Best known for dominating the UK indie scene with his band Bloc Party in the mid 00s, singer Kele Okereke has gone on to release three solo albums. The first two - The Boxer and Trick – seemed to match the band’s spiky, frenetic energy, but it was his latest, 2017’s Fatherland, that saw his attention turn to a more folksy, melancholy and considered sound. Okereke credits becoming a father with his change in direction towards soul and nuance, and the 36-year-old’s journey to fatherhood has given him plenty to reflect on with regards to masculinity, LGBTQ+ families and the perceived lack of gay parents in popular culture.
Here’s what he had to say when we caught up him.
I’m not going to be glib; I know that the path my partner and I have taken to fatherhood isn’t the most traditional path for gay men living in the city [Kele and his partner’s child was carried by a surrogate mother]. But I’ve never been afraid to do things that aren’t traditional.
Where I live in London is probably one of the gayest neighbourhoods so I’m attuned to seeing other LGBTQ+ parents. It’s important for my daughter to see other LGBTQ+ parents – it’s obviously stuff we’re preparing for when we talk to her more about our situation.
I’m just thankful that I’m living in a time where it’s possible. We recently watched A Very English Scandal. Both me and my partner were thinking how lucky we are that we weren’t around then. It was only in the Sixties, but there’s been so much progress since then. As a gay man I would have faced imprisonment not so long ago, and the position I’m in now is something that I cannot take for granted.
“If people aren’t willing to treat you with dignity and respect, then I don’t think you need to engage with them”
I don’t feel it’s my role to explain myself to people. Or explain how I live my life.
There will be some people that don’t get it. There are always going to be people that will have a problem with you, and you don’t have to go around appeasing them. You just have to do you in the best way that you can. That’s what I’m going to instil in my daughter.
I don’t think you need to engage with people that have a history of making negative comments. I noticed Richard Littlejohn wrote a column in the Daily Mail after Tom Daley and his husband announced they were becoming parents. If people aren’t willing to treat you with dignity and respect, then I don’t think you need to engage with them.
You have to do right by yourself in the best way possible. Growing up as a person of colour, my parents did a good job of raising me to understand that there would be people out there that would have a problem with you no matter what you do or say, and you have to realise that.
You can’t change everybody. You can’t regulate everybody. All you can do is do what you can do. I’m not so worried by what people think.