My mother married my father in 1993, when I was seven, but left him a year later. One morning, we were in the car on the way to school when Mum said that she had something important to tell me: that she was in love with a woman.
It didn’t seem a big deal to me. Mum asked me if I understood what being gay meant. I said ‘yes’, and we carried on talking about what I was doing after school.
Mum has since admitted that, at the time, she wasn’t sure if I was too shocked to talk or if I was really as nonchalant as I seemed. But I know for sure the latter is true. At eight, I just accepted the situation as it was.
As an only child, I stayed with my father while Mum moved in with her new partner, then I joined them a few weeks later. My father (who passed away three years ago) wasn’t one to talk about emotions, and it took him some time to accept Mum’s new life. I remember him cutting Mum’s partner’s face out of all their wedding photos, which she had been invited to as a work colleague of my mother. But after the initial shock, my parents managed to remain friends, and they didn’t officially divorce until I was 18.
Despite my own acceptance, I didn’t tell any of my friends. They just thought Mum lived with a friend. At first, my grandparents on my mum’s side were the only other people who knew, and although they were understanding in private, they didn’t tell family or friends until years later. While frustrating at the time, my mother and I can both now see it from their point of view: they were born in a very different era.
I didn’t always get on with my mum’s first partner, but a few years later Mum met Mandy (whom she’s now been with for 18 years), and we bonded from the start. Life at home became easier, but as I hit my teenage years, outside it got harder. I was at an all-girls Catholic school, where the word ‘lesbian’ was thrown around as an insult. When friends came to stay, Mandy would sleep in the spare room, and I only revealed the truth to friends I could trust.
In the final year of school, my friend’s brother told everyone that my mum was a lesbian. It was hurtful to be whispered about behind my back, but the repercussions I had dreaded with teachers and friends didn’t happen. In the end, he did me a favour. From that moment on, when asked anything about my parents, my answer has been a simple, ‘I have two mums.’
When I began dating guys, I decided I would always be open, although not necessarily on the first date. I’ve had some creepy responses, in a ‘can I watch?’ sort of way. Needless to say, those relationships never went any further.