Things NOT to Ask Same Sex Parents

Just like a pregnant woman is NOT, just by virtue of being pregnant, inviting strangers to touch her belly, same sex couples and their children are NOT, just by virtue of their existence, inviting intrusive and insensitive questions into their family’s personal story or details. When you encounter a same sex couple and their children (and you will do so more and more), just ask yourself if the question you want to ask or the statement you want to make is a question or comment that you’d be comfortable asking a family with different sex parents. If you wouldn’t ask a straight couple how they made their baby, it’s probably safe to assume that a same sex couple may not want to discuss that either.

Here are some questions NOT to ask same sex parents.

  1. Where is the mother/father? Children with two female parents have two female parents. There is not a father. Children with two male parents have two male parents. There is not a mother. Implying that there is a missing mother or father is saying that this family is not complete exactly the way it is.
  2. Which one of you is the mother? (for same sex couples) Which one of you is the father? (for same sex male couples). Again, same sex couples intentionally created a family in which there are two mothers or two fathers. If what you’re really asking is which of them provided the biological material that resulted in that child, run that through the “would I ask a heterosexual person this question” test. If the answer is that you’ve never asked a different sex couple who provided the eggs and sperm that resulted in their child, you don’t need this information from a same sex couple either.
  3. Did you adopt your child? Many children don’t look like their parents for a wide variety of reasons. Additionally, there are many ways for same sex couples to have children that don’t involve adoption. It can be particularly jarring for a child to overhear a conversation in which it has been assumed that he/she was adopted. If the parents want to discuss their journey to parenthood with you, they will do so in their own time.
  4. How did you conceive? Understandably, you may be curious about the medical process that went into the child’s conception. But, equally understandably, it’s none of your business. If the couple wants to share this information, they will tell you. However, if they do tell you, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to tell you everything. So be careful with potentially intrusive follow-up questions like: What does your donor look like?
  5. What do you do on Mother’s Day (if there are two dads) What do you on Father’s Day (if there are two moms). Many children don’t have a mother or a father for a variety of reasons. If a child is living with just her heterosexual mom, would you ask what they do for Father’s Day? If a child is being raised solely by his grandparents, would you ask what they do for Mother’s Day? Assume that all families celebrate the holidays that are meaningful to them and leave it at that.
  6. What if your child gets bullied at school? Kids can be bullied because of their skin, their hair, their weight, their family structure, any reason, or no reason. Assume that same sex parents will support and protect their children the same way any other parents would. Bullies are going to bully. If the fact that bullying exists didn’t prevent you from having kids, it shouldn’t prevent gay people from having kids either.
  7. What about when she wants to meet her “real dad/”real mom?” The child in question has two real parents already. These are the people right in front of you who feed her, shelter her, love her, and wanted her badly enough to spend a lot of time and money to become her parents. If by “real dad,” you mean the sperm donor who did nothing but deposit biological material into a cup, perhaps the problem is in the definition. In general, it is best not to ever refer to donors as “mom” or “dad,” so questions to two moms like “Tasha is so tall, was the father tall?” are generally not helpful. They will also be confusing to Tasha if she hears them.
  8. When did you tell him the truth?  Which truth might that be? Infants know pretty much from birth who their parents are – it’s the person or people who come when they cry (all night. For years.), who change their diapers, who feed them, cuddle them, love and support them. Do you think children of gay parents are unaware that they have parents? That their parents are of the same sex? If anything, it’s difficult for same sex parents to decide when to tell their kids the truth about ignorance, hate, and intolerance. That’s the hard truth here.
  9. To two dads – what if he wants to play sports? To two moms – what if she’s a “girly girl”? Assume that same sex parents are equally able to support their child’s personality and preferences as different sex parents. All parents are often surprised by who their child is and becomes. Parenthood, for all of us, is a lifetime of adjusting.
  10. Introducing the child as; “This is Jack. He has two moms.” Unless you plan to recite the family structure of each child you’re introducing, it’s probably best to omit it. Jack likely doesn’t consider this fact of particular interest or importance. His friends likely don’t either. If you have to introduce the parents, then go with “This is Jack and his parents.”
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