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