Taking on the gay mafia

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Ever-mindful of the ninth commandment along with the precept of spreading light not heat, I’ve been giving some serious thought and prayer as to whether or not to write more about the Drewitt-Barlow couple, since discovering some rather unsavoury facts about them and being urged to go public by various friends.

What concerned me about the abuse that they threw my way the other night, is that despite having had no contact with them for two years the accusations that Barrie flung at me had a somewhat familiar ring, almost as if someone was feeding him via DM – in particular I found it fascinating that he decided to begin tweeting Joe Kelly, the editor at the Universe in an attempt to get me sacked.

Why would this former self-identifying ‘practicing Church of England member’, Essex celebrity and LGBT activist within the space of a few minutes know exactly whom to contact? It very much tallies in with a pattern of behaviour experienced by another gay man who has frantically contacted any organisation with whom I might be connected, urging them to drop me. Barrie Drewitt-Barlow boasts that he is a member of the ‘mafia’, a promotional poster for his new series uses that as the strapline and the Facebook page for their new series, The Parent Makers, contains the following boast:

“Certain things can only happen, when the right people are involved. When Barrie speaks, people in the IVF world listen, if they don’t hes been known to half their business with just a few cutting comments” Julia & Harry, Ipswich, Intended Parents, with twins on the way!

“Its not WHAT you know, its WHO you know, THE PARENT MAKERS really are like a Mafia! 

 

One of the reasons I have wondered whether or not to exercise prudence is because Barrie Drewitt-Barlow seems to have a volatile temper, judging by the way he liberally scatters horrific abuse on Twitter, needing only a hair-trigger to set him off, and also by his petulant displays of temper, showcased on his TV show. Back in 2006, Drewitt-Barlow was fined £90, which his partner described as a ‘slap on the wrist’ for making death threats towards parents who  believed they had been defrauded by a private school they had set up in Spain. Just at the beginning of this month, he emailed someone who admittedly used some inflammatory and provocative language, emphasising his rich privileged lifestyle and boasting that ‘my vast wealth and contacts will crush anyone’. Having used my photograph to allege that I am a racist and another man’s photo to allege that he is a pedophile, Drewitt-Barlow laughs that he has the money to afford a legal battle. Clearly, this man feels as though he is immune from and above the law.

It’s not difficult to come to the conclusion that Barrie-Drewitt Barlow displays several narcissistic tendencies along with several chips on his shoulder, a look through his twitter feed shows a pattern of self-promotion, boasts and abuse, the key themes being attacking anyone whom he believes is inferior by virtue of their looks, breeding or social class. For someone concerned with helping people to become parents through surrogacy, he displays a disturbing eugenic mindset, even going so far as to attack a photograph of a young toddler as being ‘gross’ and destined for a career working in McDonalds.

One could easily laugh off this vain, self-indulgent man with delusions of grandeur were it not for the fact that there are 5 young children involved and that he represents the face of gay parenting in the UK.

This review written about a previous series, My Weird and Wonderful Family, makes the point that there is no law about ‘f-ing your kids up’, Larkin-style, notes that Barrie loves his kids, but highlights his focus upon physical appearance.

When asked how they chose their donors, Barry said: ‘We originally went for a combination of looks and intelligence’, before looking pointedly at his slightly chubby daughter and adding, ‘but this time we’ll go for looks alone’

One has to wonder how healthy an environment this is for a young teenage girl growing up without a mother and four male siblings, or indeed for any of his children. Viewed in this context, along with his social media output, Barrie’s yelling at his son for not being a ‘gorgeous, designer child’ seems less and less amusing.

In this interview with Joanna Moorhead in the Guardian, Tony states how important it is that their children are themselves, that they shouldn’t have to live a lie, being themselves is the most important thing of all.

An admirable sentiment, but one has to wonder how this is commensurate with their withholding the information regarding their genetic parentage from their children. Stating that “I’ve got Daddy’s nose and Dad’s eyes” is surely a blatant piece of self-deception. Furthermore Orlando’s defensive response to his father’s taunting, “I AM designer and I AM gorgeous’ but defiantly rejecting any concern about his curly hair, confirms that  has been conditioned that his  sense of worth is based around the superficial.

Every single parent attempts to model their child into their version or interpretation of a responsible human being, if I were foolhardy enough to allow the cameras into my home, there would be many mutterings about religious indoctrination from the liberal cognoscenti, and the perceived imposition of religious views upon our children. If I was filmed impatiently telling my child that they ought to be more prayerful or respectful when they careered around the bedroom during bedtime prayers, that this is a time to be silent and talk to God, there would be an outcry from various quarters and allegations of emotional abuse.

