Hello, my name is Taisce and I was raised by a pair of beautiful lesbian mums.
I am writing this because I was recently made aware that people were interested in where I stand on the debate concerning the upcoming referendum. It utterly shocked me to realise that some people would be unsure whether or nor I was in favour of a referendum to ensure that gay people are recognised as equal by law. Of course I am.
I am currently away travelling, so thankfully have been spared much of what appears to be a pretty distasteful debate back home. For me the issue in question is one of equality. Are homosexual people equal to heterosexual people? Of course they are. Should they be treated equally by the law? Of course they should. The more equal a society is, the happier and healthier it is.
Much of the debate seems to be centering on gay people’s suitability to raise children. I don’t think this is the core issue in question, however as others seem to I would like to share my experiences growing up with lesbian mothers.
Before I begin I want to acknowledge the limits of this piece. It is just my story, it is a happy story, but it is just one person’s experience. I’m sure there are stories where gay parents have failed their duties as parents, just as there are countless instances of straight parents failing their children. So my story is admittedly inherently limited in it’s scope, I just hope that it might be enough to make some people stop and consider what really matters when considering a person’s or a couple’s suitability as parents, and to help them realise that it has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality or gender.
I grew up in an environment of abundant love, this makes it impossible to feel like I could possibly have lacked for anything. Love is the key element in a child’s development, food and shelter are obviously needed too, but if a child is unconditionally loved it will thrive.
My immediate family consisted of me, my biological mum, my other mum, and my two brothers (who are from my other mum’s previous marriage). My biological father was a sperm donor whom I know nothing about and I’m pretty sure knows nothing of me. It can be quite confusing for people, but I managed to figure it out pretty quickly.
Aside from my mothers’ sexuality we are a pretty normal family. Of my childhood I remember mainly joy, laughter, and happiness. Naturally I also remember some tears and fights, but these were much much less frequent. I remember watching Star Trek and the A-Team together. I remember music evenings where friends and family would come together to celebrate life (while I ran around in a frenzy demanding attention). I remember tickle fights with my brothers. I remember my mums reading me stories together as I fell asleep. These are all admittedly viewed through the gold-tinted glasses of nostalgia for one’s childhood, but on an objective level also, it was totally awesome.
The no-campaign are citing a child’s need for both a mother and a father as a main reason to vote no. I never had a father and I don’t feel like it affected me in any negative way, so I utterly refute this claim. What children need during their development are positive role models who will provide them with all the love and support they need in finding their way in life. The gender and sexual orientation of these role models is entirely irrelevant.
While I don’t have a father, I did grow up with some wonderful male role models, and I feel like this would always be the case. Children with same sex parents will always find role models in their lives from the opposite sex. I was extremely close with my two older brothers, their father and my uncle. I also found many other male role models along the way, family friends, teachers, football coaches and Captain Planet. that being said it was my mums who between them helped me to figure out shaving, were the biggest fans of my football career (even if they never did understand the offside rule), and gave me increasingly cringe inducing sex-talks throughout my my puberty and adolescence.
I grew up surrounded by many gay people and I had a great time. I think gay people are amazing, I mean they are exactly the same as everybody else, but I feel that because society has generally forced them at some point to stop and really consider who and what they are, that they often have an added depth or wisdom. This is an invaluable asset to any would-be parent. Is life not all about discovering who we are and where we fit into this crazy world. To have a parent who has been forced to face these issues head on is an amazing resource for any child finding it’s way.
People wonder whether it’s difficult for a child from a gay household with regards to their peers. Yes, it can be, especially during the phase when all you want to do is fit in. But, I remember being teased much more for having an English accent or for being chubby, kids will always find something if they want to. To be honest I think for the most part my peers were too scared to bring up my lesbian parents, it was probably so alien to most of them that they considered it out-of-bounds or taboo. I do recall somebody wittily changing my name from Taisce Gillespie to Taisce Gay-lesbian, classic schoolboy stuff, but that was as a rarity and as bad as it got. Ultimately we all have to come to terms with where we come from and the things that make us different, and now it’s a great conversation piece. Besides this cannot be an argument against same sex marriage, but rather for ensuring we properly educate our youth about equality.
