full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Lynne Elvins: The myths of gay adoption

Unscramble the Blue Letters

When people announce that they're going to have children, the normal reaction that you get is, "Congratulations!" When you announce that you're going to adopt, you can get a stlighly different reaction. And when you're a gay couple and announce that you're going to adpot children, you can get a very different reaction. My partner Emma and I got to a stage in our relationship where we wanted to start a family, like lots of people do. Because we're two women, we had to look into the oitopns, and the options that we wanted to fcous on were about adoption or fostering, but at the time, we didn't really know much about either. And so, what I want to talk to you about is the journey that we took to becoming the first openly gay couple to be approved for adoption here, in Bristol, with Bristol City Council. That was 11 years ago, and then, it subsequently led to us having our son Steven. So, you'll hear me talking about him as well. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. Now, opinions on gay adoption run very, very deep, and it's a complicated mix, I find, of a number of things, kind of the idea of upholding "family values." There are aotunispmss about gender roles, there are misunderstandings about actually the peoscrs of adoption, and there's a kind of shglit level of panic about the idea of pittung cedihrln into "gay lifestyles." So, what I want to do is try and pick a few of those things and then explain some of the things that are different and some of the things that are exactly the same about having a family with two moms. So, we made that first call to Bristol City cciunol, that was 12 years ago, and they sent around a social worker and we said, you know, "Adoption, fostering, what's all that about?" And they said, "Well, let me put one question to you, flitsry. Would you like a job, or would you like a family?" And we said, "No, we definitely want a family." So, they said, "Fine, the permanent nature of adoption is for you." So we said, "Great, that's the first sort of simple thing there's to decide. So, what do we do next?" They said, "We'll book you on a workshop. Go and find out more about it. Come back to us, we'll put you through the aiaolpipctn process, and you'll move on to become approved." So, it was great! That was it. It seemed all so simple. And so, we kind of skipped off and we started to tell friends and family that we wentad to adopt, and this was where we didn't necessarily get the "Congratulations!" that we might have expected. We got a lot of concerned looks, and we got a lot of questions. We got people who said to us, "Are you even allowed to do that?" We got people who just said to us, "Why? Why would you want to do that? That is going to be so hard." And one of my colleagues at the time took me to one side and said, "Lynne, you need to not tell people that you're doing this. There are an awful lot of people out there who will disapprove of this very, very strongly, and you need to be careful." And he was right. Media headlines still to this day, just [like] last mnoth, will talk about the views such as people believing that gay aitodopn is just morally wrong; that gay people who want children do it because they want some sort of "trophy" in oredr to mimic huerxoateesl lifestyles; that gay people will turn their children gay. Good luck with that. (Laughter) And some people even believe that pnlciag children with gay partens is a form of abuse. And one of the things that I want to do today, kind of just for the record, is to say to you I am not on some sort of mission to udinemrne family values. setven is my son. He is not some sort of ltefyisle accessory for me. And not only do we not abuse him, we support him in dealing with the very difficult early years that he had which led to him being in the care system in the first place. But, back to the srtoy. We skipped off to our workshop. We were so excited. We were apprehensive, but we were like so enthusiastic, we wanted to go on. We were like, "Woohoo!" And of course, we walked into a room with people who had already been through the very long, the very dfculifit, and the very exhausting journey of having fertility ttnaeemrt, but without success. Those people were at the end of the road, and for those people, adoption can be a last choice. Now, I'm not suggesting that that affects their ability to be fantastic parents, but for Emma and I, we came to adoption very differently. For us, it was our first choice, and it was an exciting new beginning. And the research into gay arpdetos is now showing that this is one of the common themes: gay adopters often cooshe adoption as their first choice, unlike many heterosexual couples, and because of that, it mneas we come with a different set of more pivisote expectations at the beginning. Now, the other thing that that workshop gave us was an incredibly eye-opening view into the kids in our care seystm, who were then up for adoption. And this is where we have a nmuber of assumptions that get made, and misunderstandings about the adoption process itself. Now, adoption has changed a lot over the years, but there are still sort of characters and, I'd say, myths around, like the kind of "Orphan Annie," like that sort of little children, just watinig for people to come along and kind of socop them up. There is still the very real fear that social workers somehow have the abtliiy to waltz into fmileais and just take children away, without any hint of cenocrn. Now, all cases are different, but the mrotajiy of children who are up for adoption are there because