Welcome, Tracy, thanks for agreeing to this interview.
As I know you personally, it’s going to be difficult for me not to tell the world what a great person you are and what you do to help everyone you come across that’s in trouble. I’ll try keep my fan-girling to a minimum..
Tell us a bit about yourself. I know people always call you Mum Shayler, as you’re mother to Luke, who’s this dreamboat of a guy who happens to be married to a man, another dreamboat called Trent, and that they are quite the couple around town. I’m sure though that Tracy herself has a story to tell…
Hey Susan, firstly I would like to thank you for being interested enough to even ask me these questions.
I was born in 1965 and brought up in London. Even back then I was aware that my mother’s male hairdresser was in a relationship with a guy. My friends were all from different nationalities, I guess as a kid everything around you seems normal. My family moved to a small village in Bedfordshire when I was a teenage andr it was then that I realised people had something to say about sexuality and colour and this was a shocking realisation to me.
You were married at 18 and had Luke when you were 21. I understand he was a miracle child as you’d had miscarriages before he arrived. You said to me from an early age that you thought he might be gay?
Yes, I actually thought he was going to transgender, which at the time worried me mainly due to society’s ignorance. I got lots of advice from LGBT friends when Luke was around 14 as I really wanted to ask him about his sexuality. My biggest fear was that he was struggling but was advised to wait and let him come to me. He told me he was gay when he was 16.
How did you feel about that? We hear some terrible stories about children coming out to their parents with disastrous and tragic results.
I guess I was relieved as I thought he was going to tell me we had a journey of hormones and reconstruction surgery ahead of us. So, finding out my son was gay at the age of 16, I did what any mother would do…enjoyed all the gay clubs with him and his friend! ????
Going to those clubs taught me so many lessons, the biggest being my son was still the same boy he always had been, his friends were ones that would stay for life and sod what society thinks, we are who we are and that is ok!!Luke left home at the age of 20 and moved to London to work for Abercrombie and Fitch.
Oooh, lovely, he was an underwear model …*googles Luke’s name and Abercrombie and Fitch* to pop a picture in this post. Groans when she can’t find one L But this is gorgeous too…
You’ve had a lot to put up with being the mother of a gay man. I know you’ve had hate mail, as have Luke and Trent- how do you deal with those people thinking being gay is wrong let alone gay marriage -without losing your temper?
Yes, Luke and Trent had a civil ceremony in October 2013. I really didn’t deal with the hate very well at first. A mother is protective of her son, and now I had two so I would reply to the haters, get into arguments, in an effort to try to educate them. I even closed my account as I was not only getting angry but really upset. It was Luke who convinced me to reopen my Twitter account as he was receiving messages from young people asking if they could speak to me as they wanted a mother’s perspective. He also made me realise that replying and getting upset by the hate was only allowing the ignorant people to win. I don’t care if people think I am going to hell for giving birth to a gay son. They don’t know us, don’t live our lives. If only they realised that now all the hateful comments motivate me, and I believe the way forward is to educate. So that’s the direction I intend to head.
Luke sounds like a pretty wise young man. How do you get your message of hope and education out there between you all?
Acting in music videos got Trent a following on Twitter. In March last year they decided to start a You Tube Channel. It allowed them to give out a positive message, showing others that it is ok to be you. They started to get lots of positive messages from young kids struggling with their own sexuality.
Yes, one of the things you’ve found through defending and supporting your son and his husband, his friends and in fact, other family members – is that there are people out there who need advice, who want support and sometimes don’t find it, even in the close family circle. You started a group on Facebook to help people like this. Tell us a little about it. Obviously we respect it’s a private group and I must make it very clear that is not a counselling service or anything along those lines. It’s for people to discuss common problems together and find their personal solution and give hope to others suffering similar issues.
Under duress I made a couple of videos with Trent and Luke for their channel. In one of those video, I mentioned that I had always called Luke a Misfit as I have always thought society expects us to fit into what it considers to be the norm. Yet we are all misfits, perfect in our own way doing the best we can. The boys’ followers seemed to like the word misfit. I found I was waking up each morning with lots of messages from You Tube and Twitter from young people struggling with sexuality or mother’s coming to terms with their child’s sexuality. I would reply and give the best advice I could or just listen to what they had to say. These messages were coming from all over the world. I remember, Susan, speaking to you about the need for a website where these kids can get support as I was finding over the months the numbers were increasing. Yes, I have counselling skills but I am not living in their situation I could only give support from a mother’s point of view.