“At the school Christmas party, he stole the part of the Fairy Godmother from one of the kids, and felt up the headmaster. Barrie is a gaudy monster plucked from the dark recesses of a Tennessee Williams play, as acted by Lily Savage or Bette Davis.”

In my previous post I mused over the control that would-be parents exercise over a woman’s body, Barrie has confirmed this by insisting that his children are born by cesarian section which carries more risks for the mother than a natural delivery, because ‘childbirth is like something out of Freddy Kreuger.’ Furthermore the mothers have little to no contact with their children (I have seen her yes, said Aspen in a dull monotone , not wishing to elaborate further, on TV this week)- potentially leaving their daughter to navigate the minefield of female puberty and menstrual cycles with no close female relative and a dad who believes that the whole business pertaining to natural female reproduction is all rather ghastly. One wonders what his son who was naturally conceived before Barrie realised he was gay,  and kept a secret from him for some years, makes of it all – does he feel a keen sense of genetic inferiority?

As I said, I am aware that there are 5 vulnerable children involved here, so I don’t want to say too much about my perceptions of the situation, however by constantly hauling their children around TV studios and inviting the TV cameras into their homes, whether that be for a style make-over programme of their daughter’s bedroom, or for several reality series, the Drewitt-Barlows are inviting people to form an opinion. The children are being turned into celebrities, given a label that will follow them their whole life and having their privacy invaded  without being able to give their informed consent. Barrie openly discusses their daughter’s sexuality and muses over which child of theirs is most likely to be gay, concluding that it will probably be their two year old son, the  public projection of a niche adult sexuality onto a small infant being of questionable taste.

One has to ask how fair this is upon the children themselves: most established celebrities have agreements with the press to pixellate out their children’s faces and do their best to bring them up out of the glare of the spotlight. One might have thought that this was the most sensible option for a couple who are keen to trailblaze for the cause of gay parenting. especially when you have gone on record to state that you fear your children are at risk from kidnap and media intrusion. One might also question the wisdom of disclosing that your children attended the same school as another potential kidnap target, Brooklyn Beckham, who was also their friend.

Indeed a brief google of this couple, reveals an embarrassment of material from which to choose, from placing photographs of their children on gay dating websites (post civil partnership), being banned from running any company directorships in the UK, allegations of fraud, their children’s Christening (although Barrie now denounces the Church of England for its homophobia) and alleged dodgy dealings, (including Barrie’s leading a sex education class in which he asked the children to think about gay Nazis) leaving behind a string of defrauded and outraged parents in Spain.

On Barrie’s facebook page he talks about the haters and protestors who he has been warned will attend his marriage blessing to Tony, leading him to up security and eliciting expressions of sympathy with them against the hateful bigots.

Alan Craig, an evangelical Christian and grass-roots campaigner, describes the situation somewhat differently, explaining how their PR agent had emailed him with the following blurb. “We… actively invite protesters to turn up and be interviewed” “Clearly the event was to be an exercise in spin, hype and mirrors.”, he noted, although he still took the opportunity to turn up and peacefully propose his point of view.

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This couple are never quick to allege homophobia and how difficult it is to be gay, Barrie quoted it as justification for his abusive Twitter rant, they have cited it for the reason why they moved their children to a private school (although one notes that the flexi-boarding facilities must come in handy in terms of their frequent trips to the States and Australia promoting the surrogacy business), and put in a complaint to the border agency about their homophobic treatment, when agency officials, puzzled by the documentation, questioned the feasibility of both of the men being biological fathers to all of the children.

A few months ago, they called the police after an elderly man in the Maldon branch of Tescos called them ‘a couple of queer boys’. The insult is not to be applauded, but one might have thought that this pair who proudly talk of their background growing up on “Manchester’s roughest council estate” had grown a thicker skin?Screenshot 2014-05-29 12.34.16

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But it’s okay to falsely name and shame others as being pedophiles and racists?

On the one hand Barrie constantly talks about homophobia and having to fight for the right to drink in gay bars, how life is impossible for them as gay dads (not the best advert for gay couples considering becoming parents), yet on the other, he describes his early life as follows: “As a teenager, Barrie was outrageous, growing up through the 80’s in the city centre of Manchester , Barrie was able to express himself in the way he wanted too. Being gay was never an issue for him and he was, as they say, loud and proud!” In this clip (in which incidentally they joke with their children about who is the most loved parent and who they would live with in the case of divorce) Barrie says that he was able to express his sexuality from the age of 13.

