This story was found with the help of Diversity Role Models which actively seeks to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in UK schools.
My name is Tony and I’m from North London.
Growing up in a Caribbean family was quite challenging. The messages you got were that, it wasn’t okay to be gay. Black people are not gay, it’s a white people thing. So it made me coming out really not happen for me, as smoothly as I thought. It took me to run away to kind of get the opportunity to discover myself. But until then, I had a very strict dad from Jamaica and I guess also there was the expectation of who I was going to be and who I was going to become. It was quite difficult for me and the way I chose to manage that, having discovered that I was gay, was to run away.
I met some Caribbean women, who were powerful women who really looked after me, took me under their wing. It helped that I was younger than them. They really helped me to kind of be who I wanted to be and told me it was okay and in fact one of them I actually, because I was in such denial, I tried to date. And it didn’t quite work out, thankfully.
Telling my grandmother was very tough. But actually she accepted it and was really happy for me to kind of be who I wanted to be. And very much, it’s her, the relationship I had with her was very much, it made me today. My partner Edward, he often says to me, “You are your grandmother.”
It’s not so much the conversations that I had with Edward about him wanting to be a father. It’s just his presence. The way he was with his nephews, the way he was with my nieces and nephews, the things he would say, and he came out really late. I came out young but he came out really late, and he was held back because of the feeling that he wanted to be a father and the days we were growing up, gay bars were still boarded up. Gay men weren’t to have children. So we started talking about it and doing it, we got to a point where we were having lots of flash holidays and disposable incomes, we wanted to do something different. And actually having children was always a part of our general and natural progression for us. Four years ago we did it.
When we went to adopt, we wanted to have children who identified with us. So essentially we were looking for mixed-race siblings. And that was, we were quite open to the gender, but they had to be mixed race. And actually we were really fortunate to, through our adoption service, they assessed us but they also assessed our children and introduced our boys to us, who are mixed race and white. And that really, really was a talking point for us. Particularly for me because I was going to be the stay-at-home parent. And having this blonde white baby, pushing a push jet was kind of not really what I had planned for my future. But actually, the match, it was a perfect match in hindsight, these little boys.
I remember one time I was on the bus with my son. And if you see us, we interact very raw and this grandmother, this Caribbean grandmother was looking at us on the bus with a bit of a curiosity and a bit of kind of, “How sweet.” But it got too much for her, she had to ask the, what is the situation, and I can’t remember exactly how she phrased it. She might have kind of said, “So is he yours?” or something like that.
And I said, “Yes, he was.”
And she just kind of nodded, acknowledging nod, still curious, didn’t go any further. But for me, I prefer people to ask the question. People wonder, people want to know your story.
I often take in Jayden, my youngest son, to play groups. I often, is the only, I am the only, I was the only man. I’m still the only black man and I can probably guarantee I’m the only gay in the village too. You have to kind of embrace your situation and use it as a strength and not a negative and having a son, which is what I wanted and he happens to be white, big deal, let’s get on with it.
The world is changing. But it’s probably not changing fast enough. My children have two dads. And I want, I want it to be right for them to have two dads. I feel so normal. I take my kids to school, I pick them up, I tell them off. We have such a normal life. My strict Caribbean dad from Jamaica ringed me up and talked to my husband and tell, say, “Oh, I’m just ringing to see how everybody is and say hi.”
Now it’s just normal. My two kids and my dog and my husband.