Why every mum should have a gay son 

By Ruth Tierney

pampering, holidays and heart-to-hearts. As designer Henry Holland recently said: 'When I told my mum I was gay, she said, "Darling, I'm delighted."' Here, Ruth Tierney talks to three mums and their devoted sons

'Mum will always be my number-one girl'

Phil Lowe

Phil Lowe, a 28-year-old event manager from Leeds, regularly takes his mum Sandra, 59, shopping and clubbing

Phil says

Mum and I definitely wouldn't have the same relationship if I was straight. My sexuality means that I'm more in tune with her, that I understand her and that, predictably, I like to shop with her. Getting on well with your mother is such a gay trait, and my partner Simon, who's 25, has a brilliant relationship with his, too. Mum will always be my number-one girl. In contrast, my straight brother James, who's 30, recently got married, so there's suddenly another woman in his life.

It struck me how much Mum means to me when Simon and I went travelling to Southeast Asia for ten months last year – I missed her so much, especially because I had my birthday away from home. But thanks to the joys of Skype, I managed to talk to her once a week. When we got back, we moved into my old bedroom for a few months and Mum loved having us both under her roof. I now live about two hours away from my parents' home in Solihull, and see Mum every other weekend. We talk most days, and she's the first person I call when I'm having a crisis. It helps that she's a Taurus like me, as we're both easy-going people who like to have fun.

Because we're so similar, I instinctively know what suits her – last week I bought her a polka-dot blouse in Marks & Spencer because I knew it would go brilliantly with a chunky belt she has. I help her look glamorous, giving her hair a blow-dry before we hit the town and taking her for manicures. She's crazy when she's had a drink, and loves my gay friends – the last time we went clubbing she was escorted round on the arm of a buff bouncer! I'm sure there aren't many straight men who'd take their mum to a nightclub.

My parents have always been cool about my sexuality. I told Mum I was gay when I was 16. She'd just bought a new dining-room table that opened out into an eight-seater and was explaining how all her future grandchildren would be able to fit around it when James and I eventually paired off. 'James might have kids one day, but not me. I'm gay,' I said. She didn't look shocked, but just replied, 'My friend Pamela was right, then. She's been telling me that since you were six.' God knows how Pamela knew – I wasn't playing with Barbies or anything. I let Mum tell my dad, Geoff, who didn't mind at all, and didn't act differently towards me. We haven't discussed it as such, but he has been very accepting. Although my mum and I were close already, her reaction made our relationship stronger than ever. I feel I can tell her anything now, including rude gay jokes!

Sandra says 

Phil's always been a bit different from his brother James. He's the outgoing one, whereas James is more reserved like his dad. Geoff and I always treated the boys exactly the same, buying them both cars when they passed their tests, making them cook and clean from a young age. But when they were growing up, I'd sometimes wonder whether Phil was gay, especially after my best friend Pamela mentioned it – her late brother was homosexual, so maybe she could read the signs. Anyway, I presumed he'd tell me when he was ready, so when he did come out, I wasn't shocked. He's just my boy, and I wouldn't change him for the world.

I don't go out of my way to tell people my son's gay, but friends of mine who know are a little green with envy. One said that she wanted to be friends with a gay man, as they're much more sympathetic than her husband ever is. I'm lucky in that I've got three understanding men in my life.

Phil recently dragged me and his dad to a Gay Pride party – Geoff didn't bat an eyelid at all the men in their colourful costumes. I regularly go to gay clubs in Birmingham with Phil, where people must look at us and think, 'Who's the old boiler with that gorgeous man?' but I don't care – I'm having too much fun. Last weekend he told me I was going to be a grandma. I was speechless, but burst out laughing when he explained that he and Simon were having a puppy, not a baby!

Are you the mother of a gay son? Tell us about your experience below

'I'm a sensitive person and Mum feels comfortable telling me anything'

Gary Williams

Singer Gary Williams, 39, from Berkhamsted, Herts, is the first person mum Kathleen, 67, turns to for a heart-to-heart

Gary says

Mum and I have always been incredibly close, and it's difficult to say whether that's because I'm the youngest of four – I have two older brothers, Michael and Sean, and a sister, Debbie, all straight – or because I helped her and Dad through their divorce, but being gay definitely has a bearing on it. We don't do stereotypical gay-son-and-mum things such as shopping, but I'm a sensitive person, and Mum feels comfortable telling me anything.

