Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Gay Adoption

When we think of a family what’s the first thing that pops into our head? Is it a happy husband and wife with two children, working all hours of the day and night trying to make ends meet? Or is it a gay couple trying to fulfil their dreams of raising children?

Whilst gay parenting is becoming increasingly more common, some are left wondering if it’s ever going to be fully accepted. With gay fostering and adoption statistics soaring, it’s clear that a person’s sexual orientation is becoming less and less significant when it comes to raising children.

Recent figures show that there has been a 50 per cent increase in gay adoption during the last six years. National statistics show that 1 in 20 children are being adopted by same sex couples. In Brighton, figures show as many as 1 in 5 children are being placed with gay couples, whilst in Lincolnshire no gay adoptions were processed before 2010.

Whilst gay adoption is now legally permitted, it wasn’t an easy fight. There are some people that view same sex parenting as wrong and immoral, with many religious organisations still against the idea. In 2007 it was reported that the head of the Catholic Church in England threatened to close Catholic adoption agencies, which process a third of adoptions in England and Wales, rather than comply with anti-discrimination laws. The Anglican Union and the Muslim Council of Britain were also criticised for opposing the government's Equality Act, which prevents adoption agencies discriminating against potential gay or lesbian parents. Speaking in 2007, Ming Campbell of the Liberal Democrats, said: “We’ve opposed any suggestion that there should be an opt out, that there should be a different standard, because if you’re against discrimination then you have to be against discrimination in all circumstances”. He went on to explain that he felt their views were “not sustainable”.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it would fully support the principled stand taken by the leaders of the Catholic and Anglican Churches. With such oppression from just a few of our country’s religious organisations, can gay adoption ever be fully accepted as part of our developing culture?
In 2010 following a high court judgment the ‘Catholic Care’ charity lost an appeal which would restrict its adoption services to heterosexual prospective parents only. Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said: “In certain circumstances, it is not against the law for charities to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation... We have concluded that in this case the reasons Catholic Care have set out do not justify their wish to discriminate”

Thankfully the majority of people view gay adoption as a positive leap forward, helping parent-less children find their happy ending. In an interview with Carolyn Oliver, head of adoption at Barnardo’s, explained she wanted to ensure gays and lesbians were aware of their adoption rights. She said: “We’re looking for gay couples and individuals – many still don’t realise that they can adopt and are reluctant to come forward to find out more. At Barnado’s, we are very happy to welcome them as prospective parents.”

By encouraging same sex couples to adopt we are helping the less fortunate children in society. Local authorities are urging more and more people to consider adoption, speaking to on behalf of Lincolnshire County Council in 2010, Janice Spencer, said: “We welcome any applications from couples who are serious and passionate about wanting to adopt, regardless of gender. All are assessed in the same way on their suitability to adopt and all decisions are taken in the best interests of the children to ensure they have a good home.”

According to The British Association for Fostering and Adoption, more than 4000 children are currently waiting to be placed for adoption. Most children are adopted before their fifth birthday and all children are under 10 years old. is a specific support network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adopters and foster carers. Anyone seriously considering adoption should visit for more information.

By Glen Allison


In a time when sexually transmitted diseases are spreading like never before isn’t it time we all got checked out, just to be safe?

There are many myths about what goes on behind the GUM Clinic doors, from the dreaded ‘umbrella’ to cotton buds slipped into not so savoury places. With so many stories about what happens in the examination room, there’s no wonder it appears that more people are becoming ever more reluctant to face the facts. In a bid to encourage more people to use the free service, Lincolnshire Community Health Services decided to move its GUM Clinic, which was based at the local hospital, to a more discreet location with free parking. Liz Ball, clinical team leader for Lincolnshire Community Health Services, said: “the new clinics won't feel like a formal hospital appointment.”

A review published in 2009 by the Health Protection Agency shows that in the UK, STI statistics have been rising since the 1990s; it illustrates that in 2008, an eye watering 399,738 people were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. The report goes on to explain how nationally, the number of people infected with Genital Herpes has risen by 10 per cent, resulting in 28,957 new cases being reported with cases of Chlamydia and Genital Warts also seeing a considerable increase.

Although they only make up 12 per cent of the population, young people are more likely to contract a sexually transmitted infection than anyone else. People aged between 16 and 24 years old account for more than half of all STI’s diagnosed in the UK.

Although the amount of reported illnesses is increasing, it appears the amount of information on STI’s is becoming more limited. I visited a GP surgery to find out a little bit more about STI’s and I was immediately referred to the GUM Clinic. Would more readily available literature in doctor’s surgeries help to prevent the spread of infection?

