Ricochet founder Colette Hill

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Colette Hill, founder of Ricochet a support group for parents of gay children, reveals how despite a more relaxed attitude towards same sex relationships some still struggle

When I tell people I run a support group – Ricochet - for the parents of gay children, their reaction is generally one of surprise. They wonder why it matters to people if their daughter is a lesbian or their son is gay. Surely, in this day and age, we are all relaxed about the whole business?

It is true that we have come a long way in the first few years of this millennium. In 2001, the age of consent for gay men was lowered to 16. In 2002, equal rights were granted for same-sex couples wanting to adopt. In 2003, the infamous Section 28 was repealed and a new law came into force protecting gay people from discrimination at work. In 2004 the Civil Partnership Act was passed, followed by the Marriage Act in 2013. In London, in 2016, young gay couples wander the pavements hand in hand and no one bats an eyelid. Maybe it’s all bit a bit fast for you? In which case you are not alone.

These are some of the responses members of Ricochet have to deal with when they come out (as they say) as the parent of a gay child: ‘I don’t understand why so many young choose that kind of lifestyle,’ (it’s not a choice); ‘he’ll change his mind when he meets the right girl,’ (as I say, it’s not a choice); ‘there are treatments, I think,’ (it’s not a disease); ‘I’m so sorry for you,’ (it’s not a problem, unless we choose to make it one).

The fact is that even in the UK there is still much to do. Homophobic hate crime rose 22 per cent last year. Nine out of ten teachers reported homophobic bullying in class. And, of course, the people who come to Ricochet meetings don’t all start out as open-minded as they become. Many are devastated that they won’t walk their daughters down the aisle (they may, of course, though not in a church) or become grandparents (they may do that, too). They admit to disgust about the how gay people make love (straight people have some pretty funny habits too).

We could learn a thing or two from our ancestors. In most early civilisations, same-sex loving was an everyday affair, acceptable, often admirable. Did you know that all but one of the first fourteen Roman emperors, were known for their love of men? The same can be said of the ten emperors of the Western Han in ancient China which has an recorded history of same-sex loving covering 3000 years, from the Zhou dynasty to the last century. Among the Azande, living in what is now the south-west of Sudan, there is evidence of men taking a younger lover throughout history until the beginning of the twentieth century and of lesbian relationships between the wives in the tribe’s polygamous marriages.

Sex between two men or two women was once a fact of life all over the world. We need to come full circle. Until we get there, Ricochet will continue to meet in Hamworthy on the first Saturday of the month to help us on our way.

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About Colette Hill

Colette and her husband, David, moved to Dorset from London where Colette ran a PR company specialising in corporate communications on behalf of major employers. They have a son and two daughters all of whom still live in London. Colette founded Ricochet in 2012, initially starting with a helpline and website. The support group, which she runs from her home near Bridport, is for parents, family and friends of gay and lesbian children. They hold meetings in Hamworthy on the first Saturday of the month. Newcomers are very welcome.

For more details visit ricochet-dorset.org

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