The Telegraph: Last Tuesday, some five months into a pregnancy with my lesbian co-parent, who I met online, I went to hospital to peer into her womb and find out our child’s sex.
The answer came: “It's a boy.”
The news was just what I wanted to hear. Not because ‘it’s a boy’ but because, for the first time, I could call him “him”, or even by name. This kid is now officially a person and I am really a dad.
“It’s a girl” would have been just as powerful, although it maps out a totally different life. Would it be one filled with dolls and dolls' houses, as it was for me growing up, or football, Meccano and Tonka toys as it was for my brother? Just as a funeral gives us closure, this second scan and more specifically, finding out his sex, is the starting gun.
I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you his name under the co-parenting agreement – we have a publicity clause of course. So for the time being we’ll call him X. My co-parent – a decent, respectful, professional and fiercely independent gal who has enough on her plate at the moment – isn’t as comfortable with publicity as I am, so I have to tread carefully between what is my stuff, and hers.
For me, whether it’s my sexuality, my tricky childhood, my dyslexia, my brush with alcoholism and even my depression after the death of my partner 20 years ago, all is fair game and public knowledge, because I believe that standing up for who you are is good politics.
Talk about issues in the abstract and it leaves me cold. Is there anything more powerful than Stephen Fry living with his depression openly (the black dog, as Churchill called it), or Jade Goody holding our hand through her cancer until she finally passed? Both people changed attitudes, brought about change and saved lives – how many politicians can claim that?
Like most men I speak to, I wasn’t too sure I wanted to be a dad. I think that's why I waited until the point in my life where any longer and it would be plain unthinkable. I’m 47, so when my son is 18, I will be 65, which I think is just about OK. I may not see him become prime minister, but I may be around long enough to make his teenage life a misery.
However, now I’ve seen X, a broodiness that feels as powerful as my first crush (on my schoolmate, Ben, when I was five) has catapulted me into a new understanding. And I realise why the word pregnant is used as a metaphor for anticipation around the world.
Partly because gay relationships, specifically mine, are so unreliable, having kids of my own always seemed impossible. Instead I became a kids’ mentor for Action For Children and occasionally fostered friends’ kids battling personal issues – but just until they got back on their feet. The first kid I fostered like this was seven years old. I’d just collected him and he was mine for a week, but it ended up turning into a year.
He'd been so excited – showing me the bunk in the tiny room he’d shared with three others since birth. What I really remember is what it felt like when he held my hand as we walked to the car. And what it felt like as he fell into a deep sleep beside me as I drove. That sense of responsibility was a window into what absolutely everything in the world was about.
Last Tuesday, as I gazed over the belly of my co-parent and saw my little boy on the TV screen above, I felt the same. Our agreement with each other is that we share all costs for the child but that she has the right to move away with the child and live her life however and with whomever, she sees fit. If possible we’d like to have a stab at living together first, because it would be better for X.
Like all modern people, we know that two men or two women can raise happy, well-loved and well-adjusted children. However, my co-parent and I still favour this opportunity to give our son a mum and a dad who, if possible, can create a loving environment under the same roof. This does cause a small issue. Every lawyer I can find tells me that I am taking on some medieval financial responsibility for my co-parent because she’s a woman, despite our written agreements. But, sometimes you need to take risks. They ‘strongly advise’ that I just pay the monthly child maintenance and live apart, or risk losing everything I’ve worked for. But we both agree that this would be hard work for us, and no fun at all.
I realise that no prenuptial-style contract, no cohabitation agreement and no co-parenting agreement will ultimately prevent a lawyer whispering “this thing you both signed, it isn’t worth the paper it is written on for the man” as pound signs flicker in his ‘no-win-no-fee’ eyes. Eight hundred years after the signing of the Magna Carta and both a peer of the realm and white van man get the same number of points on their driving licence for jumping a red, maybe we need new thinking which says we are all equal in family courts – but I’ll leave that fight to braver people than me.
I’m already living together with my co-parent and I will absolutely love sharing my life, my home and my heart with this child too. What amazes me most is that 20 years ago, my sexuality was a talking point in Westminster when I was just about the only openly gay in that village. Today, as I stand for Mayor of London – no one from my party has even blinked, the rocks have all come from the left.
I’m so proud to be British, I’m incredibly proud to be a Londoner and I’m so impressed that my party has embraced positive politics over the world of cynicism and homophobia. When Tony Blair did something similar and abolished Labour’s extremist arm Militant Tendency and redefined Clause 4, the party’s 1918 commitment to nationalisation (which at that time was seen as modernisation!), he knew deep-down they’d still vote Labour. He also knew both were essential for a modern party, a world that had changed.
It wasn’t easy for Stephen Fry to publically shoot down stigma, or Jade Goody to campaign through illness and save lives.
We need to start thinking of what is right, rather than what is easy.
We need to do this in politics and in our personal lives.