Sexually transmitted infections are diseases passed on through intimate sexual contact. They can be passed on during vaginal, anal and oral sex, as well as through genital contact with an infected partner. People still question whether it’s possible to contract pubic lice from sharing bedding and towels; however, there is not enough evidence to support this. Thankfully, the majority of STI’s can be cured using basic methods such as, creams, lotions and prescribed medication. There are, however, some infections that are still incurable.

HIV is still ubiquitous, especially amongst the gay community with around 2,760 gay or bisexual men contracting the illness in 2009, figures show that number had risen to 3,080 new cases last year. The Department of Health state that a national average of 1 in 20 gay or bisexual men live with HIV, whilst in London the figures show as many as 1 in 10 homosexual people have the illness. Worryingly, Brighton is thought to have the highest number of recorded cases with 1 in 8 gay men currently living with the disease. It is thought that, nationally, around 30,000 gay and bisexual men have the infection, however, experts say approximately one third of these cases are undiagnosed. Deborah Jack, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust, said: “A key message for sexually active gay men is to have an HIV test at least once a year, and more frequently if you have put yourself at particular risk... If we all acted on this we would see real progress.”

According to the National AIDS Trust, only 984,000 HIV tests were carried out in 2009, this still leaves much of the population unsure of their infection status. An estimated 86,500 people are living with HIV in the UK and it is believed that around 22,200 people are unaware they have contracted the potentially fatal virus. Although the number of infected individuals amounts to only 0.1 per cent of the population; statistics published by the National AIDS Trust show new cases have risen by 70 per cent in the last 10 years.

Sadly, there is no vaccine to cure or prevent infection, however, since the 1990s; treatments have been developed that enable most people diagnosed with HIV to live relatively normal lives. A poll of 1,944 people, by the National AIDS Trust, found that 1 in 5 people did not realise that unsafe heterosexual sex could lead to transmission of the virus.

To help dispel some of the myths that surround the sexual health check up, I decided to endure the test and talk you through what happens during that dreaded, rubber-gloved examination, and hopefully, put to bed some of the many horror stories of what happens behind that feared blue door.

I started by contacting my local Sexual Health Clinic who arranged an appointment for the same day. The receptionist asked me to make sure I didn’t have a wee two hours before the appointment; she also explained how to find the clinic. So, I had taken the first steps into what hopefully, would assure me I had a clean bill of health.

When I arrived at the NHS Clinic I was asked the usual series of questions to confirm my identity. I felt re-assured by a friendly reception team, who were keen to answer any questions I had, and help put me at ease. When asked about people’s general reaction on arrival at the clinic, the receptionists explained that people can be very nervous; however, most people are calm and relaxed and treat the examination as a regular doctor or dental appointment. The staff went on to describe how the centre no longer offers walk-in appointments, however, people can usually expect to be offered an appointment within 48 hours. I was also advised that in the interests of privacy, patients would be called by number, not name.

I was shown into a generic, well seated waiting area with a large TV, a small children’s play area and a selection of magazines and leaflets containing information on sexual health. There was also a range of leaflets containing information about testicular cancer, breast cancer and cervical screening.

After waiting for approximately 15 minutes, I was led to an examination room and introduced to a junior doctor who asked me, firstly, my reasons for wanting to be tested, followed by a series of questions regarding my sexual history and details of my sexual orientation. Though the questions were quite invasive, I found the doctor to be very polite, non-judgmental and I felt at ease throughout what felt like a casual discussion, he offered to answer any questions I had along the way.

It was explained to me what would happen during the examination and that it would take approximately 2-3 weeks for my results to be processed. Now time for the test...

I was given privacy when undressing and was asked to lie on my back and let the doctor know when I felt ready to be examined. He explained what he was doing as he did it throughout the examination and gave me forewarning of any discomfort I might experience. During a gay man’s check-up, the penis and surrounding areas are checked for visible infections, swabs are then taken from the urethra and anus. Although some parts of the check up are uncomfortable, I was never in any pain and the procedure was finished in around five minutes. I gave a blood sample to test for HIV, Syphilis and Hepatitis and a urine sample to test for Gonorrhoea. I asked the doctor what he felt the most common infections were amongst both gay men and women; he advised me that gay men are more likely to contract genital warts and gay women are more susceptible to thrush and other bacterial infections.

Although I feel confident my results will be clear, there are no guarantees and I’m sure it will be a long three weeks while I wait for my results. Being tested for STI’s is an essential way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of serious infections.

Anyone worried about their own sexual health should contact their local GUM Clinic for advice. Details and information on how to find your local Sexual Health Clinic can be found at

“Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there...”

By Glen Allison