More than that, there's no competition from a wife in my life. Mum doesn't have to worry about whether another woman is feeding me enough.

I came out to my parents when I was 18. My dad Ray wheedled it out of me at the pub one night, which I found excruciatingly embarrassing. He brought up the subject by saying, 'So, you've never had a girlfriend…' When I admitted why, Dad was great, jokingly saying he'd known ever since he'd seen me trying to kick a football – badly – on a family holiday in France! I told Mum next, and she gave me a big hug. At first she was worried about me being bullied because of my sexuality, but she's been amazingly supportive.

She and Dad divorced when I was in my teens, and it made me realise that they're not perfect, they're just ordinary people with feelings. I acted like an agony aunt for both of them. Since then I've never taken Mum for granted, but have instead treated her like a friend. She loves coming to watch me when I'm performing in West End shows, such as my role as Frank Sinatra in Rat Pack. We often go to musicals and cabarets – we're both very theatrical. I sing on cruise ships, and Mum comes along, sharing my cabin and clapping me on. I'd never feel embarrassed to introduce her to friends; in fact, they all queue up to kiss her hand like she's the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance!

I know that Mum is there for me. I phone her twice a week, and she's always understanding, never judgmental. One of the most touching things she's ever done was welcoming my husband Mark into the family 11 years ago. A serious long-term relationship of mine had ended about three months before I met Mark, 41, on a cruise, and many of my friends weren't ready for another guy in my life. Mum knew how in love I was, so she came from her home in Scunthorpe to a concert I was performing in in Hull. She swept into my dressing room in a floor-length black coat to meet Mark. He was bowled over by her charm, and they've loved each other from that moment.

Kathleen says

Kathleen says I know I'm biased, but Gary is a beautiful person. He's honest, compassionate and manages to tell it like it is without being rude or unkind. He's always there for me, as I am for him. I talk to him about my feelings, which I'd feel uncomfortable discussing with anyone else – including my husband Ron. Gary's more sensitive and understanding than straight men often are. However, he isn't camp, which is why I never suspected he was gay in his teens – despite his dad wondering. When he told me, I wanted to protect him from being hurt, but I know I have to let him stand on his own two feet.

We're very much alike, as we both have an adventurous streak and like a laugh, but are sensitive too. When I watch him perform, I feel so proud of him. It's lovely meeting his gay friends as they're all such happy, talented people. I love his partner Mark to bits too – it doesn't matter that they'll never give me grandchildren. All I've ever wanted is for Gary to be happy.

When Gary and I go to musicals or on cruises, he treats me like a lady. He makes me feel special as he's interested in my life, and we talk about everything from his career to family members and quandaries I'm having, such as whether to sell the house. He never makes me feel like a nuisance. To put it simply, he looks after me.

Gary's new albums, The Best of Abbey Road and Gary Williams Meets Frank Sinatra are out now. For further information, visit garywilliams.co.uk

'Mum's as happy at posh restaurants as she is at gay bars'

Mark Leeson

Mark Leeson, 42, a salon owner from Tibshelf, Derbyshire, lives next door to his mum Christine, 62

Mark says

My relationship with mum is unique. I involve her in everything because, when I was 19, my dad had a brain haemorrhage that left him unable to walk. Mum became his carer, and as the oldest of their three sons, I became the main breadwinner and was left to support my parents, which I still do. My gay lifestyle now – the pampering, the parties and the shopping – offers pure escapism for Mum. It gives her life an element of much-needed fabulousness.

I see Mum every day because I bought her and Dad the house next door to my partner Richard and me in the village where I grew up! It's so handy because she pops the washing in for us and makes our bed. But she gets treats in return, often coming to have facials and manicures at my salon in Mansfield. I regularly give her a cut and colour to keep her blonde hair looking gorgeous.

We also have a flat in London, and Mum often comes with us. I love seeing her face light up when I take her for lunch at The Dorchester or we go to Oxford Street – gay sons, of course, make the best shopping assistants. I'll often pick things up that I think will suit her, such as a grey satin dress from Karen Millen that I bought her for a hairdressing awards ceremony.

