A single father-of-one has revealed how he sometimes feels like a ‘unicorn’ because his siutation as a black gay dad with an adopted child is so rare.
Leon Wenham, 41, from London, who works as a head of client relations, welcomed his son last year – who he’s chosen not to name for safeguarding reasons – having wanted to adopt a child for the last 20 years.
‘It’s just a beautiful connection that we have. It’s not unconventional at all, he’s happy, I’m happy,’ he said.
‘As a single black gay adopter, it’s so rare so I almost feel like a unicorn sometimes and everyone is just so interested to find out more.’
Leon’s unique situation, plus the existing lack of diversity in books for children, has prompted him to write his own book so that children like his son can feel represented.
He also hopes that You, Me and Lots and Lots of Love will encourage more people of colour, people from the LGTBQ+ community and single people to consider adoption.
Leon Wenham, 41, (pictured), who works as a head of client relations, is publishing a children’s book which aims to combat the lack of diversity in junior literature and encourage more people to consider adoption
Leon’s adoption process took 12 months from the moment he enquired about adopting in February 2018 to being matched with his son.
Describing his decision to adopt, Leon told Femail: ‘I’m 41 now and it’s just always something I’ve wanted to do. As a gay man having children the conventional way wasn’t really an option for me.
‘As I get older it’s something that keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. So I picked up the phone in 2018 and started the process.’
Leon knew it was time to adopt his son when he moved house four years ago.
‘It was a project and I did it up knowing that it would be a family home,’ he said.
‘So once the refurb project was completed I knew that the next phase in life was to be a father. I bought the house and did it up for this purpose.’
Despite Leon’s adoption experience being relatively straightforward, he said that this isn’t always the case and that his adoption journey was ‘quite quick’.
Leon’s book, You, Me and Lots and Lots of Love aims to offer greater representation to minority demographics in children’s literature
Leon’s adoption process took 12 months from the moment he enquired about adopting in February 2018 to being matched with his son – but he said that this was quite quick
His son is now five-years-old but Leon is worried about the lack of diversity in children’s books, and said only four per cent of children’s books published last year featured a BAME character.
Leon’s book aims to do more than just tackle the stigmas around adoption and he hopes his book can be a trailblazer in diversifying the representation of non-conventional families.
‘One of the reasons I chose to write the book is because most books on adoption usually use animals,’ he said.
‘I didn’t find any books that represented our nuclear family. I’m black Caribbean and all the books were very much all conventional and featured Caucasian people and I think when you’ve got a child that’s adopted and doesn’t have a conventional family, if you keep seeing that in books it’s just not really helpful for them.
‘It just highlights that they’re different, which for a four or five-year-old that can be quite difficult.’
Leon’s book aims to do more than just tackle the stigmas around adoption and he hopes his book can be a trailblazer in diversifying the representation of non-conventional families
However, the issue of a lack of representation for minority groups is something Leon believes should be tackled at an early stage.
Leon said: ‘When you go to school children have got diverse friends and that’s society now. Why are there not more books that reflect that?
‘My son’s got a lot of friends and I was speaking to one of the parents recently, and I asked: “Out of interest, how diverse is your little boy’s book collection?” and she was quite embarrassed when she said that it wasn’t at all.
‘This is an example of why I’m doing this book, it’s to normalise diversity from a young age.’
Speaking about what he hopes the book will achieve, Leon said: ‘Normalising diversity from a young age is number one.
‘Number two is explaining adoption to children in a way that is encouraging and encourages them to share their emotions and recognises some of the big emotions that children and adults go through during the process.
‘Also one of the key things is to shine a light on black fathers because I think that black dads have had quite a bad reputation over decades – even from within the black community.
‘Being a single black gay adoptive father I think it’s something quite positive. Long term would be for more black families or single black people, the black LGBT community to really consider adoption as an option into parenthood.’
Leon’s son had a difficult start to his life, having lived in five different homes before being matched with his new father.
Despite this, Leon said that this hasn’t posed a problem during his adoption journey.
Leon has also set up a Facebook group of black fathers who have adopted children to offer support and guidance to one another
‘All my friends and family and people I come into contact with are really positive about the whole thing obviously.
When asked what advice he would offer people of all backgrounds and demographics, Leon said having a large support network is key.
He said: ‘I’ve got emotional support if I need to pick up the phone rant or get advice, then I’ve got that in abundance, but it would be nice to have a bit more “Can you watch him for an hour while I go to a restaurant”.’
However, despite his own positive experience with adoption, Leon has no immediate plans to adopt again but if his circumstances were different ‘then maybe’.
In addition to his new book, Leon has also set up a Facebook page dedicated to supporting black adoptive fathers to provide a safe space for discussion and to help each other.
He said: ‘So what that was about was I was in a lot of parent groups on Facebook and actually gay parent groups and gay parent forums and they were majority white spaces and I just felt the cultural differences, the differences in the way we care for our children.’
The group has grown to include fathers from as far as America, Canada, Australia, Africa, Middle East, Caribbean, Jamaica and Leon describes the group as a global village because ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.