When I was 16 years old, I took a role that was to change my life forever. The character I was playing – Beth Jordache – was a lesbian and one of the first on British TV.
It seems hard to imagine now that this was such a shocking role but it provoked a huge response; some positive, some negative. I had met gay men and women at work - it didn't strike me as strange and my family and friends didn't make an issue of it. I had grown up knowing that any life decisions I made – about my career, education or sexuality would have been supported unconditionally.
I will always be grateful to have come from such an open-minded family who could discuss sexuality and other issues around the family dinner table. That role opened some doors (and some minds) but also opened my eyes to the fact that across the UK not everyone was from as supportive a home life as me. I received letters – thousands of letters – from young women (and men) who confided in me – or Beth – that they were gay and that their parents could not (or would not) accept their sexuality. Teenagers thrown out of their family homes or ridiculed in the streets for who they were.
Now, many years later, things are much improved. We have civil partnerships giving gay couples many of the same rights as married couples but which still differentiate between a heterosexual and homosexual relationship. Years ago there was fierce resistance to the idea of female clergy – but today we see women vicars all over the UK. They are as loved and respected as any other members of the church. If the church and the state can accept this fundamental change to religious doctrine, then would it be too much to accept the fact that people of the same gender should be allowed to be married in church?
Over ten years after that kiss I was lucky enough to be a ‘best woman’ at one of the first Civil Partnerships. It was a joyous occasion shared by family and friends to celebrate the fact that after 15 years together two old friends – and my daughter’s God-parents - could finally formalise their relationship in the eyes of the state. My daughter Gracie has been lucky enough to grow up with gay men and women in her life and she will talk about the fact that her god-parents are gay without giving it a second thought.
She says that they are 'married' but of course they’re not – and that's what she would find difficult to understand.
Independent Voices has launched a campaign to legalise same-sex marriage. To read more about our Equal Partners campaign and sign the petition, click here.