I was born when it was illegal to be a gay man in the UK.
When I grew up in the Home Counties in the 60s and 70s, nobody seemed even aware of any other sexuality other than heterosexual. I knew I didn’t fit but didn’t know why. There was a gay society at university but that didn’t apply to me – or so I thought.
I thought I knew what a gay person was, and I didn’t see myself in that stereotype. What’s more, I could prove it – by dating women.
But while I knew I wanted to have a family, I wasn’t sexually attracted by women. There were no role models for me, and I was left extremely confused.
I was shocked to find my fellow police officer entrapping gay men
Back then, I was both idealistic and naïve. So, aged 21, I decided to become a police officer. As PC 1048 Cuthbert, I wanted to change the world and make it a better place – to repeat, I was naïve.
The UK police force of the 1980s was not only a very macho culture, it was also deeply homophobic and sexist. Gay sex was technically legal. But I was shocked to find the police were prosecuting what was called ‘gross indecency’.
I remember the criminal law statute said gross indecency included men entwining of their legs. To make matters even worse, some forces were using entrapment to find and prosecute men for this victimless crime.
My first trips to Soho were fearful affairs
About the same time, I discovered the bright lights of Soho. Back then, gay life was very different to now, but it made me realise I was gay.
Like most gay men at the time, my gay life consisted of occasional fleeting visits to Soho. Sadly these were fearful affairs. I actually shook in fear of being discovered and exposed as a gay policeman.
It now seems so far away and so strange but at the time the fear was visceral. A police friend of mine who I didn’t know was gay, was exposed by the News of the World for having an affair with another man. I actually got in touch and offered him my support. But I didn’t dare come out, even to him. That was far too dangerous!
It was very clear there was no way I could continue as PC 1048 Cuthbert.
It was only at the age of 35 and with the help of a fantastic gay friend that I came out to my friends and family. This was what I call my liberation phase. Like many gay men of my generation, I think of this time as my ‘teenage years’. It was a period of self-discovery.
I dreamt of having a family but surrogacy is no easy option
But deep in my heart, I still wasn’t entirely satisfied. What I really wanted was to live happily ever after with the man of my dreams. And I married him in 2014 in front of all my friends and family – even friends who had been police officers.
I also dreamt of having kids and my partner and I started planning our family even before we got married. We explored both adoption and surrogacy in the UK but in the end decided to go down the surrogacy route in the US.
Our dream was realised and in a way we could not have imagined when we set out on our journey. We now have four children under five – two girls and twin boys. My teenage years are finally over.
Surrogacy isn’t an easy option. After our children were born, we became expert with the incredible bureaucracy in the US and UK about birth certificates and passports.
We were both listed as parents in the US. But the stupid English law didn’t recognize either of us as parents to our children, even though the US birth certificates and DNA tests said we were. In the end we had to apply to the High Court in London for Parental Orders for all of our children.
It took five years, but eventually we got a letter through the post, containing British birth certificates showing myself and my husband as parents to our four children.
Many LGBTIs have taken a rocky road to liberation, and that can stop us planning our future
All my experience to date has shown LGBTI individuals and couples don’t always follow the standard set of straight life experiences.
Lots of us have been on a rocky path to personal liberation. Unlike me, many people are still left feeling uncomfortable about coming out and being open. Years of being called names and made out to be a freak can take its toll.
And from work, I know that means lots of LGBTIs do not plan for the future and, in particular, retirement.
So now, I’m pleased my job borrows from my life experience. I give wealth management advice to LGBTIs. Many feel uncomfortable talking to their bank or adviser about their same-sex partner so don’t get the right advice. I hope they can be honest with me.
And, purely in an advisory capacity, I try to help LGBTI and heterosexual couples in their own battles to have their own families.
I am one of the lucky ones now. I’m an out and proud gay dad of four. But I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be in fear of being open. That’s why I want all of us to have the future we deserve.
Free Equality Wealth event
I will be speaking at a special free event on how to plan for retirement if you are LGBTI. The event is at 6pm on Monday 6 November in central London. Find out more and register here.
Malcolm Cuthbert is a partner advisor for Equality Wealth, specialist advisors to the LGBTI community. If you’d like to speak to Malcolm or another advisor, you can find out more here.
Equality Wealth is a Gay Star News client.