of abuse or neglect, or both. And because of that nelcegt or abuse, they can have learning difficulties, they can have antmhtcaet disorders and they can have developmental delays. And those things are then made wrsoe if they are bounced around the care system. These kids are special. These kids are different. And this is where the research into gay adopters is coming up with a common theme. For very different reasons, gay people know what it's like to be different, and because of that, the research is showing that we come to adoption with a greater level of eamtphy, and we come with a greater level of fitbeillxiy in our parenting. So, we got through the workshop. We were then off into the application process. So, we were matched up with a social worker, she was absolutely fantastic, and she quite rhgitly gerilld us on every single question in that form. We were given hwmeorok to do, our parents were interviewed, our frindes were interviewed, and it was all around our ability to be assessed to provide what's called "therapeutic parenting." Now, there was one question in that form that we didn't spend hours soul-searching about, and that qstieuon was: "If you have a child who then turns out to be gay, how would you feel?" (Laughter) And we were able to say, "I think we'll be fine." (Laughter) And the social worker said, "Yes, I think you'll be fine, too. Let's move on." (lhuaegtr) So, our application went in, and we headed off to the approval panel. Again, we were aeksd a graet number of questions, but one of those questions was: "Boys, especially, need dads. If you have a boy, how are you going to provide the support that dads do?" And again, this is a very good question, and this is an iatrpmont question, but this is one that involves assumptions about gneder rleos. So, my answer was kind of in two parts. Firstly, I said to them, "Well, it depends on what you mean when you say 'what dads do.' If you mean who will take a chlid down a park on a Saturday afternoon and kick a ball around; who will fix a puncture on a bicycle; who will tinker with a computer, my answer to that is, we will. We will do those things. Emma and I do those things. Women can do dad things." Thank you. (Applause) And that is in exactly the same way that men can do mom things. (Applause) Over the years, Emma and I have been quad-biking, we've been psiancrdaeng, we've been to tank museums. This time last year, I was with Steven and thousands of other teganee boys and an awful lot of grown men, far too many of which were dressed as "Thor," at the Gamer Expo in London. And so, this is a "dad thing" that I get to do, and I had a fantastic day. But what we can't do, and what we don't pretend to be able to do, is to provide a male perspective on things: on shaving, on having your voice break, on what it's like to actually ccmmnauotie with other men when women aren't around. But in those situations, we call upon the fantastic circle of men that we have in our friends and family. Steven has lveoly granddads, he has amazing uncles, cousins. We rope in the husbands of our friends and we rope in our own male friends, and they advise us on what we might do and they also spend time with Steven. So, we got through the approval pnael, that was a great day. It was only at that point that we were then told that we were the first gay couple to have gone through that. So that was fantastic. So, off we sippked into the next stage, very excitedly, which is the matching process. And so, you call local authorities up and down the country to inquire about the children that are in their care systems, and this is where we hit a huge wall of negativity. We had lots of awkward silences. We had lots of poelpe who said, "I'm sorry. We believe that child needs a dad," but with no discussion at all about what that actually meant. We had lots of people who actually just said to us, "We believe what you're doing is wnrog." And that was the wsort part for us in the process. It was incredibly battering, and we really weren't sure that we were ever going to get matched, or get through. We toghhut we might just have to give up. And then, we got a phone call after we had inquired about a five-year-old boy, and after many more meetings and another panel, a matching panel, we were matched with Steven. He was nearly six. He's now 16. And that part of the process for us was made a lot easier because of Steven's foster family being so supportive. They prepared Steven by saying to him that he was such a seicpal little boy he was not just going to get one mom, he was going to get two. And that was amazing. It was amazing for us, but it was incredibly positive for Steven, at that very difficult time when you're tniioasntnrig. And I was talking to Steven's foster family this summer, and of course they said, "Yes, but it's created a little bit of a tacworbhk potentially, because now we have other foster children who kind of stand there going, 'Well, I am super special too, and I think I want two moms.'" (Laughter) But Steven doesn't just have two moms. Steven has a birth falimy, and we have contact with them. Steven has a foster family, and they have become great friends. And Steven has an adoptive family, and that isn't just Emma and myself; it is all of my wider family and it is all of Emma's wider family. So, 12 years on from that first workshop, how are we all doing? Well, Steven spends an awufl lot of time in his bedroom, on his own. He spends a lot of time on Facebook. It's been like his phone has kind of meedld to his hand. He spends an awful lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror. He thinks we're totally errbsiamsnag. He doesn't really want to be