A bigger issue has been the numerous adults that have described my family as dysfunctional. None of these people had ever seen my family closely enough, or at all, to make a judgement on whether or not, or how well we function, but this didn’t stop them. It is this narrow-mindedness that leads people to confuse unconventional with dysfunctional that on may 22nd we have a wonderful opportunity to leave behind and make real progress as a nation.
The no-campaign would have you believe that if the referendum passes that babies will suddenly be dispatched to every gay couple who fancies giving parenthood a whirl. This is false. For straight couples today the adoption process is an arduous drawn out process. This won’t change, the thorough vetting procedure will rightly remain in place to ensure that any potential adoptive parents will be able to provide a suitable home to raise a child. All that will change is that a large sub-set of our society wont be automatically disqualified on the basis of their sexuality, something which has no relevance to one’s suitability as a parent. Unfortunately the attitude of society forced my parents to suffer incredible abuse and difficulties simply because they wanted to provide a loving home to a child they could cherish. I was incredibly lucky to be that child and be raised by two beautiful human beings who provided me with all the love and everything else that I needed in order to flourish in life. The situation as it stands is wrong and needs to change. There are so many gay couples out there that are desperate to provide similar loving homes to children and there is absolutely no reason that they should not be allowed to do so. If my mother’s didn’t struggle to find a way to create and raise a child 26 years ago I would not be here today, I find it tragic to think of all the unborn babies who would be denied this same opportunity to grow up surrounded by love, if we fail to escape this antiquated and bigoted way of thinking.
I wont try and justify myself or my upbringing by listing my achievements in life. My mothers raised me with strong values revolving around love, compassion and understanding that I do my best to live by. They made me the person I am today, and I can honestly say that I am very happy with who I am (though of course this has taken a lot of work), what greater achievement can there be in life?
Our country prides itself on maintaining our traditions and culture, this is a beautiful and increasingly rare thing in today’s globalising world. However we must be careful, just because we have long standing rules and social norms does not automatically justify them,when considering what moulds our society everything must be held up for intense scrutiny and debate. For centuries now there has been a global shift towards equality, whether it concerns race, religion, gender or sexuality. The tide has turned and these trends will continue. Ireland now has a wonderful and unique opportunity to make history, to be a shining example of progressive-thinking, love and compassion, for the world to follow.
Please, if you are considering voting no, stop and truly consider why? Why do you think that gay people deserve to be treated differently to you? Do you really think that they are an unequal member of society? Please try and recognise the scare tactics of the no-campaign for what they are, out-of date, backward, and entirely baseless, not to mention embarrassing. As a child raised my gay parents I can tell you that it was the same as your childhood in every way that matters.
Please, if you are considering voting yes, make sure you do. There is a large proportion of the population who cling to traditional values with a blind and fervent fundamentalism and they will definitely vote. We need to make sure that everyone who can gets to the polling booth and helps move Ireland forward.
I will end by stressing the point that what matters in a parent is not their sexual orientation, nor their gender. What truly matters is their capacity to love a child unconditionally, to play with them, to cuddle them, to put them before all else and to trust them. These are all things my parents did for me. They are all things that in no way are affected by one’s sexuality. I mention love repeatedly throughout this piece, and that is because it is the all important factor, I am going to unashamedly finish with a cliché because it couldn’t be more apt or true. All you need is love.
Come on Ireland let’s send a powerful message of positivity to the world, let’s be the trailblazer for equality. Let’s generate love, compassion and tolerance in our society. Unfortunately I wont be able to vote so I urge anybody who knows me or my family, or has been touched in any way by this article to be my yes vote.