The reason I am devoting time to this issue is because the Drewitt-Barlows are being held up by the mainstream media and press as exemplary gay parents and talk about leading the way in terms of changing public attitudes to gay parenting. A 2010 survey in the now defunct Pink Paper, discusses how they have changed attitudes. They have over 137,000 Twitter followers, their own TV series and get sympathetic plugs in the Independent and Daily Mail about ‘ethical surrogacy’. Just the other day, standing in for Lorraine Kelly, Kate Garroway gushed over them and stated how great it was that attitudes towards same-sex parenting and surrogacy have changed, and various LGBT activists fawn over them and encourage their vital work. “Beware the surrogacy cowboys” shout the headlines!

Rivka Edelman from English Manif pour Tous puts her own take on who might be being misled here. Surrogacy advocates baulk at the notion that this is all about designer babies, accessories, babies for sale or children as commodities, but when Barrie comes out with quotes such as “you get what you pay for” such as he did when speaking to Julie Bindel, it doesn’t incline one to sympathy.

Both on his Twitter feed and in this clip, Barrie talks about how this is only a process for the rich – partly because they use California, one of the few places in the world where commercial surrogacy is legal, although they continue to lobby for it in the UK. They are happy to pay thousands to genetically select the sex of their next baby, already having the name picked out, and advise clients who are looking to select particular physical attributes for their child. It’s hard to think of children as being anything other than a rich couples’ accessory, when clients stride in demanding a checklist.

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Equality for all?

Barrie claims to be a ‘clinical social worker’, a highly specialised role which requires a specific set of qualifications and experience. It is concerning that someone with an alleged professed interest in child welfare, is happy to behave in such an abusive fashion to other people. Throwing violent temper tantrums, smashing up cakes, throwing things at his partner and storming out of a restaurant when he hasn’t got his own way, doesn’t demonstrate that he is able to exercise self-control nor does it model good behaviour for his children. Nor is verbally abusing an employee, by getting close up in their face and swearing at them, the behaviour one would like to experience from one’s boss. It’s not really surprising that his PA called for me to be urinated upon – which Barrie then endorsed.

Given that the Drewitt-Barlows were refused permission to adopt and state a sketchy knowledge of the process, (here on the Lorraine show they say that an adoption panel is made up of a vicar, a policeman and a housewife who are typically prejudiced) and Barrie has been accused of lying about his qualifications as a nurse, what grounds does he use to justify the title of ‘clinical social worker’?

In the case of the Drewitt Barlow’s application to adopt, they claim that the panel recommended that they spent some time helping out with children with special needs as they did not have experience with children, before being approved to adopt. Barrie and Tony then went on a cruise around the Med to think about it, whereupon the idea of surrogacy popped into place. They felt that the panel were treating them as ‘second class citizens’ only fit to look after ‘third class citizens’ instead of a healthy child. My understanding of adoption panels is that their decisions are not binding and they come to their conclusions based upon the reports and suggestions of social workers. Furthermore they are not random individuals but have specific experience and knowledge in this area. The Drewitt-Barlows were not refused permission to adopt, but asked to get more experience, which seems reasonable.

When I first became aware of them, living in the next-door village, my reaction was not one of homophobia, but the image jarred. Two men, looking after babies? How would they know what to do? What if they dropped the baby? Shouldn’t there be a mother.  My own experience of motherhood has taught me that men are of course more than capable of looking after babies, but that mother and baby enjoy a unique and special bond. The image of two men and a baby may no longer be so disconcerting (at the time we were influenced by media films, such as Jack and Sarah, Three men and a baby which portrayed men and childcare in a pretty sexist fashion) but it isn’t unreasonable or homophobic to want some evidence of experience in childcare for two men seeking to take sole custody of a child.

Surely a social worker would know this? What kind of ‘social work’ does Barrie do? From what’s been offered to the public it seems to be little more than running a CRB and credit check as well as briefing people on what to expect on their ‘journey’.

Despite the accusations of bigotry, I am not opposed to gay couples being approved as foster carers or adopters, so long as they are able to pass the relevant checks and vetting. Any couple who wishes to put themselves through the sacrifice involved in adopting a child who will, in all likelihood have some issues or problems, should be applauded for their altruism and commitment. Ideally a child ought to have a loving mum and dad, we know that life doesn’t always work out that way for them, but rather than this being framed around the issue of ‘gay rights’ children’s rights always ought to be put first. If a gay couple can provide a loving, stable home for a child and can be matched with a suitable child (and being in a same sex home doesn’t conflict with a child’s culture) and the alternative is languishing in a care home, then we should not be blinded by ideology. That said, the Catholic care homes should not have been forced to close. Their criteria that children should always have the complementarity of both sexes parenting is entirely reasonable.