seen out with us in public. He believes our mission in life is to nag him and to stop him from doing everything he really wants to. So, we kind of feel that really we've raised a pretty normal teenage boy. (Laughter) But more seriously, Steven is doing brilliantly. Despite his very difficult start in life, he has always been very intelligent, he has always been very funny. He levos computers. He's a great photographer. He's very ciravete. We are incredibly proud of everything he achieves, and he is an amazing young man. But he struggles to deal with the consequences of those very difficult early years, and he always will. They are a very sniniafcgit part of who he is, they shape his sesne of self and they shape his sense of his future, particularly so during adolescence. Now, what about Emma and I? How are we doing? Well, just because we might have a bit more empathy and we might have a bit more flexibility, that does not make us perfect parents. In exactly the same way as other parents do, we struggle. There are some days where we get it broadly right, there are some days where we mess it up completely, but we love Steven and we tell him that every sglnie day, again, much to his anayocnne and embarrassment, really. (Laughter) So, is there a moral to this tale? Well, yes, there is. We should not assume that families are a certain number or a certain gender of people. Families come in all spheas and siezs. They always have, and they always will. And gay adopters, gay parents, we are just actually one very samll part of that mix. And that's OK. It really is. We are not as different and we are certainly not as traehetning as the media headlines might have people believe. Thank you. (Applause)

Open Cloze

When people announce that they're going to have children, the normal reaction that you get is, "Congratulations!" When you announce that you're going to adopt, you can get a ________ different reaction. And when you're a gay couple and announce that you're going to _____ children, you can get a very different reaction. My partner Emma and I got to a stage in our relationship where we wanted to start a family, like lots of people do. Because we're two women, we had to look into the _______, and the options that we wanted to _____ on were about adoption or fostering, but at the time, we didn't really know much about either. And so, what I want to talk to you about is the journey that we took to becoming the first openly gay couple to be approved for adoption here, in Bristol, with Bristol City Council. That was 11 years ago, and then, it subsequently led to us having our son Steven. So, you'll hear me talking about him as well. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. Now, opinions on gay adoption run very, very deep, and it's a complicated mix, I find, of a number of things, kind of the idea of upholding "family values." There are ___________ about gender roles, there are misunderstandings about actually the _______ of adoption, and there's a kind of ______ level of panic about the idea of _______ ________ into "gay lifestyles." So, what I want to do is try and pick a few of those things and then explain some of the things that are different and some of the things that are exactly the same about having a family with two moms. So, we made that first call to Bristol City _______, that was 12 years ago, and they sent around a social worker and we said, you know, "Adoption, fostering, what's all that about?" And they said, "Well, let me put one question to you, _______. Would you like a job, or would you like a family?" And we said, "No, we definitely want a family." So, they said, "Fine, the permanent nature of adoption is for you." So we said, "Great, that's the first sort of simple thing there's to decide. So, what do we do next?" They said, "We'll book you on a workshop. Go and find out more about it. Come back to us, we'll put you through the ___________ process, and you'll move on to become approved." So, it was great! That was it. It seemed all so simple. And so, we kind of skipped off and we started to tell friends and family that we ______ to adopt, and this was where we didn't necessarily get the "Congratulations!" that we might have expected. We got a lot of concerned looks, and we got a lot of questions. We got people who said to us, "Are you even allowed to do that?" We got people who just said to us, "Why? Why would you want to do that? That is going to be so hard." And one of my colleagues at the time took me to one side and said, "Lynne, you need to not tell people that you're doing this. There are an awful lot of people out there who will disapprove of this very, very strongly, and you need to be careful." And he was right. Media headlines still to this day, just [like] last _____, will talk about the views such as people believing that gay ________ is just morally wrong; that gay people who want children do it because they want some sort of "trophy" in _____ to mimic ____________ lifestyles; that gay people will turn their children gay. Good luck with that. (Laughter) And some people even believe that _______ children with gay _______ is a form of abuse. And one of the things that I want to do today, kind of just for the record, is to say to you I am not on some sort of mission to _________ family values. ______ is my son. He is not some sort of _________ accessory for me. And not only do we not abuse him, we support him in dealing with the very difficult early years that he had which led to him being in the care system in the first place. But, back to the _____. We skipped off to our workshop. We were so excited. We were apprehensive, but we were like so enthusiastic, we