‘You do not choose who you love’

Mandy (35) and Kerry Sterland (45) from Cosham, got married earlier this year and both their first time in a same sex relationship. Pictured is: (third left) Mandy Sterland (35) with her children Kira McKeown (12), Kian McKeown (6), wife Kerry Sterland (45) and Kerry's children Riley Sterland-Carter (8) and Summer Sterland-Carter (11).

You can’t help who you fall in love with.  It doesn’t matter what gender they are, how old they might be or what they do for a living, because in the words of Kerry Sterland (and Lennon and McCartney), ‘all you need is love’.

And that old adage rings very true for Kerry and Mandy Sterland, the new Mrs and Mrs of Chatsworth Avenue, Cosham.

‘You do not get to choose who you love,’ says Kerry, 45, ‘it just happens.’

But their special day in July wasn’t just the day they married their soulmates, but the day they could both truly be themselves. Filled with smiles, the lovers exchanged vows surrounded by their friends, family and children at Tournerbury Woods Estate, Hayling Island.

However, their journeys to where they are today weren’t always filled with happiness.

Kerry was in a heterosexual relationship for 17 years and has seven children. But, she claims that she was miserable for a lot of the time.

‘It got to the point that I was in a very unhappy place - I didn’t want to be here anymore.’

Kerry and Mandy worked together as carers for four years and became good friends, with them both confiding in one another.

‘I got married to a man when I was 21-years-old,’ says Mandy, 35, ‘I had my two children with him.

‘I was unhappy and my husband knew. But I never had feelings for a girl before.’

And as the couple worked together more and more, their friendship became stronger.

‘Our relationship was purely platonic for a long time. Me and Mandy used to take our kids on day trips so they became friends,’ says Kerry, ‘Mandy was a form of escapism.’

‘Mandy knew about my situation and told me to do something for myself.’

The couple insist that they’d never had romantic feelings towards a woman before, so their shared attraction was, at first, hard to come to terms with.

‘I was dealing with these feelings for a long time,’ says Mandy, ‘I didn’t understand why I was feeling like this towards her.’

‘I was scared and didn’t want to lose her as a friend.’

To avoid confronting her real feelings, Mandy stepped back.

‘She became very distant and worked with someone else,’ says Kerry, ‘I felt replaced.

‘And all that time we didn’t know we were in love with each other,’ laughs Kerry.

The couple moved in together in July 2017, with Kerry’s five youngest children and Mandy’s two children.

‘When I told my 12-year-old daughter that me and Kerry were together, she told me “you can’t help who you fall in love with mummy”,’ says Mandy.

And while both of their parents were ‘chuffed’, Kerry says it took her children some time to get used to it.

‘There’s only one person in my family who won’t accept it, but hopefully one day we will be able to move on from this,’ says Kerry.

‘But my other children have been very supportive as they know what I have gone through.’

Although they haven’t experienced homophobia in Britain, Kerry and Mandy embarked on what they call ‘a honeymoon from hell’.

‘We went to the Dominican Republic – it was absolutely horrendous,’ says Kerry, ‘we were treated like outcasts because we’re a same sex couple.’

On arrival at their hotel, the couple were repeatedly asked where their husbands were and why they didn’t want single beds, as well as refusing to acknowledge that it was their honeymoon.

‘People shouted ‘no gays allowed here’ at us.

‘It’s 2018. It shouldn’t be like that,’ says Kerry, ‘we’re never going to get our honeymoon back.’

However, not everyone struggled to understand the love between them.

‘We cared for this 100-year-old woman and she said to me one day, “Are you and Kerry together?” When I told her, she was ecstatic,’ laughs Mandy.

‘We just see ourselves as a normal couple – we walk down the road holding hands. It isn’t any different to a man and a woman.’

Now, they are determined to put the past behind them.

‘She makes me complete,’ says Kerry, ‘I have a purpose now. I used to be just a mum, but now I am a lot more.’

‘I feel like I am living again,’ added Mandy.

And staring into her wife’s eyes, she says, ‘I never understood when people said they married their best friend. But now I do.’

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