So you formed the Facebook support group, TrentandLukes Misfits Unite! after replying to a few messages from a couple of people of different ages who could not come to terms with their own sexuality?
Some of them lived in countries where it is illegal to be gay, and they have no way of finding a LGBT community in their area, and have no one to speak to. So I spoke to my son about opening a group where people could speak to others in a similar situation and he thought it was a good idea. I did my homework, got advice as my biggest worry was how do I keep people in a group safe from any homophobic abuse. I decided to aim the group at Trent and Luke’s supporters, keep it closed and find a group of admins who had the same outlook as myself and would be willing to put the time and effort in to supporting and checking each request to the best of our abilities.
You opened the group at the end of August 2014, didn’t you, and had some really good people to help you.
Yes, I found Robert Limb and his husband Glen Harris, Maryjean Hunt Emerson and Luke Sheppard who work as admin with me. To say the group has passed my expectations is an understatement Yes, the group takes up a lot of our time and effort but the rewards are phenomenal. I did create the group and I do have the final say in decisions but wit out every person involved I would not be able to do it on my own!
You’ve called this Misfits group a ‘family’ where you support and respect each other, are open minded and show we care. For many I imagine this is the only place they can be themselves?
Yes, we have had members come out to their family with the support from each other. Mothers have introduced themselves and thanked everybody for the support given to their child. We have those that are harming, going through anxiety or depression, having suicidal thoughts…it’s really sad to see. Once, the admin team dropped everything they were busy with in their own lives and went to pick up a minor that had been thrown out of their home. They then took the minor to the appropriate authorities. I’m glad to say another family member has since given this person another place to stay.
For many of the kids in our group it is a life line, they know they are not alone, that people do care. Their own families may not be supportive of sexuality but we are and that makes so much of a difference it is hard for me to put into words just how important it is to each of them.
We are a family of Misfits, all perfect in our own way!!
It’s an inspirational story, I admire you so much. I know you’ve had a few health problems of your own and to manage all this is a real achievement for you.
Yes, about 4 years ago I got diagnosed with chronic arthritis which has got progressively worse, I am now registered as disabled but like sexuality, it is just a small part of who I am!
Right, now it’s time for some fun. Here’s a list of questions to answer which will give us real insight into the person that is Tracy Shayler.
What’s your favourite indoor/outdoor activity?
Indoor activity….Reading/speaking to a bunch of misfits! Outdoor… Sitting by a pool with a good book. Socialising, meeting up with friends. Lunch soon Susan!
*Sue nods her head eagerly * Absolutely!
If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?
A party for my Misfits family, including all my friends who write m/m books. It would be like Pride, where everyone can be themselves and last for a week. On the outside looking in I would invite all the parents that haven’t got a clue of just how amazing their kids are….education is the key.
If you knew the world was ending in 2015, what would you do differently?
I would spend more time with those I love, and live every day to the fullest. Not forgetting to drop every homophobic parent in the middle of a gay pride event!
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
Freddy Mercury, An amazing musician who kept so much of his private life to himself yet was inspirational to many. Also my mother who passed too young.
What was the last movie, TV show or book that made you cry or tear up?
The last episode of Prison Break. I do not usually watch TV but my neighbour has a dog that barks non-stop which is stopping me from reading!
What did you do growing up that got you into trouble?
I was not a model child ???? As I was the eldest of four, where ever I went I had 3 siblings to look after. This got to be a pain so one day I put them in a lift. Once the doors shut I knew if I kicked it the lift would stop and get stuck between floors. They were there for a couple hours! lol.
Sue – *Turns round to check that the police and social services aren’t lurking* Nope, we’re all clear J
If you were reincarnated as an animal/drink/ice cream flavour, what would it be?
An elephant, as they are very protective over their young and never forget a face. I am terrible at putting names to a face.
Champagne, as it’s a drink, used to celebrate!
Ice cream- anything with peanut butter included as I find it addictive!
Tracy, I have really enjoyed your wonderful open point of view, your compassion and your humour in this interview. Thanks so much for taking part and I wish you all the best with your group. And yes – we need to have lunch and Pimms soon! Ta Ta for now 🙂