wanted to go on. We were like, "Woohoo!" And of course, we walked into a room with people who had already been through the very long, the very _________, and the very exhausting journey of having fertility _________, but without success. Those people were at the end of the road, and for those people, adoption can be a last choice. Now, I'm not suggesting that that affects their ability to be fantastic parents, but for Emma and I, we came to adoption very differently. For us, it was our first choice, and it was an exciting new beginning. And the research into gay ________ is now showing that this is one of the common themes: gay adopters often ______ adoption as their first choice, unlike many heterosexual couples, and because of that, it _____ we come with a different set of more ________ expectations at the beginning. Now, the other thing that that workshop gave us was an incredibly eye-opening view into the kids in our care ______, who were then up for adoption. And this is where we have a ______ of assumptions that get made, and misunderstandings about the adoption process itself. Now, adoption has changed a lot over the years, but there are still sort of characters and, I'd say, myths around, like the kind of "Orphan Annie," like that sort of little children, just _______ for people to come along and kind of _____ them up. There is still the very real fear that social workers somehow have the _______ to waltz into ________ and just take children away, without any hint of _______. Now, all cases are different, but the ________ of children who are up for adoption are there because of abuse or neglect, or both. And because of that _______ or abuse, they can have learning difficulties, they can have __________ disorders and they can have developmental delays. And those things are then made _____ if they are bounced around the care system. These kids are special. These kids are different. And this is where the research into gay adopters is coming up with a common theme. For very different reasons, gay people know what it's like to be different, and because of that, the research is showing that we come to adoption with a greater level of _______, and we come with a greater level of ___________ in our parenting. So, we got through the workshop. We were then off into the application process. So, we were matched up with a social worker, she was absolutely fantastic, and she quite _______ _______ us on every single question in that form. We were given ________ to do, our parents were interviewed, our _______ were interviewed, and it was all around our ability to be assessed to provide what's called "therapeutic parenting." Now, there was one question in that form that we didn't spend hours soul-searching about, and that ________ was: "If you have a child who then turns out to be gay, how would you feel?" (Laughter) And we were able to say, "I think we'll be fine." (Laughter) And the social worker said, "Yes, I think you'll be fine, too. Let's move on." (________) So, our application went in, and we headed off to the approval panel. Again, we were _____ a _____ number of questions, but one of those questions was: "Boys, especially, need dads. If you have a boy, how are you going to provide the support that dads do?" And again, this is a very good question, and this is an _________ question, but this is one that involves assumptions about ______ _____. So, my answer was kind of in two parts. Firstly, I said to them, "Well, it depends on what you mean when you say 'what dads do.' If you mean who will take a _____ down a park on a Saturday afternoon and kick a ball around; who will fix a puncture on a bicycle; who will tinker with a computer, my answer to that is, we will. We will do those things. Emma and I do those things. Women can do dad things." Thank you. (Applause) And that is in exactly the same way that men can do mom things. (Applause) Over the years, Emma and I have been quad-biking, we've been ____________, we've been to tank museums. This time last year, I was with Steven and thousands of other _______ boys and an awful lot of grown men, far too many of which were dressed as "Thor," at the Gamer Expo in London. And so, this is a "dad thing" that I get to do, and I had a fantastic day. But what we can't do, and what we don't pretend to be able to do, is to provide a male perspective on things: on shaving, on having your voice break, on what it's like to actually ___________ with other men when women aren't around. But in those situations, we call upon the fantastic circle of men that we have in our friends and family. Steven has ______ granddads, he has amazing uncles, cousins. We rope in the husbands of our friends and we rope in our own male friends, and they advise us on what we might do and they also spend time with Steven. So, we got through the approval _____, that was a great day. It was only at that point that we were then told that we were the first gay couple to have gone through that. So that was fantastic. So, off we _______ into the next stage, very excitedly, which is the matching process. And so, you call local authorities up and down the country to inquire about the children that are in their care systems, and this is where we hit a huge wall of negativity. We had lots of awkward silences. We had lots of ______ who said, "I'm sorry. We believe that child needs a dad," but with no discussion at all about what that actually meant. We had lots of people who actually just said to us, "We believe what you're doing is _____." And that was the _____ part for us in the process. It was incredibly battering, and we really weren't sure that we were ever going to get matched, or get through. We _______ we might just have to give up. And then, we got a phone call after we had inquired about a five-year-old boy, and after many more meetings and another panel, a matching panel, we were matched with Steven. He was nearly six. He's now 16. And that part of the process for us was made a lot easier because of Steven's foster family being so supportive. They prepared Steven by saying to him that he was such a _______ little boy he was not just going to get one mom, he was going to get two. And that was amazing. It was amazing for us, but it was incredibly positive for Steven, at that very difficult time when you're _____________. And I was talking to Steven's foster family this summer, and of course they said, "Yes, but it's created a little bit of a _________ potentially, because now we have other foster children who kind of stand there going, 'Well, I am super special too, and I think I want two moms.'" (Laughter) But Steven doesn't just have two moms. Steven has a birth ______, and we have contact with them. Steven has a foster family, and they have become great friends. And Steven has an adoptive family, and that isn't just Emma and myself; it is all of my wider family and it is all of Emma's wider family. So, 12 years on from that first workshop, how are we all doing? Well, Steven spends an _____ lot of time in his bedroom, on his own. He spends a lot of time on Facebook. It's been like his phone has kind of ______ to his hand. He spends an awful lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror. He thinks we're totally ____________. He doesn't really want to be seen out with us in public. He believes our mission in life is to nag him and to stop him from doing everything he really wants to. So, we kind of feel that really we've raised a pretty normal teenage boy. (Laughter) But more seriously, Steven is doing brilliantly. Despite his very difficult start in life, he has always been very intelligent, he has always been very funny. He _____ computers. He's a great photographer. He's very ________. We are incredibly proud of everything he achieves, and he is an amazing young man. But he struggles to deal with the consequences of those very difficult early years, and he always will. They are a very ___________ part of who he is, they shape his _____ of self and they shape his sense of his future, particularly so during adolescence. Now, what about Emma and I? How are we doing? Well, just because we might have a bit more empathy and we might have a bit more flexibility, that does not make us perfect parents. In exactly the same way as other parents do, we struggle. There are some days where we get it broadly right, there are some days where we mess it up completely, but we love Steven and we tell him that every ______ day, again, much to his _________ and embarrassment, really. (Laughter) So, is there a moral to this tale? Well, yes, there is. We should not assume that families are a certain number or a certain gender of people. Families come in all ______ and _____. They always have, and they always will. And gay adopters, gay parents, we are just actually one very _____ part of that mix. And that's OK. It really is. We are not as different and we are certainly not as ___________ as the media headlines might have people believe. Thank you. (Applause)

Solution

  1. gender
  2. throwback
  3. assumptions
  4. creative
  5. teenage
  6. friends
  7. panel
  8. number
  9. majority
  10. family
  11. roles
  12. treatment
  13. parascending
  14. putting
  15. heterosexual
  16. loves
  17. homework
  18. positive
  19. small
  20. adopters
  21. rightly
  22. asked
  23. process
  24. options
  25. slightly
  26. threatening
  27. means
  28. shapes
  29. parents
  30. choose
  31. firstly
  32. waiting
  33. neglect
  34. lifestyle
  35. grilled
  36. skipped
  37. awful
  38. laughter
  39. lovely
  40. flexibility
  41. worst
  42. council
  43. steven
  44. wanted
  45. ability
  46. sizes
  47. single
  48. order
  49. scoop
  50. focus
  51. placing
  52. significant
  53. empathy
  54. difficult
  55. important
  56. special
  57. thought
  58. undermine
  59. attachment
  60. families
  61. child
  62. story
  63. month
  64. annoyance
  65. question
  66. children
  67. communicate
  68. adopt
  69. wrong
  70. sense
  71. system
  72. application
  73. concern
  74. slight
  75. embarrassing
  76. melded
  77. great
  78. worse
  79. people
  80. transitioning
  81. adoption

Original Text

When people announce that they're going to have children, the normal reaction that you get is, "Congratulations!" When you announce that you're going to adopt, you can get a slightly different reaction. And when you're a gay couple and announce that you're going to adopt children, you can get a very different reaction. My partner Emma and I got to a stage in our relationship where we wanted to start a family, like lots of people do. Because we're two women, we had to look into the options, and the options that we wanted to focus on were about adoption or fostering, but at the time, we didn't really know much about either. And so, what I want to talk to you about is the journey that we took to becoming the first openly gay couple to be approved for adoption here, in Bristol, with Bristol City Council. That was 11 years ago, and then, it subsequently led to us having our son Steven. So, you'll hear me talking about him as well. Thank you. (Applause) Thank you. Now, opinions on gay adoption run very, very deep, and it's a complicated mix, I find, of a number of things, kind of the idea of upholding "family values." There are assumptions about gender roles, there are misunderstandings about