From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

From Partying to Parenthood: LGBTQ+ History Month

Happy #LGBTHistoryMonth! This February, the Martin James Network is excited to celebrate the lives, legacies and histories of LGBTQ+ people in the UK and abroad. Throughout the month we will be posting information pieces, stories from colleagues across the network, useful links and much more. Kofi Aboagye-Broadhurst,  Director of Kingston Noble , shares his story on raising a family as a LGBTQ+ household.

I would love to say that weekends in my 20s began with raspberry quinoa smoothies and mile-long runs – but they didn’t. Saturdays usually started with a massive hangover after yet another Friday night of partying with my friends. We’d spend the rest of the weekend comparing our hangovers and watching our favourite TV boxsets.

Then the next Friday, we’d meet up straight after work and try to make that weekend’s session even more epic than the last. At the time, this seemed like living the dream. Constant fun, no responsibilities, and the freedom to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

But then life reached a point where I wanted more. Was the highlight of my week always going to be downing ten shots and getting a shout-out from the DJ? There had to be more to it than that. It had to be possible for all of us to get more from our lives…

In 2021, life is completely different. My husband, two wonderful children, and fun family days out fill days that I used to waste doing nothing. Adopting has changed our lives forever. The process was one of the most difficult, but rewarding, things we’ve ever done. Here’s everything you need to know about the LGBT adoption process. If we could do it, then so can you.

We hope that this article inspires a few people to take a leap of faith and give a loving home to some kids who really need their support.

Finding a greater purpose

There was a void in our lives that only children could fill. Surrogacy seemed too difficult, due to the legal complications that can arise during the process in the UK. At any time during the process, the woman who gives birth to the child can decide that she would prefer to raise the baby herself, causing a heart-breaking situation for everyone involved.

In the end, we chose adoption. We wanted to give a loving home to one of the many thousands of children across the UK who are not lucky enough to be born into one and grow up in the care system. Government figures released early in 2020 showed that 78,150 children in the UK were in care.

Although the number of LGBT couples putting themselves forward to become adopters and fosterers has increased annually over the last decade (1 in 6 of all UK adoptions in 2020 were by LGBT couples), many in the LGBT community who would love to adopt don’t put themselves forward. This is often because of fears of being judged, or even being rejected, because they are gay, bisexual or transgender.

Why do so many in the LGBT community avoid the adoption process

This is something that many straight couples struggle to relate to. Imagine having to sit in an interview saying: ‘Hi, please evaluate me against your social norm. I’m totally positive that despite my heterosexuality, you won’t find me incapable of looking after kids. Btw, did I mention that I’m straight? Hope that’s OK.’

Adoption agencies continue to make huge efforts to appeal to the LGBT community. That is evidenced by LGBT adoption statistics above.

However, this fear of homophobia and ostracization still puts many off applying. Questions such as ‘how you would react to your child getting teased for having gay parents?’ Or ‘do you think you would be able to meet the needs of a child in the same way as a mother?’ can be incredibly hurtful. Answering questions like these were very tough. You’re sat there wondering why society can’t see past the fact that you’re gay and appreciate the amazing life that you would give any child who joined your family.

Despite this, going through the process and adopting a child is one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do. Research suggests Parent-child relationships are typically just as strong in same-sex couples as in heterosexual ones. Research published by CoramBAAF actually suggests that gay fathers show greater levels of interaction with their child than other types of parents

How adoption changed our lives

For a start, cutting out drinking every single week does wonders for your health. Before lockdown, our weekends were spent visiting theme parks, zoos, bowling alleys and generally doing the exact opposite of everything we used to do on a Saturday. With two kids to look after, we’re always busy (even in lockdown).

Our children have brought so much happiness to our lives. Helping two wonderful humans grow into wonderful adults completes our lives and gives us the purpose we were looking for. Adoption gives you the opportunity to change the lives of each child you invite into your family for the better, forever.

People often look back on their lives and reflect on their career success, the wonderful holidays they went on, and the amazing things they owned. These are all fantastic memories, but are they all that life has to offer? What if you could look back on giving a child who was facing a hugely difficult life the opportunity to live their dreams? How rewarding would that be?

Inspiring others

After hearing about what we did, one of our good friends also decided to adopt. He is now father to three siblings with his partner. That’s the course of another three young lives transformed from a negative pathway to one filled with love and happiness (and two more immensely proud LGBT parents).

Sometimes life gives us great opportunities that look like opportunities. On other occasions, huge opportunities are hidden behind bigger challenges. The size of these challenges often mean that a lot of people never seize the opportunity. This is often the case when it comes to adoption in the LGBT community.

