What makes you and I different? Our hair colour and what we look like. Our fashion choices and what we like to eat. We obviously look different from the outside, and we have different ambitions, living styles and dreams. But there must be something similar between us? That connection is our families. We all have them, and we all had to come from somewhere didn't we? When you fundamentally look at family, there is no real set of rules about how they are constructed.
I am a woman. I am a sister. I am a grandchild. Recently three times over I have become an auntie. I am also a daughter. I am a daughter to lesbian parents. I am also a niece to lesbian aunties and a half sibling to six other brothers and sisters. All these people are a family. Some related, others not. Some are honorary and others bonded by blood. But most of all we are a family. The labels do not define us. We are allowed to make the rules.
I have grown up with women loving women my whole life. I used to find it bizarre when kids could not understand when I described my family dynamic in the playground. This confusion even carried on to university when certain people would just utter the resounding "I don't understand, you have two mums?" with a look on their faces like they were trying to divide one million into seventy-eight billion. The question I get asked most frequently is "What was it like growing up with lesbian parents?" Mostly I answer comically about how it was great because the toilet seat never got left up, but in reality it is pretty average. I think that people expect me to be scarred terribly because two women bringing up children does not seem normal to them, or that I must have this empty hole in my soul where a father should be.
I had a dad. I knew where he was. He was my mums' best friend and he helped them make our family through sperm donation. He lived the next town over with his wife and my half brothers and sisters. We all met up for Sunday lunches and went on big holidays together. But within me there was never a longing for anything different. I did everything the same as everyone else. I had two parents. A dog. A goldfish called Jasmine and two minnows called Annie and Daddy Warbucks. My sister and I shared a room and we bonded over how annoying our little brother's obsession with Westlife was. I had best friends who came over for sleepovers. The only real difference is that I grew up with two mums who made the rules, who tucked me in, who gave me kisses and who made my packed lunch, while my friends had a mum and a dad who did all those things.
When my parents decided to have children it was not a thing to do in the Eighties. They did not know anyone who was gay or lesbian with children. They were pioneers in a world where people were telling them they were wrong. A woman once told my mum that she was giving birth to the children of Satan. I think that people expect being bought up by lesbian parents to be this wild roller coaster of unusual parenting. Yes we did go to Pride every year, and yes my mums have the most amazing collection of tools and could do anything a dad could. There was never any distinction in our house about what boys and what girls do. My mums never had the excuse of "Oh that shelf needs fixing, best get your father". My mums were the male and female roles in our lives and I think that is a positive thing. My brother is no less of a man because my mum showed him how to shave and I am no less of woman because my dad did not teach me how to drive.
So let me see, I'll ask the question again. What makes you and I different? Have you grown up in a house? Yes, me too. Well, what next? Ah, do you have siblings? You do! I have two younger siblings as well. Did you live with loving parents? Interesting, I lived with two amazing parents who have loved me unconditionally my whole life.
You see, you and I are not so different after all.
In fact, we are actually pretty similar.
Jesse Toksvig-Stewart is an author and photographer - her recently published book, 'My Amazing Family and Me', is available to purchase on her website at uglyduckbooks.co.uk