We know that there are gay parents out there doing a worthy and admirable job. Any sensible and reasonable advocates of same-sex parenting ought to kick this pair into touch as the face of gay parents in the media.

They scream at accusations of exploitation and yet their very language when referring to a potential donor, “we won’t use her again”, betrays this notion. Barrie endorses abortion and others’ rights over a woman’s body stating that prospective parents have a right to abort, recommending clauses are inserted into the legal documentation compelling the gestational mother to abort should the baby be diagnosed as having a disability.

When Barrie is filmed fantasising about being massaged by a pair of male masseurs, moaning in delight, spending several nights going out wining and dining, getting drunk with z-list celebs, writhing round with pole-dancers and talking about kissing other men, it plays into every single negative stereotype about gay men and relationships and whether this really is a situation which should be encouraged. I wonder what would happen to low-income heterosexual couple who were found to have posted photographs of their children on swingers’ websites, one of whom appeared to manifest an anger-management problem?

Still perhaps I should not be protesting so much, this TV series showing the process  and mindsets of the men who wish to promote surrogacy and gay equality could prove every to be social conservative’s dream.

One might imagine that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to invective and yet there was something about the abuse that Barrie threw at me which really unsettled my peace of mind. I was not alone, others wrote to me expressing similar spiritual disquiet and offering prayer. Most significant was an email from a gay man who had always been loosely supportive of surrogacy but said that having witnessed this behaviour, it had really hammered home the true nature of the business. Like me, he was so disturbed by what he had witnessed, that he had trouble sleeping. Others on my Facebook have urged that the various media reports ought to be assembled and disseminated.

I await the threats and lawsuits.

Making parents – the reality of the gay dads

A few years ago, I critiqued Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, the ‘gay dads’ who have set up a surrogacy business, after being spammed  by them on Twitter for suggesting that surrogacy exploited women. The post received some interesting comments after the Drewitt-Barlows put it out there on Twitter, said I was a mad Catholic woman in need of their help and requested that people leave their views.

Their new TV show aired last night and so they appear to be trolling Twitter, appearing to generate controversy and publicity to raise their viewing figures. One of the criticisms of surrogacy is that it reduces children to commodities, but of course parents would never treat their children like consumer goods , let alone ridicule and humiliate them for their genetic inheritance and the way in which they were brought into the world.

When Barrie shouted this at his son, it was clearly a joke:

“I paid for a gorgeous designer child with straight hair, not some reject from an 80s pop band with curly frizz.’’

The clip of the series in which Barrie can be seen shouting this at his son, can be seen here. (Not suitable for children, contains strong language). It gives an insight into his character as well as some of the heartbreak faced by infertile couples and pretty much encapsulates every single objection to this clinical and commercial procuring of children.

I don’t want to give them publicity for their new show and I am aware that by writing about this, I am giving them exactly what they want, but these men, together with a friend who seems to be wishing to kick start a career as a celebrity, have tonight called for me to be crucified, suggested that I am urinated upon, said that I am a pervert, a racist and a homophobe, in an unsolicited and unprovoked attack.

Writing for the Conservative Woman website, Laura Keynes proposes similar arguments and critiques of surrogacy highlighting the familiar silence and dissonance of mainstream feminism on what, like gendercide, should be a pressing issue for all who profess female solidarity.

For those who can bear it, I’ve created a storify of the Drewitt-Barlow’s libellous accusations here. I hate writing these kinds of blogs, but a few people have said that I need to find a way of documenting exactly what is going on here.

I stand by the tweet made back in November 2013, which the Drewitt-Barlows dug up tonight to justify their attack. This ‘dating site’ for egg donors really is a tawdry look into the women-for-hire nature of these men’s surrogacy business. Their company website is equally chilling. It strongly suggests surrogacy in America, California in particular, where the Drewitt-Barlows made legal history in that they were able to get a court order naming them both as parents on their child’s birth certificate. They advise on how to file an Pre-Birth order, which removes any rights or hold over the gestational mother may have over the child, so that the minute the child is born “specialist arrangements can be put in place to ensure the transition goes as smoothly as possible”. In the case of the birth certificate for same-sex parents, the court issues a pre-birth judgement specifying that on the birth certificate, one name is put in the box for father, the other in the box for mother,  in a piece of mind-bending legal fiction. The ‘intended parents’ therefore have rights over the woman’s body in that her child is yet to be born. ‘Intended parents’ are advised to  file for and obtain this judgement once the woman has reached 20 weeks in her pregnancy, in order to ensure that she is not able to exercise any rights over her child or her name be automatically placed on the birth certificate, should he or she be born prematurely.

