Jill Green is ashamed to say that when she found out her son Adam was gay in 1985, she rejected him.
It took her a while to come to terms with, but she hopes her efforts over the last 27 years have gone some way to making up for her mistakes.
The 75-year-old says it was just her who struggled when Adam came out – her husband Gordon was fine.
Jill and Gordon Green have helped thousands of people over the years
“I had a great deal of difficulty being able to accept it – I really flipped,” she said.
“I was really dreadfully upset and I’m ashamed to say I did actually reject my son for a few weeks and I never ever would have thought I could have done – but you don’t know how you are going to react.
“When he came out, it was just about the time all the horrible adverts were on TV about Aids and apart from that, I had felt I was anti-gay.
“That got changed after a while and once I had got through the trauma and stopped feeling sorry for myself, I decided other people might be able to get some help and support from our experiences.”
So Jill and Gordon, of Holmside Avenue, Halfway, set up Acceptance – a support group for parents who are going through the same thing.
They ran a helpline, sent out regular newsletters, had meetings and went to numerous conferences to learn more about homosexuality.
The couple have also been in magazines, national newspapers, the radio and on TV talking about their cause and how they hope to give a greater understanding of the issue to people.
Over the last almost three decades, they estimate they have spoken to more than 9,000 people from all over the world including as far away as Nigeria and Israel.
They have also helped not just parents, but other family members and people who are preparing to come out to their loved ones.
Great grandmother-of-one Jill says she always wanted it to go further than just Sheppey, but she never dreamed it would become as big as it did – she and Gordon, 82, had to convert their front room into an office to run it.
Now they are closing down Acceptance due to retired bus driver Gordon’s health – and although Jill says this has been a very hard decision as it’s been her baby for so long, she does believe there isn’t so much of a need for it now.
“Some people will be upset when they hear their children are gay but on the whole it doesn’t seem such a big thing,” she added.
She says her relationship with Adam, now 50, has always been good, apart from what she describes as that blip, and now it’s fantastic.
Everything that was done with Acceptance was always with his approval and Jill says she never did anything unless he was happy with it.
Jill, a retired Halfway post office clerk, said although there have been some people she has spoken to who have sent shivers down her spine their views have been so awful, they have also made many friends and met some fantastic people.
Jill says when Acceptance was first launched, there were other groups doing similar things and they would meet at conferences to share ideas about what they could do to make the world a better place and give people a better understanding of homosexuality.
Although she feels there is more acceptance these days, there are still issues which shock her.
An example recently is the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that ‘gay visitors will be fine at the Winter Olympics if they leave children alone’.
She says she’s frustrated someone educated can have such views and that it’s disappointing there are some people who appear to muddle homosexuality with paedophilia.
“We need to make people realise homosexuality is not a dreadful thing,” she said.
“Your children are exactly the same as they were the moment before they told you they were gay and if you loved them before then you can love them after.
“We wanted to show people we are an ordinary family that have faced, what we thought at the time was a problem, and if we could do it with a bit of understanding then other people could do it.”