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Series 5 - Birkenhead

Leaving Normal: a new comedy about gay adoption

Monday 7 June 2010, 10:50

Ian Iqbal Rashid Ian Iqbal Rashid

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I was recently at the home of Hari and Matt (I've changed the names) - a friend from childhood and his partner, respectively - now new adoptive gay dads to two older children. The kids come from troubled backgrounds and are having difficulty settling into their new homes. They're testing both the limits and patience of their new parents.

But when I see Hari in action with the kids, I see and hear his dad, Mr Syed - who terrorised us all in childhood with his authoritative, sphincter-tightening reprimands. Hari who has definitely not been a fan of the type of parenting he received is now channelling his dad without even being aware of it.

It's been interesting to observe the parenting styles of my gay friends who now have children. Most of them are adoptive parents, who have spent years of time and energy negotiating with agencies and lawyers to gain custody. For some there has been little time or space - and certainly little in the way of cultural context - to imagine or interrogate the kind of parents they might want to become. Does the fact of their gayness necessarily mean a different approach to parenting? How to negotiate the discrimination that now might inflect their kids' lives? How do the sometimes non-traditional values and lifestyles of queer culture co-exist with parent-teacher nights and car pools?

In Leaving Normal, the new Woman's Hour comedy-drama I wrote and directed, Luke (Paul Nicholls) who abhors the traditional parenting he grew up with under his strict mother Nicki (Imelda Staunton), finds himself now wondering if maybe it's the way to go - after his orphaned niece and nephew are suddenly placed in his care. Sammi (Nikesh Patel) his partner, erased all prospects or possibilities of parenting when he came out. He now refuses to engage with the role of 'dad', believing it's a kind of sell-out to his hard-won gay identity and life-style - much to the chagrin of his mother Dolly (Meera Syal) who desperately wants her own grandchildren.

But the truth is that there are no rules on offer. Most of my friends are travelling through the parenting wilderness map-less. They're pioneers, moving forward, without even the benefit of cultural role models to emulate or use as a reference point. But that too is beginning to change. And I hope that Sammi and Luke and Leaving Normal will go a small way towards redressing that even further.

Ian Iqbal Rashid is writer of Leaving Normal on BBC Radio 4


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    Comment number 1.

    A very unfortunate turn of phrase has been used in this blog...

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    Comment number 2.

    I thought this play was an interesting twist on what is considered as a 'normal'family unit. I Would like to see this as a challenging'sit com' on TV.

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    Comment number 3.

    Have really enjoyed 'Leaving Normal',very well done and a brave attempt to be honest about young gay men's lives as well as issues as to how they fit in with ordinary family life in the UK [although some of the stereotyping grated a bit...].Something that would make a great'Play for Today',if that genre still existed on television rather than all the trivial talent shows,fly on walls and lifestyle stuff.It says volumes that sound radio is the only place where you can come across serious drama that provokes thought and controversy about life in modern Britain.

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    Comment number 4.

    I think Ian's blog is interesting but, fundamentally, the issue of his friends' sexuality is not that relevant to their preparedness (or otherwise) for parenthood. As a heterosexual parent my (now ex-) wife and I commented many, many times how kids didn't come with a manual and all you had to fall back on was your parents' example (which in our case neither of us particularly wanted to emulate yet ended up doing so, albeit sub-consciously). You could argue that 9 months is long enough to prepare but, frankly, we had loads of other things going on. Ian's friends probably had at least 9 months (the adoption process can take ages) to prepare but they too didn't have time for all the groundwork. Perhaps we all, gay and heterosexual parents alike, need parenting classes!


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Identifying the top ten game changers operating in the UK today.


See the latest on our blog


Find out about this year's panel and theme