LGBT Parenting and the Inevitable Questions
I've just read the Crib Sheet for LGBT parents of newborns by Dana of Mombian. As always, she provides spot-on advice and tips for LGBTQ+ families (and their allies). It's funny: now that I have “big kids” (ages eight and five), so much of what we do as queer parents just seems old hat. Our friends know us; our neighbors know us; the school knows us; the pharmacists and the waitresses at our local diner and the soccer coaches and even the bank tellers know us. So it’s rare that we have to explain ourselves to our larger world.
But I remember a time when it felt like we were constantly explaining and how tiring and often frustrating that was.
Mombian makes a great point on her Crib Sheet about handling parenting conversations with other adults: "A little preparation can help you sound comfortable with yourself." I agree. My best advice (I hope) to aspiring or new queer parents is this: Think through your responses to questions in advance, so that you can be smoother than I was. And remember that sometimes even the insensitive questions are meant kindly.
When my sons were babies, we used to spend most Saturday mornings at the local farmers market. It was a godsend for parents of little kids: open early (a bonus, since we tended to be awake by 6 AM most days and were desperate to be out of the house by eight); warm and dry even during the coldest winter months; and full of friendly people who didn’t bat an eye when our toddler, Rowan, monopolized the free samples of chorizo or locally made Gouda. Plus, they served coffee and a great breakfast.
During one such morning, my partner and I had snagged one of the coveted breakfast tables and were waiting for our food. Despite my four-months-pregnant belly, there was still room on my lap for Rowan, and he climbed onto it. A woman we knew in passing asked if she could join us, and we said, "Yes, of course," because that's the etiquette of the farmers market: You make room. You share. We made a bit of small talk, and then she turned to me and gestured toward Rowan, who was plowing his way through a pile of cheese curds.
“Is he yours?” she asked.
I wasn’t ready for the question. The sheer wrongness of it spiraled in so many different directions that I felt scattered, unable to even begin to answer her. I mean, it’s not the kind of thing that straight women sitting next to their male partners get asked about the toddlers in their laps: “Is he yours?”
Of course, Rowan was mine; to the extent that any adult could lay claim to a child, this child belonged to me. But he also belonged equally and passionately to Rachel, his other mother, the woman who had, with me, planned for him and cared about and for him since his conception, who loved him fiercely and protectively, and to whom he was equally passionately attached. And that question, those three words, negated the value of all of that.
Of course, what the woman at our table had actually meant was, “Did you give birth to him?”
But again, wording it like that would scarcely have made a difference. You may find that people will randomly, casually, ask you if which -- if either of you -- gave birth to your own children. Often, "Who gave birth?" is code for "Who’s the real mother (and, by process of elimination, the illegitimate one)?" or "I’m uncomfortable with how your family works and need to understand it according to my own terms." Decide beforehand how much of that information you wish to share and when you want to share it.
Of course, one question often leads to another, and we also received questions about the "father." Be prepared. "Do you know the father?" or "Is the father involved?" or "Does he have a dad?"
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