Adoption is one of these hidden opportunities. The process can seem particularly difficult for LGBT couples, but these difficulties are just temporary. The fulfilment that adopting will give you and your newest family members will last forever.

Keep an eye out on more stories to come from the Martin James Network as we celebrate and remember LGBT History month. Follow our social media pages to find out more.

Fearless Futures – A note from Jim Cockburn, Chair at Martin James Network

Fearless Futures – A note from Jim Cockburn, Chair at Martin James Network

I want to take this opportunity to unveil our newly clarified vision and mission for the Martin James Network, to which all of our companies and brands are proud to belong.

Here at the Martin James Network, every one of our employees is united in the desire to make a positive contribution to society and amplify the voices of the mould-breakers and change makers of the world. We are now also unified in our vision and mission statement.

The individual groups and companies within the Martin James Network, often pioneers with their own vision, can clearly link back to this unifying purpose. It only serves to demonstrate further the powerful sense of connection and community in our unique and diverse network.

As a lifelong advocate for change I’m proud to be associated with our new vision statement. The vision of ‘a society in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation or prejudice.’

I love the wordswithout fear’. I’ve always believed in the quote ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, because too often we are constrained by internal and external fears. And this feeds into our new Martin James Network strapline:

 

“Fearless Futures”

Our new mission is to improve social outcomes by reimagining what’s possible and utilising disruptive technology and practice, to unlock human potential.” 

This is a fantastic statement which surprises me as an old technophobe but I’ve learnt lately, especially and unsurprisingly during lockdown, that a pivot to technology is essential even in human powered organisations.

Providing real-time answers to global problems, the Martin James Network harnesses a talented team of digital winners whose VR, Chatbots, Apps, AI, innovations and more, will only increase in popularity during the unconnected, changing information age. Aligned with the ability to reimagine futures, which we have always been able to do, we become an unstoppable force for good.

Our values describe how “we’re fearless pioneers with a social conscience”. This simple sentence highlights the prominence of the care, courage and creativity that drives our employees. But it is also essential for us to work collaboratively, challenge existing ideas curiously and candidly, and adopt an unwavering commitment to succeed whatever barriers we may face, in order to really change the world.

 

On a personal note, I am blessed to be working with Ayyab, my wife and business partner. She is a constant inspiration, in turn conquering new technologies and driving forth our social mission. She is a passionate advocate of the need for diversity of thought; to develop understanding, create better solutions and ultimately grow as people and communities. Valuing the power of our differences whilst recognising our common ground of improving human outcomes, strengthens the collective power of our network.

The Martin James Network will continue to advocate for change by pushing boundaries and breaking moulds. By encouraging our employees and partners to be courageous and creative, we empower a truly fearless community which collaboratively bounces from one another.

We have come so far and achieved so much already, but through our new overarching vision and mission, we can and we will continue to build fearless families, fearless communities and ultimately fearless futures.

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

Martin James Network founder marks National Poetry Day with city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his experiences of Covid

To mark National Poetry Day (Thursday 1st October), Birmingham poet – Basic Existential Boy – has installed a city-wide graffiti trail, inspired by his own experiences of Covid.

Basic Existential Boy, or Jim Cockburn as he’s also known, launched his collection of Covid-19 poetry last month after falling ill with symptoms of the virus back in February.

Now, as we approach National Poetry Day, Jim hopes to inspire others and share his love of the written word with this thought provoking ‘clean graffiti’ art trail.

The trail aims to highlight the importance of art and poetry at times like these but also analyse how the pandemic has radically altered our society, rendering everyday life virtually unrecognisable overnight.

Showcasing excerpts of the poet’s work, the graffiti can be found in a number of locations throughout Birmingham such as Moseley, Harborne, Digbeth, Broad Street and New Street, as well as Moor Street and Snow Hill.

Speaking about his Covid poetry collection, Jim says: “Lockdown created time and space for me to reflect and writing this poetry has been a cathartic experience, helping me to deal with the mixed emotions the pandemic has brought about.

“The Coronavirus has disrupted every part of our lives in profound ways and no one has been immune from the effects. Within the pages of the collection, I have tried to capture some of these momentous times, good and bad.

Available to purchase on Amazon, Jim’s collection – called Covid Spring – features 17 poems reflecting on the world we’ve come to witness during the pandemic.

All proceeds from the collection go to EPIC Youth – a project set up by the Martin James Foundation to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success.

For more information visit www.basicexistentialboy.com or to purchase the Covid Spring anthology, go to https://www.amazon.co.uk/Covid-Spring-Basic-Existential-Boy/dp/1527268446.

Follow @BasicExistentialBoy on Instagram and use the hashtag #BEBTHEPOET if you spot his work across the city.