Leaving Normal: a new comedy about gay adoption
Ian Iqbal Rashid
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
- Leaving Normal is in the Woman's Hour Drama slot at 0945 from today until Friday 11 June.
- Ian will be interviewed on Woman's Hour on Monday today in an item about gay parenting.
- BAAF, the adoption and fostering advisory charity, is on Facebook and Twitter.
- There's a Leaving Normal group on Facebook.
- The picture is by Darwin Bell. Used under licence.