When is the last time you asked a casual acquaintance—or better yet, a stranger!—the details about how their baby was conceived? You probably wouldn’t go up to the random heterosexual couple ahead of you in the grocery store checkout line and request a full conception play-by-play. But same-sex parents find themselves barraged with inappropriate questions about something incredibly private to them all the time. People somehow feel it’s OK to quench their curiosity about how they built their family.
Just because a kid has two mums or two dads does not mean you can pile on the invasive questions. Even if you think you mean well, here’s what you should not be asking.
Any question with the word “real”
If you’re about to ask a question that contains the word “real”, you’re about to be insulting. Examples:
“So which one of you is her real dad?” Uhhh, she has two dads and they’re both very real. What you mean is, “Which of you is her biological father,” and that is none of your business.
“When are you going to tell her about her real mum?” One dad in our Offspring Facebook Parenting Group answers that question this way: “My child does not have a ‘mum’—there was a ‘donor’ and a ‘surrogate’ that helped bring her into the world, but none of them is a ‘mum,’” Gary says. “If you want to ask about them, use those terms. But even then please do not feel entitled to that kind of information. In fact, unless we are close friends it’s probably better not to ask at all.”
Details about the child’s conception
“Did you use a sperm donor?” “A surrogate?” Well, why don’t you go ahead and share private intimate details about your kid’s conception first: Was your child planned? Was she conceived after a night of too much wine? What position did you use?? How a child is conceived is a private matter; if their parents want to share that with you at some point, they will. If they haven’t, it’s because they don’t want to.
“I hate when people ask us super-detailed info about our donor,” says Offspring group member Amara. “We’ve shared details with close friends, but when people find out we’re same-sex parents, any expectation of privacy goes right out the door. And also, having a gay brother/sister/best friend doesn’t entitle you to my conception story.”
Excessive follow-up questions
OK, curiosity got the better of you and you asked whether they used a donor and they’ve been polite and answered you. Stop there. You weren’t entitled to that information and you’re certainly not entitled to know where the donor lives or how they selected them.
Gary says he doesn’t mind too much if people ask whether they adopted or used a surrogate, but the questions should end there. “There are many kinds of family journeys and I’m ok sharing information at a general level to give the contours of our journey,” he says. “What I’m not ok with is excessive follow-up questions ... People feel entitled to so much information when they find out we are same-sex parents, and it’s really frustrating.”
If they’re not elaborating on their answer, it’s time to end the questions.
So what can you say?
More statements, less questions. For the random stranger ahead of you in the grocery line, you might say, “You have a beautiful family.” For the acquaintance that you’d like to befriend, try, “I’d love to hear about your journey into parenthood some time.” That opens the door to say you’re interested in getting to know them better without putting them on the spot to divulge private experiences.