COMING OUT DAY - Nicky (Parent)
My name is Nicky, and I am single Mum to two teenage daughters; Erin and Niamh who are 15 and 19 years old. I am currently the Head of ER and Reward but have held a number of roles since joining the police since joining Strathclyde Police in 2010.
I always wondered why Erin never seemed to rant about the hot boy in the class the way I did when I was young, but I spoke with my sisters a lot about matters like this rather than my parents, so assumed she just didn’t want to express those embarrassing sentiments to her Mum. I did think it was a little strange that no name ever entered the fray, so when she did come out, the penny landed and it all made sense.
Erin was around 12 when she outlined to me that she felt she was not heterosexual. Erin is an analyser and I suspect she put a great deal of thought into how she would broach the discussion with me. I felt she was still trying to work out herself what this meant for her. Erin never doubted before the conversation that I would be supportive of who she is. We are a very open family and we talk about everything, there is no subject that isn’t worth exploring. Erin told her Dad and other members of the family in the following years.
When Erin came out I was worried for her. Being in the police you are conscious of hate crime more than I think the average member of the public is. I did worry that she may be subject to persecution as a result of her sexuality. Unfortunately, I wasn’t wrong! Erin started to date a Muslim girl of Asian origin. She would come home and tell me of instances where people in the community would discriminate against them.
One incident that upset me was when she came home and told me that a car window had been rolled down and homophobic verbal abuse shouted at them both, while cans of juice were thrown out of the car in an attempt to hit them. I knew that I would never have suffered this response for walking down the street holding someone’s hand as a heterosexual individual; this attack was a response to her sexuality. I found this very difficult as a mother to except. I was equally very proud of how my daughter and her girlfriend managed this; they were never deterred from being their authentic selves. I think it takes guts to be authentic when you are subject to these incidents. I think Erin’s girlfriend taught her a lot about being authentic in the face of discrimination. Her girlfriend’s background meant she was sometimes subject to racial abuse within the community because of her heritage, although she is second generation British she would be stopped by strangers in the street and told to ‘go home’ – when she was in the only home she, her parents and siblings, had every known! I think to continue to be authentic in such circumstances is extremely difficult. What I learned from these experiences was how simple my life was in comparison to theirs; I also know that while I can be an ally for the LGBTI community, I cannot appreciate the stresses that the LGBTI community experience as a result of discrimination. I know that the vast majority of people in our community do not openly discriminate, and these incidents are not an everyday occurrence, but I am ashamed that they happen at all in our community.
I also worry about other aspects of life for Erin, not just about discrimination. Erin is maternal and I suspect she will want a family at some point, I know that this will be a more difficult process for her to achieve than it was for me. I know that in the past years members of the LGBTI community have sought to change this, and it reassures me when I see colleagues who are LGBTI with full family lives, as it gives me hope that Erin can have the same.
As a mother of a lesbian daughter my eyes have been opened to challenges that I knew existed, but that I didn’t appreciate were as prevalent as they are.
My relationship with Erin has not changed since she came out. We are very close, and that closeness has never, and (hopefully) will never change. I have always felt my children were gifts to me that I wouldn’t change, they are very different and I value them for themselves, so I didn’t feel that Erin being gay changed anything and I told her so. I think she appreciated that is the way I would feel, and that nothing would change in how I feel about her, and so I don’t think either of us would change anything about us. I think I would probably have given more thought to how Erin wanted to come out in the wider family if I could go back and revisit that. I feel that I didn’t think about it, and with hindsight, I would have wanted to support her more – although, she handled it all on her terms, and I am proud of that!
If I were to offer any advice to a parent who finds themselves in the position I was I would encourage you to consider this, your child hasn’t changed, but the world around them needs to. Ensure you are their advocate, and ask them what they need from you. I didn’t do this as much as I now wish I had. Erin is self-sufficient so it isn’t always obvious when she needs it, so asking this more often would probably have been a good idea