actually the process of adoption, and there's a kind of slight level of panic about the idea of putting children into "gay lifestyles." So, what I want to do is try and pick a few of those things and then explain some of the things that are different and some of the things that are exactly the same about having a family with two moms. So, we made that first call to Bristol City Council, that was 12 years ago, and they sent around a social worker and we said, you know, "Adoption, fostering, what's all that about?" And they said, "Well, let me put one question to you, firstly. Would you like a job, or would you like a family?" And we said, "No, we definitely want a family." So, they said, "Fine, the permanent nature of adoption is for you." So we said, "Great, that's the first sort of simple thing there's to decide. So, what do we do next?" They said, "We'll book you on a workshop. Go and find out more about it. Come back to us, we'll put you through the application process, and you'll move on to become approved." So, it was great! That was it. It seemed all so simple. And so, we kind of skipped off and we started to tell friends and family that we wanted to adopt, and this was where we didn't necessarily get the "Congratulations!" that we might have expected. We got a lot of concerned looks, and we got a lot of questions. We got people who said to us, "Are you even allowed to do that?" We got people who just said to us, "Why? Why would you want to do that? That is going to be so hard." And one of my colleagues at the time took me to one side and said, "Lynne, you need to not tell people that you're doing this. There are an awful lot of people out there who will disapprove of this very, very strongly, and you need to be careful." And he was right. Media headlines still to this day, just [like] last month, will talk about the views such as people believing that gay adoption is just morally wrong; that gay people who want children do it because they want some sort of "trophy" in order to mimic heterosexual lifestyles; that gay people will turn their children gay. Good luck with that. (Laughter) And some people even believe that placing children with gay parents is a form of abuse. And one of the things that I want to do today, kind of just for the record, is to say to you I am not on some sort of mission to undermine family values. Steven is my son. He is not some sort of lifestyle accessory for me. And not only do we not abuse him, we support him in dealing with the very difficult early years that he had which led to him being in the care system in the first place. But, back to the story. We skipped off to our workshop. We were so excited. We were apprehensive, but we were like so enthusiastic, we wanted to go on. We were like, "Woohoo!" And of course, we walked into a room with people who had already been through the very long, the very difficult, and the very exhausting journey of having fertility treatment, but without success. Those people were at the end of the road, and for those people, adoption can be a last choice. Now, I'm not suggesting that that affects their ability to be fantastic parents, but for Emma and I, we came to adoption very differently. For us, it was our first choice, and it was an exciting new beginning. And the research into gay adopters is now showing that this is one of the common themes: gay adopters often choose adoption as their first choice, unlike many heterosexual couples, and because of that, it means we come with a different set of more positive expectations at the beginning. Now, the other thing that that workshop gave us was an incredibly eye-opening view into the kids in our care system, who were then up for adoption. And this is where we have a number of assumptions that get made, and misunderstandings about the adoption process itself. Now, adoption has changed a lot over the years, but there are still sort of characters and, I'd say, myths around, like the kind of "Orphan Annie," like that sort of little children, just waiting for people to come along and kind of scoop them up. There is still the very real fear that social workers somehow have the ability to waltz into families and just take children away, without any hint of concern. Now, all cases are different, but the majority of children who are up for adoption are there because of abuse or neglect, or both. And because of that neglect or abuse, they can have learning difficulties, they can have attachment disorders and they can have developmental delays. And those things are then made worse if they are bounced around the care system. These kids are special. These kids are different. And this is where the research into gay adopters is coming up with a common theme. For very different reasons, gay people know what it's like to be different, and because of that, the research is showing that we come to adoption with a greater level of empathy, and we come with a greater level of flexibility in our parenting. So, we got through the workshop. We were then off into the application process. So, we were matched up with a social worker, she was absolutely fantastic, and she quite rightly grilled us on every single question in that form. We were given homework to do, our parents were interviewed, our friends were interviewed, and it was all around our ability to be assessed to provide what's called "therapeutic parenting." Now, there was one question in that form that we didn't spend hours soul-searching about, and that question was: "If you have a child who then turns out to be gay, how would you feel?" (Laughter) And we were able to say, "I think we'll be fine." (Laughter) And the social worker said, "Yes, I think