Janet's Story

My son was born in 1992. He is my first child and has always been a happy, sociable person. In 1996 we had a daughter and both children have always got along well. Although we would find our son playing with his sister’s Barbie dolls on his own, it never occurred to us to worry about this. He showed an aptitude for acting and drama from a very early age and much of the play seemed to involve role play especially when the Action Men were drafted in too.

At the age of eleven in 2004, he went to high school. There had been some bullying on the school bus from a group of boys who had been at the same primary school but as we had been members of a karate club as a family since 2002, he was able to deal with some of the more physical bullying competently and it stopped.

In Year 9, his previously unblemished academic progress in science seemed to take a small dip and he seemed uneasy but I assumed this was simply part of being a developing teenager. I assured him we would do everything to support him and was prepared to talk to the teacher about it if he wanted me to.

In December 2006, two of my friends asked me to meet them for coffee. One told me that her daughter, a friend of my son’s since they were two years old, had left her computer on with my son’s facebook details on the screen. His sexual orientation was shown. She contacted the other friend and they discussed whether to tell me or not. The second friend has a son who was part of the group of boys who carried out some of the bullying on the school bus. At first I was upset and worried for my son and his future but soon regained my equilibrium when I reminded myself that his lifelong renal problems were far more important.

Once I returned home and discussed what I had learned with my husband and our son, we immediately reassured him that his sexuality was accepted by us as part of who he is and it made no difference to either of us. Nonetheless, we needed time to adjust to this new knowledge and I sought help via the Manchester Parents Group.

After one meeting I quickly realised that he would be fine – other parents were reassuring and so supportive. My husband and I met at university in London in 1978 when LGBT campaigners were fighting hard for things young gay people now take for granted. We had long held the view that people should not be discriminated against on grounds of race or sexuality and it was time to put our principles into practice.

Indeed, after that initial session in February 2007, I continued to attend the monthly meetings of the Manchester Parents Group and became a Committee Member because I wanted to help other families. I continue to have involvement in the work of the group, supporting parents and dealing with political issues which affect us.

His sister is equally accepting as are our families and friends. Only one friend was hostile initially but he is slowly being obliged to adjust his attitudes to many issues.

My son has grown up as a confident teenager with good social skills, a broad friendship group, the respect of his teachers and a good academic record. His time at school has largely been a very positive experience. He is a very fortunate young person.

I am aware that being accepted within the family has contributed to his wellbeing, but I am also convinced that a large part has been played by the school’s ethos and the anti-bullying programme which existed as he started school there in 2004. Had this not been in place, his experience of school could have been very different indeed.

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