangers, about their mummies whilst I find myself tensing, hoping that the sweet elderly lady or the kind taxi driver doesn’t mind families like ours. I am aware that when Kirsty and I are out with our children, unless we choose to hold hands or to kiss, we pass as close friends or sisters enjoying a day out with our children, and I am grateful for that fact – I know that one day, in the wrong area, at the wrong time, it may keep us safe.
My little boys, and their even smaller sisters, have no idea that there is anything ‘wrong’ with us. They are beginning to realise, mostly from the media, that one-mum-one-dad is the norm, but they don’t know that some people consider their mothers’ relationship to be bad or wrong or damaging to them and to other children. They have no idea that, by virtue of their exposure to us, they are considered to be damaged.
Ms Leadsom, I do not consider my children to be damaged. They are gentle and considerate little people; they startle me sometimes with their compassion, with their capacity to welcome and to include and to love. They are happy little people; our home is filled with laughter, with games, with bouncing on the bed. They love fiercely and they are loved and wanted more than you will ever know, and in my heart I know, unshakably, that we were meant to have these children and they were meant to be ours, raised by us. Knowing us doesn’t damage them. Being our children doesn’t damage them.
Nonetheless, I am afraid for them. I am afraid for them because bigotry will damage them, hatred will damage them; I am afraid of the day that they learn not to talk about us in public, to strangers, not to mention us to their friends. I am afraid of the day that they learn to feel ashamed of their family.
Children can be wary of the unfamiliar; I have always expected that some of their peers might find their two-mum family to be a little strange at first and in a child’s mind perhaps it’s not much of a leap from ‘strange’ to ‘bad’. I was prepared for that. I was prepared to help them navigate little boys or girls who simply didn’t know.
But the parents? The parents should know better.
Please know that we are not something to which parents should be wary of exposure; we are not a pathogen, we are not radioactive. Knowledge of us, knowledge that some families have two mums or two dads doesn’t harm children. It doesn’t harm children to know early on that when they grow up, regardless of whether they fall in love with a man or a woman, they can enjoy a normal life. They won’t catch anything, Ms Leadstom.
According to the Trevor Project LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt and 92% of those attempts were under the age of 25. Wouldn’t it be better if children grow up knowing that no matter what their orientation, no matter whether their genitalia at birth matches their gender, they are loved and valued by society..? If their parents are unable or unwilling to teach them that, is it so wrong for children to be ‘exposed’ to that message by the teachers they respect and trust, in their schools?
Is it so wrong for children like mine, who love their mothers, who love their life, to receive that validation in school that their family structure is just a lesser-seen variation of normal? Is it so bad for their friends to learn from their teachers, if they can’t learn from their parents, that Balthazar and Lysander’s family is just as valid as their own?
We are legally recognised as a family. We are a family. We are not something to hide until the time is right for children to learn about us. We exist, we are here, we contribute to society in all kinds of positive ways and our government has a duty to acknowledge that and to support and defend us.
I am so proud of my family. When I think of us, I think of the kindness of the medical team who helped us to create these babies, the incredible doctor who asked us whether we were ‘Ready, mummies?’ before she brought the boys into the world, the way that our children found their own nicknames to distinguish between us. I think of warmth and of love.
But tonight I am afraid. And I wish that I could keep my children in their sweet, happy little bubble where nobody thinks less of us or wants to protect society’s most vulnerable from us until the time is right for them to learn that we exist.
If you misspoke, if you are prepared to retract your statement, an apology would go a long way.
With kind regards,
Balthazar, Lysander, Embla, Olympia and Vita’s Mum
Amber, this is a stunning piece of writing and every ounce of me wishes that she will see this. If not, then sit safe in the knowledge that your children, our children, will know how much we bloody love them and that we are trying to create a wonderful world for them.
I am so proud of you for writing this, darling, and I honestly couldn’t have put it better myself.
I am tired. I am angry. I’ve had enough of being polite.
I can’t love this enough. It saddens me that you have even had to consider writing this but you are so right in all that you say.
Right now, I am dealing with a little boy who’s friends are laughing at the way he dances, so he has told me he never wants to dance again. Children can be so cruel. The world is a harsh place. But we can show so much love and compassion. We have to. We have a responsibility to show our children what is right, to accept, to learn and to embrace.
You and Kirsty are such wonderful, loving parents and it hurts me that you and other families like yours are being spoken about or considered in this way. I hope she misspoke. I hope she retracts her statement. But I fear the damage has already been done. Sending you so much love and strength! Xxx
Dexter, Paisley and Bridget’s mummy
Amber, this is a beautiful piece that you can tell it’s written with so much love and so much emotion. I am so sorry that in 2019 you are still dealing with this and facing bigotry. It just makes me so sad.
Absolutely spot on, Amber. We’re not some age-inappropriate concept kids should be exposed to at the right age. We’re kind, loving people. This whole thing is a classic example of institutionalised homophobia in religion and it appears our country’s leaders might be on the side of the homophobia (which of course means they won’t recognise it as homophobia at all, rather LGBTQ being intolerant of religion). OMG I’ve got started on all this again – do ignore me I’ll save this for my own blog! Anyway this was a wonderful read, thank you x
I have so much love for this post. You are doing an amazing job of parenting and no-one (especially the likes of Leadsom) can ruin that. Your children will be so proud of you both as they grow up, as you say there might be the odd bump along the way during school days but generally I find children and teenagers these days to be so much more accepting and kind compared to those I grew up with in the 90s. Keep being awesome x
Take heart about your boys starting school. They’ll probably come up against a lot fewer questions than you expect (maybe secondary school might be harder). Our school is very small, in a little village, and in a very Tory area (although maybe less so nowadays), but we have 1 boy in the class who has 2 mums and I’ve never heard any issues cropping up around that fact. The children just see it as fact that there are 2 mums, the same as another boy has a real dad elsewhere that he visits, and a new second dad the boy and his mum now live with..I did have to explain to my son after the first day because he asked how the boy was made given I’d taught him about the seed and egg. So he learnt age 4 about all the different options for 2 mums having babies.
I do have some issues with detailed sex education in primary schools, but the worries are more that we don’t always get to know exactly what is being taught and when. I’d rather he hears facts and information from me first, as I like to know the questions he has and answer them, where at school he might not want to ask questions. He does watch the news with us, so I expect he’s probably more aware of all of this than I think he is, even if it was just a fleeting discussion or article that’s been stored away for later questions. I’d like schools to be transparent about what is being taught and when so responsible parents can approach topics ahead of it being in class.. Kids do accept things pretty well even if it is different to the norm though, and us parents probably worry a lot more than we might need to.
Love this Amber. You are absolutely right! Ms leadsom is very wrong and should retract her statement. If she wants to rephrase the statement and what she thinks then I am sure many people would appreciate it.
If she hasn’t experienced these things herself. I don’t think she has the right to comment this strongly and harshly about it. She needs to learn how to say things in the right manner!