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.

MJN launches it’s first Fearless Storytelling Competition

MJN launches it’s first Fearless Storytelling Competition

 

To celebrate National Storytelling week on 29th January, the Martin James Network launched its very first children’s ‘Fearless Voices’ creative writing competition. In a time when home-schooling is the new normal, we want to create a platform for children to be brave with their imaginations and creativity. Fearless Stories will amplify the voices of children, in a year when they have had little opportunity to be heard. 

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

From Friday 29th January children between 5-15 years will have the opportunity to submit a fictional story of 500 words (or less!) about being courageous. The only limits are imagination and creativity!

There will be a bronze, silver and gold winner in each age category: 5 – 7 yrs, 8 – 11 yrs, 12 – 15 yrs.

Prizes:

Gold: One double page spread of your story illustrated by children’s book illustrator

Silver: £50 Waterstone book tokens

Bronze: Creative writing book, notepads, pens and colours (worth £25)

Entries must be made by a parent, guardian or teacher who can submit the story by emailing
Please include the child’s name and age when submitting.

Competition closes on 26th February. 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid?

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid?

Cliff Faulder is CEO and Training Director of AboutFace and ‘The EmbRACE Awards’. Here he discusses the backlash to this years Sainsbury’s Christmas advert

“At Christmas time, we let in light and we banish shade….”

OK Mr Geldof you’re losing me with the second line. Considering this song was originally penned to highlight the plight of the starving people in Africa at a time when good will to all men (and surely women ) was in order, it feels like it’s loaded with subliminal intent.

Where is this festive nostalgic scrutiny coming from Cliff, I hear you say?

Well actually.

It comes from the almighty backlash that Sainsbury’s have faced for having a black family in one of their three new Christmas advertisements.

When my wife informed me that the unrest over the imagery of a black family enjoying Christmas was really a thing, I immediately took to YouTube to watch the advertisement again to check if I had missed anything.

I mentally compiled a list in my head.

  • Warm festive home video footage. CHECK!
  • Cute children, tinsel, seasoned food. CHECK!
  • Positive Christmas vibes. CHECK!
  • Sense of family. CHECK!
  • Fun, laughter, love. CHECK-CHECK-CHECK!

So what is the problem? Surely, surely it could not  be simply because the family being depicted are black.

In a fashion reminiscent of BAT-MAN turning to his trusted sidekick Robin, with the urgency of comic book hero I exclaimed.

“To the comments section!”

Alas there were no comments on YouTube.

I grew suspicious. Had YouTube removed the ability for the public to comment on this wonderfully crafted showcase of a black family at Christmas, because they knew what would follow?

I headed to another source.

One Google search was all it took to find the backlash. A tsunami of racial hatred, all related to the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert.

The Daily Mail online reported:

Customers accuse Sainsbury’s of ‘virtue signaling’.

The Independent led with:

SAINSBURY’S DEFENDS CHRISTMAS ADVERT FEATURING BLACK FAMILY AFTER TROLLS CRITICISE THEM FOR BEING ‘WOKE’

 The Independent found a few people that celebrated the advert and challenged the views of those railing against the ad online.

As I sat back in my chair and thought about what I was playing out in this very public outpouring of emotion, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Shocked? No. Never shocked, but certainly disappointed.

This year I have joined my neighbours, as many of you have, to stand on our doorsteps and applaud the valour and dedication of the men and women who make up our beloved NHS.

All over the country we have stood and put our hands together to show that in these desperate times we can come together as the Great British public and stand against the most challenging of foes.  Britain was famous for this in war time. When it asked men and women of colour to come to its aid and fight for the mother country.

I can imagine those black and ethnic minority soldiers who fought for this country, genuinely thinking they were amongst brothers. But after the conflict was over, they were met with a society with a unerring passion for the rhetoric of Enoch Powell.

Fast forward to 2020, could it be that when many of the British public whooped and hollered on the nations’ front lawns, they were only cheering for the white doctors, nurses, hospital staff and carers.

Fifty years on, we are still giving out the message that the black family is not welcome in Brittan.

Enoch Powell warned that his speech would fizz like a rocket and true to his prediction it has shaped the minds of post war Britain ever since.

It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid.

Yes there is, but it depends on your level of privilege and social standing.

You see as the nights draw in and the autumnal chill fills the air we look around us and, and much like John Snow from Game of Thrones we utter in dimly lit corners that “winter is coming”.

As the season of glad tidings approaches many of us gather to celebrate the birth of a child of colour. A child born to a  family with skin as dark as his own, in a country who still to this day, have a high population of people with dark skin trying to find a place to be welcomed.

So, as you tuck into your umpteenth mince pie and partake in the odd libation, please take a moment to consider this.

Somewhere not too far from you there is a black family who are clearing the table after a fine breakfast of akee and saltfish, green banana and fried plantain, hard dough bread, and bucks fizz. Later they will be playing charades and opening gifts, wetting their whistle with Guinness punch and sitting down for a most splendid Christmas meal.

Do they know it’s Christmas time…..?

Sure they do.

And it’s ok for Sainsbury’s to know it too.

Cliff celebrating Christmas with his family last year