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Exclusive: Jessica Fostekew on being a queer parent and coming out later in life

Mock the Week star Jessica Fostekew is opening the LGBTQ+ Stand-up Comedy Festival

Jessica Fostekew head against a blue background
Matthew Moore
Matthew MooreOnline News Editor
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Jessica Fostekew has had a major journey of self-discovery over the past few years as she realised her own queer identity while parenting a seven-year-old son.

But as a comedian, all of these subjects can help fuel her career and as she prepares to take to the stage for the opening night of the LGBTQ+ Stand-up Comedy Festival, the first comedy festival in the UK dedicated to LGBTQ+ performers, the mum-of-one sat down with HELLO! to discuss her journey and her son's innocence when it comes to her identity.

Jessica spoke about how her son had been the subject of a homophobic jibe when a fellow classmate described his painted nails as "gay". She shared: "I live in fear of my son getting some kind of shade thrown, or embarrassment and I imagine that's to come, he's only seven."

She continued: "His dad and I had a conversation and we're like: 'At this point, I don't think the kid using that slur knows understands the venom and the toxicity of it.' I felt like there was no point yet explaining to our son quite how badly he had been insulted when actually he didn't feel that insulted."

Thankfully, her son has been able to understand her sexuality, which lies on the spectrum between bi and pansexuality, describing him as pretty "sharp" when it comes to the "beginnings of conversations about difference".

Jessica Fostekew in black dress© David M. Benett
Jessica will be taking to the stage on opening night

Jessica, who cites stars like Sarah Millican and Frankie Boyle as some of her comedy inspirations, said that fans attending her show, which will take place on Wednesday, can expect jokes around her experiences in coming out and parenting, explaining: "I mine my own life for stuff, I've got a seven-year-old I tend to talk about that."

Describing it as an "honour" to take part in the Festival's opening night, Jessica also touched on the show's importance, explaining: "It's really important that these types of events go on, and I love it that they're all year-round, we're not limited to that little pride window anymore. We live in a time where we wish it wasn't necessary to have these events that feel like activism, but there we are."

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Proceeds from the event will be supporting Rainbow Asylum, which supports LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, a cause close to the Live at the Apollo star's heart, as she said: "It breaks my heart that people don't feel safe being themselves living where they originally lived and need to come somewhere else in order to feel anything from a spectrum of feeling safe in their life to feeling welcome in their community. I'm honoured to be at least telling some jokes and support for them."

The 39-year-old made headlines last year after sharing an open letter in The Guardian after a mayoral candidate posted leaflets through her door highlighting their opposition to same-sex marriage and the wider LGBTQ+ community.

Jessica Fostekew with two other women© David M. Benett
Jessica has been part of The Guilty Feminist

Reflecting on the moment, Jessica said: "I incorporated that manifesto pledge into my most recent show, and not just the pledge, but also my response to it, and how my response was reframed over time.

"I only met my queerness in my 30s and I had quite big emotional blocks grieving with a baby queer reaction to it. I was so repulsed by the thought that somebody could say openly, it wasn't as simple as being against gay marriage, she said it wasn't natural and that children weren't safe in queer families. Those were the bits that really felt like claws in. But on the other hand, I realised I had, up until that point, such extraordinary privilege to have never had to read something that made me feel so less than."

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She added: "But I hope these views are increasingly marginalised, and overshone by the number of people whose hearts are full of sort of kindness, and compassion and tolerance for difference."

If you're not able to see Jessica perform at the festival, there are plenty of other opportunities, with a short Sky series called Real Friends which is "about an adult virgin and their imaginary friend whose an enormous ice cream called Mr Whippy [played by Jess]" alongside a BBC Sounds comedy series that has recently concluded called Sturdy Girls Club all about female weightlifers.

To find out more about the Festival, acts performing and to purchase tickets, visit here.

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