Growing up with gay dads: LGBTQ rights past, present and future - Sophie Mei Lan
My dad never had to ‘come out’ to me as gay – as a kid I just accepted it.
The beauty of young children is that they are born with open minds, and unconditional love is all they need to thrive.
I was only three and my sister five when my parents broke up and my dad started living with a man. It’s society that feeds prejudice and intolerance.
When I started school, I started to ‘filter’ our private lives, I somehow knew that my world was not the acceptable norm. It was for this reason that my dad’s partner became our ‘lodger’.
The only thing was that lying about love was so alien to me. I was bullied, had my coat burnt and taunting language used in the playground was often homophobic.
It’s just one of the reasons why we need Pride Month every June. We all need to march side-by-side as we celebrate, remember and campaign for a better future.
Nowadays, things appear to have progressed but only marginally so – I just find it’s more behind closed doors.
So since my kids were babies, I’ve been taking them on Gay Pride marches with my dad and his husband.
While in their world it’s just a fun and flamboyant day out with their ‘grandpopsies’, for me, it’s vital that they understand the fight for equal rights as young as possible. I want them to have the strength and knowledge to be who they are now and as they grow up – regardless of their race, sexuality, gender or anything else.
My dad, Steve, remembers how he witnessed prejudice from a young age as his own father ranted at the television whenever camp celebrities such as Larry Grayson, Kenneth Williams and John Inman appeared on screen. There were also lurid stories in newspapers about the arrests of men caught looking for sexual encounters in public toilets and warnings from family members about the dangers of those men, with their behaviour being equated to that of paedophiles.
He says: “Growing up in such a world, where hatred of homosexuality abounded, where gay men in particular were vilified and seen as deviant and predatory, was not the best environment in which to develop a heathy attitude to one’s sexuality. And lesbians were not entirely immune to this vitriol and negativity – that’s when their ability to have meaningful sexual relationships was even acknowledged.”
The internet has in some way helped by creating a space for LGBTQ+ TikTok and YouTube figures such as James Charles, who my daughters adores. And thankfully there doesn’t seem to be as much discrimination around sexuality now.
But the world needs to understand, campaign and learn lessons from history so that everyone recognises this hasn’t always been the case – and that there are still a lot of people who don’t have open minds. You only have to read recent comments section below any online newspapers on Pride to see why we need to campaign. The pandemic has also had a haemorrhaging hit on LGBTQ+ communities.
Let’s strive to lift lockdowns on values now.
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