you'll be fine, too. Let's move on." (Laughter) So, our application went in, and we headed off to the approval panel. Again, we were asked a great number of questions, but one of those questions was: "Boys, especially, need dads. If you have a boy, how are you going to provide the support that dads do?" And again, this is a very good question, and this is an important question, but this is one that involves assumptions about gender roles. So, my answer was kind of in two parts. Firstly, I said to them, "Well, it depends on what you mean when you say 'what dads do.' If you mean who will take a child down a park on a Saturday afternoon and kick a ball around; who will fix a puncture on a bicycle; who will tinker with a computer, my answer to that is, we will. We will do those things. Emma and I do those things. Women can do dad things." Thank you. (Applause) And that is in exactly the same way that men can do mom things. (Applause) Over the years, Emma and I have been quad-biking, we've been parascending, we've been to tank museums. This time last year, I was with Steven and thousands of other teenage boys and an awful lot of grown men, far too many of which were dressed as "Thor," at the Gamer Expo in London. And so, this is a "dad thing" that I get to do, and I had a fantastic day. But what we can't do, and what we don't pretend to be able to do, is to provide a male perspective on things: on shaving, on having your voice break, on what it's like to actually communicate with other men when women aren't around. But in those situations, we call upon the fantastic circle of men that we have in our friends and family. Steven has lovely granddads, he has amazing uncles, cousins. We rope in the husbands of our friends and we rope in our own male friends, and they advise us on what we might do and they also spend time with Steven. So, we got through the approval panel, that was a great day. It was only at that point that we were then told that we were the first gay couple to have gone through that. So that was fantastic. So, off we skipped into the next stage, very excitedly, which is the matching process. And so, you call local authorities up and down the country to inquire about the children that are in their care systems, and this is where we hit a huge wall of negativity. We had lots of awkward silences. We had lots of people who said, "I'm sorry. We believe that child needs a dad," but with no discussion at all about what that actually meant. We had lots of people who actually just said to us, "We believe what you're doing is wrong." And that was the worst part for us in the process. It was incredibly battering, and we really weren't sure that we were ever going to get matched, or get through. We thought we might just have to give up. And then, we got a phone call after we had inquired about a five-year-old boy, and after many more meetings and another panel, a matching panel, we were matched with Steven. He was nearly six. He's now 16. And that part of the process for us was made a lot easier because of Steven's foster family being so supportive. They prepared Steven by saying to him that he was such a special little boy he was not just going to get one mom, he was going to get two. And that was amazing. It was amazing for us, but it was incredibly positive for Steven, at that very difficult time when you're transitioning. And I was talking to Steven's foster family this summer, and of course they said, "Yes, but it's created a little bit of a throwback potentially, because now we have other foster children who kind of stand there going, 'Well, I am super special too, and I think I want two moms.'" (Laughter) But Steven doesn't just have two moms. Steven has a birth family, and we have contact with them. Steven has a foster family, and they have become great friends. And Steven has an adoptive family, and that isn't just Emma and myself; it is all of my wider family and it is all of Emma's wider family. So, 12 years on from that first workshop, how are we all doing? Well, Steven spends an awful lot of time in his bedroom, on his own. He spends a lot of time on Facebook. It's been like his phone has kind of melded to his hand. He spends an awful lot of time in front of the bathroom mirror. He thinks we're totally embarrassing. He doesn't really want to be seen out with us in public. He believes our mission in life is to nag him and to stop him from doing everything he really wants to. So, we kind of feel that really we've raised a pretty normal teenage boy. (Laughter) But more seriously, Steven is doing brilliantly. Despite his very difficult start in life, he has always been very intelligent, he has always been very funny. He loves computers. He's a great photographer. He's very creative. We are incredibly proud of everything he achieves, and he is an amazing young man. But he struggles to deal with the consequences of those very difficult early years, and he always will. They are a very significant part of who he is, they shape his sense of self and they shape his sense of his future, particularly so during adolescence. Now, what about Emma and I? How are we doing? Well, just because we might have a bit more empathy and we might have a bit more flexibility, that does not make us perfect parents. In exactly the same way as other parents do, we struggle. There are some days where we get it broadly right, there are some days where we mess it up completely, but we love Steven and we tell him that every single day, again, much to his annoyance and embarrassment, really. (Laughter) So, is there a moral to this tale? Well, yes, there is. We should not assume that families are a certain number or a certain gender of people. Families come in all shapes and sizes. They always have, and they always will. And gay adopters, gay parents, we are just actually one very small part of that mix. And that's OK. It really is. We are not as different and we are certainly not as threatening as the media headlines might have people believe. Thank you. (Applause)

