Rob Rinder, 41, is a criminal law barrister, broadcaster and star of the ITV show Judge Rinder. He lives in North London.
Throughout my life I’ve been surrounded by the unconditional love of a muscly matriarchy of women.
My mother, Angie — whom I’ve always ironically called ‘Margery’ because she’s so glamorous — raised my brother and me alone in Southgate, London, having divorced my father when I was four.
Our home was a revolving door of aunties, au pairs and our grandma, who picked us up from school while mum became a financial adviser, before starting up her own publishing company.
Mum is a model in how to blow down barriers and set us an example of multitasking, kindness and emotional intelligence that was extraordinary.
Mrs Cornish, a teacher at Queen Elizabeth’s School, was a significant mentor. At school, I felt like a pink triangle trying to fit into a square beige hole.
I was indifferent to my contemporaries. Dancing helped. Mrs Cornish taught me the rumba and the cha-cha-cha and was the first to treat me as an adult. It gave me a sense of safety and curiosity.
It was probably no surprise that the first person I came out to, aged 20, was a woman I felt safe with: my step-sister Victoria.
We were the same age and extremely close. Growing up in the Eighties and Nineties there was no positive representation of the LBGT community; it was shrouded in danger, risk and fear. I called to tell her and she was full of effortless acceptance.
She was mildly epileptic and died in a terrible accident in 2001 aged 23, drowning when travelling with friends.
It was a huge shock and a trauma that attacked the family in a way which is challenging to ever meaningfully describe.
But it also brought me closer to her mother, Jenny — my step-father’s first wife.
Her journey through grief, and much else, proved instructive for me in court. From her I also learnt the value of really hearing people — not just listening.
My mother always said, ‘God gave you one mouth and two ears for a reason.’ It’s an essential skill when presiding over the toxic breakdown of a family over something seemingly trivial.
I love my joyous oligarchy of women and owe them a great debt.