Charlie Wood

[17 years old]

“Well, I’ve been raised in a family that’s not even conventional by gay family standards. I live with my mum and a woman called Sandra who is not partners with my mum, although both of them are lesbian women. I’ve always lived with Sandra and she’s never been partners with my mum while I’ve been alive, but I think previously they were. She has a daughter from the same dad as me – who was a donor – and we all live in a family of four and the dog. There’s quite a lot of community, I think, between lesbians of an age. They all know each other, apart from anything. I’ve essentially been raised by about six people, with my mum at the helm. Sounds like a weird metaphor: the boat of my childhood.

I’ve been community-raised by a lot of queer people. There’s my mum and Sandra who’s sort of a half-mum type thing. That’s been quite good because me and my sister have had the benefits of having a sibling, and also some of the benefits of being an only child. So there’s those two and there’s Lesley Willis, Mum’s ex and Sandra’s partner Angéle. We see her quite a lot. There’s Joan and Helen, who are very close friends of my mum. I think all of them are ex-partners down the line somewhere in the seventies. Also, Lesley Willis, who is… No, I think we never really had a name for them. I think officially they’re my angels or something, in a sort of godparent-y type way. I think we decided they were godparents without god at one point.

My dad was also a gay man. We would visit him quite a lot, probably once every two or three months, although he died about five years ago. We always knew who he was and stuff, and we knew the situation. We were close and everything. It was pretty functional, I think. I never had a problem with it. Actually no one ever really did have a problem with it. I’ve just found it quite confusing to explain to people. It wasn’t like I had come to terms with it and everything was different now. It was just a gradual realising that other people were confused, when it had always made sense to me, I guess. I’d never really thought about it.

I’m quite arty and I’m quite defying of the gender norms of a lot of things that are expected of males my age. I’ve only ever had about one person shout across the street. ‘Make-up!’ This was the only thing they shouted. I was tempted to shout back, ‘Be more constructive with your criticism!’ But that’s the most it ever is. Someone tried to insult me once by saying, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ If anything, that’s a compliment ’cause it means that I’m doing something different.

I know quite a lot of people who are brought up with two or more mums. That’s usually because my mum knows them, because all lesbians know each other! There are actually quite a lot of divorced parents in Brighton. There was a stage where I think about half of my friends would say they were going to their dad’s house this weekend or their mum’s house that weekend, or whatever. I have one friend who’s got a family that almost out-complicates mine! In terms of she’s got about nine mums in different places and now a brother who’s somehow related to her. I don’t know how that all works but we can share a moment of looking at each other just saying, ‘Ugh. Families!’”

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