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
awful lot 4
gay couple 3
gay people 3
gay adopters 3
bristol city 2
gay adoption 2
social worker 2
media headlines 2
difficult early 2
care system 2
greater level 2
foster family 2
wider family 2

Important Words

  1. ability
  2. absolutely
  3. abuse
  4. accessory
  5. achieves
  6. adolescence
  7. adopt
  8. adopters
  9. adoption
  10. adoptive
  11. advise
  12. affects
  13. afternoon
  14. allowed
  15. amazing
  16. annie
  17. announce
  18. annoyance
  19. answer
  20. applause
  21. application
  22. apprehensive
  23. approval
  24. approved
  25. asked
  26. assessed
  27. assume
  28. assumptions
  29. attachment
  30. authorities
  31. awful
  32. awkward
  33. ball
  34. bathroom
  35. battering
  36. bedroom
  37. beginning
  38. believes
  39. believing
  40. birth
  41. bit
  42. book
  43. bounced
  44. boy
  45. boys
  46. break
  47. brilliantly
  48. bristol
  49. broadly
  50. call
  51. called
  52. care
  53. careful
  54. cases
  55. changed
  56. characters
  57. child
  58. children
  59. choice
  60. choose
  61. circle
  62. city
  63. colleagues
  64. coming
  65. common
  66. communicate
  67. completely
  68. complicated
  69. computer
  70. computers
  71. concern
  72. concerned
  73. consequences
  74. contact
  75. council
  76. country
  77. couple
  78. couples
  79. cousins
  80. created
  81. creative
  82. dad
  83. dads
  84. day
  85. days
  86. deal
  87. dealing
  88. decide
  89. deep
  90. delays
  91. depends
  92. developmental
  93. differently
  94. difficult
  95. difficulties
  96. disapprove
  97. discussion
  98. disorders
  99. dressed
  100. early
  101. easier
  102. embarrassing
  103. embarrassment
  104. emma
  105. empathy
  106. enthusiastic
  107. excited
  108. excitedly
  109. exciting
  110. exhausting
  111. expectations
  112. expected
  113. explain
  114. expo
  115. facebook
  116. families
  117. family
  118. fantastic
  119. fear
  120. feel
  121. fertility
  122. find
  123. fine
  124. firstly
  125. fix
  126. flexibility
  127. focus
  128. form
  129. foster
  130. fostering
  131. friends
  132. front
  133. funny
  134. future
  135. gamer
  136. gave
  137. gay
  138. gender
  139. give
  140. good
  141. granddads
  142. great
  143. greater
  144. grilled
  145. grown
  146. hand
  147. hard
  148. headed
  149. headlines
  150. hear
  151. heterosexual
  152. hint
  153. hit
  154. homework
  155. hours
  156. huge
  157. husbands
  158. idea
  159. important
  160. incredibly
  161. inquire
  162. inquired
  163. intelligent
  164. interviewed
  165. involves
  166. job
  167. journey
  168. kick
  169. kids
  170. kind
  171. laughter
  172. learning
  173. led
  174. level
  175. life
  176. lifestyle
  177. lifestyles
  178. local
  179. london
  180. long
  181. lot
  182. lots
  183. love
  184. lovely
  185. loves
  186. luck
  187. majority
  188. male
  189. man
  190. matched
  191. matching
  192. means
  193. meant
  194. media
  195. meetings
  196. melded
  197. men
  198. mess
  199. mimic
  200. mirror
  201. mission
  202. misunderstandings
  203. mix
  204. mom
  205. moms
  206. month
  207. moral
  208. morally
  209. move
  210. museums
  211. myths
  212. nag
  213. nature
  214. necessarily
  215. negativity
  216. neglect
  217. normal
  218. number
  219. openly
  220. opinions
  221. options
  222. order
  223. panel
  224. panic
  225. parascending
  226. parenting
  227. parents
  228. park
  229. part
  230. partner
  231. parts
  232. people
  233. perfect
  234. permanent
  235. perspective
  236. phone
  237. photographer
  238. pick
  239. place
  240. placing
  241. point
  242. positive
  243. potentially
  244. prepared
  245. pretend
  246. pretty
  247. process
  248. proud
  249. provide
  250. public
  251. puncture
  252. put
  253. putting
  254. question
  255. questions
  256. raised
  257. reaction
  258. real
  259. reasons
  260. record
  261. relationship
  262. research
  263. rightly
  264. road
  265. roles
  266. room
  267. rope
  268. run
  269. saturday
  270. scoop
  271. sense
  272. set
  273. shape
  274. shapes
  275. shaving
  276. showing
  277. side
  278. significant
  279. silences
  280. simple
  281. single
  282. situations
  283. sizes
  284. skipped
  285. slight
  286. slightly
  287. small
  288. social
  289. son
  290. sort
  291. special
  292. spend
  293. spends
  294. stage
  295. stand
  296. start
  297. started
  298. steven
  299. stop
  300. story
  301. strongly
  302. struggle
  303. struggles
  304. subsequently
  305. success
  306. suggesting
  307. summer
  308. super
  309. support
  310. supportive
  311. system
  312. systems
  313. tale
  314. talk
  315. talking
  316. tank
  317. teenage
  318. theme
  319. thinks
  320. thought
  321. thousands
  322. threatening
  323. throwback
  324. time
  325. tinker
  326. today
  327. told
  328. totally
  329. transitioning
  330. treatment
  331. turn
  332. turns
  333. uncles
  334. undermine
  335. upholding
  336. values
  337. view
  338. views
  339. voice
  340. waiting
  341. walked
  342. wall
  343. waltz
  344. wanted
  345. wider
  346. women
  347. worker
  348. workers
  349. workshop
  350. worse
  351. worst
  352. wrong
  353. year
  354. years
  355. young