I was born and initially raised by a handsome stable of heterosexuality. Dad was the local church vicar, Mum his loyal wife. My playground was the extensive vicarage with views of a graveyard. I was a good girl who refused to snack on the body of Christ, even when offered. I knew I wasn't old enough. Life was all sunshine and loveliness.
Then real life struck. Like many children before and after me, my parents divorced. Daddy was to become a 'writer' needing his own space, whilst Mummy moved in with a woman. Life never looked different. My main devastation in all this was that I had to leave my beloved Brownie troop. It didn't occur to me that the lesbian partnership I was about to be raised by was anything less than normal.
The weirdest thing about my childhood was probably when Dad turned his back on the church and became a Pagan High Priest. I was taken aside and point blank informed, "Alice, I'm a Pagan."
My blood pumped faster as I anticipated being the focal point of a virgin sacrifice. This was not to pass. Paganism was all very intriguing for a young teenage girl - think tarot cards, meditation and vegetarian feasts. I met a lot of pre-emo goths and punks, I was allowed to drink red wine and I developed a penchant for men with long hair. It added to my teenage years in glorious fashion. Upon learning healing skills I fixed a dying gerbil. Buffy and Bella eat your heart out!
Compared to this the lesbian duoship that was my weekday parentage was rather boring. The relationship lasted 10 years which was sufficient to see me through to adulthood, breaking up eventually due to good old fashioned human flaws. I know that the parentage tried their best, I was loved and they provided all I needed materially. We had pets, we did kooky family stuff such as putting on plays and pretending to be Mr Bean. I had chicken soup when poorly. We went on long country rambles, ate roast dinners on a Sunday and until I was considered old enough I was not allowed to watch anything above my age certificate, or, for that matter EastEnders.
The only downfall to this gay parenting model was the discrimination and prejudice visited on us by members of the local community. As kids we would often fall out with the neighbors children. Whenever this happened their parents would threaten to call social services over our unusual parenting arrangement. This was heartbreaking and scary. I once confided in a friend about my lesbian mum and she promised not to tell, but then on occasion, tried to use her silence to bribe me. Funnily enough Facebook tells me she is gay herself now!
I learned not to talk about it. My brothers did talk about it, and their experience was less than pleasant. However this was a sign of the times, of ignorance, prejudice and the cruelty of other people. Had my gay parents been allowed to be married and made 'normal', some of the crueler facets of my youth may not have occurred. My experience is that society caused me more problems than the parenting itself. Because isn't it true that all parents mess you up, or make you happy, and that this is irrespective of gender, sexuality, race, religion or any other tick box. Isn't that just the nature of parenting?
Being recognised by society as 'equal' is of far more benefit to gay households, than the steamy fluff pouring out of the mouths of people such as Cardinal O'Brien. His war cries against 'grotesque' gay marriage are the same thing I heard all my youth, the fishwife next door, the teasing kids, the fear of the different. They are meaningless, they do not come from God, they come from dogma, religious blinkers and ignorance.
My experience tells me that marriage and relationships are very simple. They are about two people, messed up in their own unique ways, trying to make a place for themselves in the world.
Heterosexual union certainly cannot be claimed to fly any flag on perfection. From my practical and spiritual perspective I believe that our individual flaws are often made most apparent through our relationships formalised or otherwise. It is from here that we can work at improving ourselves, at making our life, and the lives of other people happier. From entering into partnership with another the most we can hope for is some happiness, some learning, some place to call home. Gay, straight or otherwise, there is nothing 'grotesque' about that.