There's nowhere I wouldn't take Mum. She's as happy at posh restaurants such as The Ivy as she is at gay bars in Soho. We never take her anywhere too out there, but we go to lively bars where she can talk to the youngsters – gay boys gravitate towards her because she's such a giggle. Gay girls do too – we've had to rescue her a few times! Mum and I have great fun pointing out good-looking guys to each other, and we both fancy George Clooney. She's such a party animal that often I'll be ready for bed, while she and Richard, who's 35, are still going strong. Mum even comes on holiday with us twice a year and one of my two brothers [Steven, 37, and Craig, 40, both straight] looks after dad; in fact, we've just got back from Dubai.

We've never had the whole 'I'm gay' talk because there was no drama in me coming out.  I only admitted it to myself when I was 21, but I think it was probably obvious to her before that. I was a New Romantic with coloured hair and make-up, so she must have had her suspicions. My lifestyle has just sort of evolved, and I'm lucky that my parents and brothers have accepted it. They all welcomed Richard into the family with open arms 18 years ago. Mum's my best friend. We'll always be there for each other.

Christine says

Gay men are definitely more sensitive than straight ones. In fact, I've never met a friend of Mark's who isn't lovely and caring. Although I know my two straight sons think the world of me, they don't show it in the same way Mark does. He takes me everywhere with him, is proud to introduce me to his friends, and embraces me whenever I see him.

The gay thing makes our relationship that much stronger. Mark never had to tell me he was gay, I just twigged in his late teens. Although he had friends who were girls, I could see he wasn't interested in them in that way. I had to explain it to his dad Terence, 65, though. He kept saying, 'When Mark gets married…' so I sat him down and said, 'Terry, that's not going to happen.' He was surprised, but accepted it without any fuss. Then Mark brought Richard home. He's a lovely man, and we were so pleased to see how compatible they were. They've looked after us ever since. Richard is a son-in-law to us and we always send him birthday cards with that written on the front. Mark and Richard don't feel the need to get married, but if they were to, I'd be thrilled.

I also reap the benefits of Mark's wonderful lifestyle. My friends are so envious that my son does my hair for me, not to mention that he takes me on holiday with him. We're going to Sitges in Spain this year, which is a gay seaside resort we often visit. The bar owners there all know us now, and shout, 'Mama is here!' when they see me.

For details of Mark's salon, visit markleeson.co.uk


Gareth Thomas


When Gareth announced publicly that he was gay, he went to see his parents the night the news broke. 'Mum insisted on opening some champagne. She said it was a celebration of the rest of my life,' he says.

Gok Wan


Gok describes his mother Myra as 'a bottomless pit of love who is never judgmental of others. She always told us we could be whoever we wanted to be — as long as we respected other people. She made us fiercely independent in the knowledge that she was there in the background if we needed her. She does take 20 minutes to tell you what could be said in ten, and when I'm in a rush it can drive me mad. But I feel out of sorts when I'm not in regular contact with her.'

Henry Holland


Henry has always loved women, he says, and when he was growing up (his parents divorced when he was three) he practically had three mothers — his sister, who was very motherly, his stepmother, who he's 'very close to', and his mum. He recently said, 'My mum says that she knew I was gay before I did.  But then she's a very, very camp mum. My upbringing was basically a gay training camp.' 

Rufus Wainwright


Rufus's mother Kate McGarrigle, herself a folk-rock singer, died earlier this year aged 63. Rufus says, 'We shared so many fantastic experiences. I was with her, holding her head as she died, staring into her eyes. It was like, "OK, we know she's going to be watching over us, and that's why I'm ready to go on."  She gave me so much love.'

John Barrowman


'My mother stood up in church once when someone said that all gays should be put on an island and left there. "How dare you," she said. "That is my son you are talking about." My parents walked out. They lost friends. I admire them so much for taking that stand.'

Alan Carr


Alan is close to his mother Christine, and she appears to be enjoying his celebrity, he says, 'now that I earn good money. Christmas was hilarious: Mum said: "Well, I want some Ugg boots, a Nintendo DS, and for my main present…" and I was like, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." She's got clued up on the goodie bags too. After an awards show I'll get the phone call: "Anything good in your goodie bag?"