It’s all about getting the baby away from their gestational mother before she has any chance to change her mind. One also has to ask whether or not as legal ‘intended parents’ a couple may impose their wish of birth plan onto a woman? Who gets the final say when there are tough decisions to be made which could perhaps compromise the baby. Is she restricted in her choice of pain relief and disbarred from commonly used opiates such as pethidine, which cross the placenta and can make the newborn drowsy?

Barrie Drewitt-Barlow, is I gather, responsible for the @gaydads Twitter account, which has been issuing misogynistic, abusive and libellous tweets. The force of his unsolicited and unprovoked aggression, has knocked me for six, it’s bizarre that two men who are millionaires,  have a flourishing business,  five children, their own TV show and over 137,000 followers on Twitter want to squash a minor Catholic commentator in this way even writing to the Universe to suggest that I am dropped for being ‘evil’ and ‘homophobic’. Just to jog a few memories, this was the couple who threatened to sue the Church of England if they were not allowed to conduct a ‘gay wedding’.

According to the British Surrogacy Centre, Barrie is their lead ‘social worker’, having worked in clinical social work for over 10 years. A regular on day time TV shows such as This Morning and Lorraine, he is asked to take part in many TV debates regarding surrogacy and areas on same sex parenting.  Barrie has been a regular contributer to many top magazine and newspapers for many years now and has recently written his first book as a guide to Surrogacy.  As a social worker, Barrie’s aim at all times is the welfare of any children born through surrogacy and has at any one time up to 5 student social workers under him from Universities across the UK.”

And this ‘social worker’ is abusing a mum of four for her defective genes, supposed evilness, being a ‘troll’, a ‘bully’, a racist, a homophobe and getting his followers to hate on her and tweeting her editor to get her dropped from her weekly column all because she dares to publicly disagree with the nature of their business? He’s appearing on daytime television as an equality champion, social worker and expert in children’s welfare, but is quite happy to call for the crucifixion of a pervert evil mother, with his mate asking for her to be urinated on, a sentiment which he happily endorsed by re-tweeting to all his thousands of followers?

I’d love to know what a social worker would have to say to me if I were to even allude to a negative aspect of my daughter’s physical appearance on television.(She is totally perfect as she is and I wouldn’t dream of humiliating her in this way, she’s enough of a sensitive sausage as it is). I think we’d all know what would happen, they’d be whisked away from me quicker than you could say bigot. I’m more than a little bit scared, having been warned off saying anything about this couple, for my own personal welfare – a few have reminded me that we are dealing with very wealthy and very influential people here.

Orwell and Huxley are in my blood, I remember my dad discussing, Brave New World, Animal Farm and 1984 with me from an absurdly young age. I was brought up to believe that free speech and free expression are sacrosanct, that the press must be liberated from state-control and that everyone should have the right to speak their mind, no matter how unpopular their views. One of the difficulties that my father has with my Catholicism (him being a staunch Anglican) is that thanks to his influence I have always been a fierce individualist, always resisting the pressure of group-think. The same is still true, I became convinced of the truth of Catholicism, on the strength of the evidence and after some critical thinking and against some pretty fierce opposition. Again and again my dad emphasised that it does not matter what other people think of you, all that counts is being true to yourself and able to account for your own views. Mind you, my dad is probably every bit as foolhardy as I, on a family weekend to Canterbury back in 1983, as my sister and I were making a bee-line for Morelli’s the famous ice-cream parlour, a group of activists were standing outside forming an impromptu conga-line with some hastily scrawled placards and shouting “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Out, Out, Out!” What did my dad do? Returned each chant with “Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, In, In, In!”, while my mum looked on in fear in and dread, hissing “Stop it Ken, you’re going to get your teeth knocked down your throat”! I’m still rather proud of him for that, truth be told – though translated into the digital world, it would definitely constitute a definition of ‘trolling’.

I was brought up to believe that we lived in a truly free liberal and democratic society, as a child at the height of the Cold War, I really valued the freedoms that I believed that we had. Disillusionment is proving to be an increasingly difficult pill to swallow. What kind of a world are we living in when I’m scared for what might happen to my family and children as a result of being forthright about my views on the internet?

I guess I still haven’t fully internalised Matthew 10: 16-42. Tough times ahead.