This is what it’s really like growing up with gay parents

People project their wild theories onto you about how you were conceived

I was raised by gay parents, but it wasn’t really something I registered as a thing until I got to around 11 years old when kids started to get mean and teenage shame started to wander in.

Overnight, I suddenly became acutely aware of how different my family looked to everyone else’s, but since then I’ve increasingly viewed that difference as a positive.

When I was at school, I didn’t know anyone else who grew up in a family with gay parents. Now, same-sex families are rapidly becoming more and more common.

Between 2015 and 2o18, the number of same-sex parent families rose by 53.2 per cent from 152,000 to 232,000. While that’s only just over one per cent of families in the UK, it’s still good to see families with gay parents becoming more normalised.

This is my experience of growing up with gay parents:

It deconstructs the whole idea of what family is

If someone asked, I would say I have two mums and two dads, but the reality is a bit different to that.

My mum and her now-ex-partner are my main parents, and when I was at school I lived half the time between their two houses. I then saw my dad and his husband on the weekend. My mum also has had a new partner for ages now.

So, rather than having just two parents, there was actually a collection of different adults who performed different roles during my upbringing, affecting who I am today in different ways.

Gay families deconstruct the idea of a conventional heterosexual family and no two gay families probably look the same.

You learn that gender roles are less fixed

Everyone within the various households that comprise my family tend to do a bit of everything. There’s no suggestion of “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs.”

Growing up, my mums took me to the football while my dad took me shopping.

I suppose it teaches you from a pretty early age that there’s no one way of being in accordance with your gender, and it opens up the possibility that you can do anything you want.

You become acutely aware of everyday homophobia

From the end of primary school right through to sixth form, I experienced a fair bit of homophobia based on the sexuality of my parents.

This would come in the slightly milder form of kids calling stuff they didn’t like “gay”, or in overt abusive comments often sexualising my parents. Looking back, shows like The Inbetweeners must have had such a large role to play in normalising homophobia at school.

And I definitely went through a few stages in dealing with it. The first was to call it out all the time and try to get teachers to do stuff about it. But this didn’t work. Certainly, when I was at school homophobia was taken nowhere near as seriously as racism for instance.

After that, my response became just to come up with comebacks and sort of fight it with humour, but that just led to more comments. Eventually I just learned to ignore it and as people matured a bit, it slowly fizzled out.

The relentless insistence of teachers to make you do family trees was a nightmare

Why did we have to do so many family trees? Especially in different languages. I could barely work it out in English.

There were other little bits about school that made me aware my parents were different to those of my classmates.

I always used to get stared at during Parents’ Evening. At least, it felt that way. It got to the point where I started only letting one parent come at a time.

Obviously, I’m not proud of this in hindsight, but I suppose the culture of homophobia inevitably resulted in some level of embarrassment on my part.

It enables you to consider more possibilities for your own sexuality

It’s probably quite an obvious one but, because you see functioning relationships that differ to your bog-standard straight ones, it opens you up to the possibility of considering different types of relationships for yourself.

There is something confusing psychologically about learning at home that gay relationships are okay and then being told everyday at school that they are something to be laughed at or in some way not as serious as straight ones.

Whatever people said at school didn’t really stop me from viewing gay relationships positively and I was still open to exploring my own sexuality.

People project their wild theories onto you about how you were conceived

As soon as I tell someone I have gay parents I can literally see their head spinning. It used to be the case more at school, but quite often people still ask me how I was conceived.

Sometimes people won’t even ask, but will instead just pose a theory like: “So was it a moment of madness?” A lot of the time, they assume my parents were straight when they had me and then “became” gay after.

Unfortunately it’s not that exciting. All I’ll say is that there is no way I wasn’t planned x.

It becomes something that people are really interested in

The times when I encounter homophobia now tend to be outside of the uni bubble. I overhear casual homophobic remarks when I play football, for instance.

But within my friendship group and in regards to the new people I meet, they now just tend to be really curious about how it all works.

I’ve told people about my upbringing so many times and to be honest, I find it a bit dull. Sometimes I outsource the work to my mates and then just run with whatever story they fancy.

I’m really proud of my parents

Any child will go through periods of feeling embarrassed about their parents, but I feel it may have been slightly heightened for me given the culture of homophobia at school.

Regardless, I’m now immensely proud of all them. I can’t even begin to comprehend what it might have been like being young gay professionals back in the 80s and 90s and then deciding to have kids when there was virtually no precedent for this at all.

They’re all amazing role models and I’m immensely lucky to have them as my parents.

The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.

If you or someone you know has been affected by this story you can contact Switchboard, the LGBTQ+ helpline, on 0300 330 0630 or visit their website. You can also find help through The Mix

If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]

Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:

• ‘They tried to pray the gay away’: Growing up gay in a deeply religious household

• I’m out as bisexual at uni but still haven’t told any of my family

• Young trans people on their experiences of transitioning