LGBT Parenting and the Inevitable Questions

BlogHer Original Post

We got those questions even though our child had two mothers sitting right there. Clearly, we must have done a certain amount of important work to have got to the place we were at right then: at the farmers market with their toddler on a cold Saturday morning. Clearly, we had put a lot of effort into this situation, to have figured out how to procure a real live tiny human in a relationship where ovaries tend to dominate. It was frustrating, then, when we'd been up every morning at 6 AM for the past year and a half and our kid only started sleeping through the night three months ago, and we spent our days cutting grapes in half and following babies up and down flights of stairs so that they wouldn't bash their skulls in, to have people just so interested in the “father.”

For some lesbian moms, that “father” is a scant teaspoonful of genetic material, no name or face attached. For some families, that genetic material came from someone they know: a friend or relative or acquaintance who donated said material, and who in the grand scheme of things has very little to do with the ensuing children. In these cases, the correct word is usually “donor” -- not “father” or “dad.”

In some cases, like my family’s, our donor, Rob, started out as a donor and has, over the years, morphed into a dad. His “dadness” is specific to our family, though: he lives in a different city, visits a few times a year, has started staying with the kids while Rachel and I take a much-needed annual vacation as well as some shorter getaways. He plays games with the kids (now eight and five years old) over the computer. He is a cherished and important member of our extended family, and we love him dearly. But Rachel and I are the ones who live with the kids and do 99% of the actual parenting. And we’d like to take most of the credit for that, thanks.

But without thinking through my answer beforehand, when that woman asked me, “Is he yours?” I blew it.

I panicked, and instead of taking a deep breath and pausing and thinking about just how I might respond, I stammered out, “Um, yeah.”

I felt flustered, and like a jerk, and Rachel felt doubly wounded -- at the question in the first place and then at my response to it. It took us some time to regain our equilibrium that day. We managed to do it, to work our way through the guilt and the hurt and the defensiveness and the pain, by coming to a mutual understanding that our first responsibility as queer parents and partners was to our family. We needed to plan in advance for the intrusive questions of strangers and acquaintances and come up with responses that we both felt comfortable with and that respected our unique family -- not someone else’s preconceived notion of what families look like, or ought to.

Sometimes, that means that we have to remind ourselves that we don’t have to accommodate other people’s questions just because they ask. A simple, “I’m sorry, but that’s private information” is well within our rights as parents. And sometimes it means that we have to do the work of acting as ambassadors for our family, of seeing the openness and the genuine support behind what might be misguided questions and gently redirecting them, even if it means moving slightly beyond our comfort zones. Because that is how you build community and make it more diverse.

If I could go back in time to that morning at the farmer’s market, I would have taken a deep breath and reached for Rachel’s hand. And then I would have looked that woman in the eye and smiled and said, “He’s ours.”

But then I would have added, “Why do you ask?” And I would have made an effort to have a real conversation, move the dialogue forward.

Because, in my opinion, that’s the etiquette of these kinds of things: wherever possible, try to make room. Try to share.

What were your thoughts on the crib sheet? Any pearls of wisdom or tips for queer parents looking to navigate the world with their rainbow sippy cups in tow? How do you handle questions that feel intrusive? How do you balance wanting to expand knowledge about your family while maintaining your privacy?

This post is part of the BlogHer Absolute Beginners editorial series. Our advertisers do not produce or review editorial content. This post is made possible by Pampers and BlogHer.

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