By Shannon Ralph | The Next Family
Recently, my family and I found ourselves in a rather uncomfortable situation. We had stopped into a hair salon—Great Clips or Costcutters or one of those quickie-no-appointment-necessary places—to get haircuts for our boys. The hairdresser who ushered Nicholas to a waiting chair had extraordinarily big hair and an even bigger voice. In the process of cutting my son’s hair, she mentioned something about his dad—a little presumptuous since he was there with two women and we live in Minneapolis, not Mississippi. When Nicholas proceeded to tell the brassy hairdresser that he had two moms, she took it upon herself to ask no shortage of (again, extraordinarily loud) questions about our family dynamics.
Now, I have no problem with curious people. I understand that some people may not have lesbian or gay families in their circle of friends. And I am more than happy to educate people. However, there are certain questions that cross the line from curiosity to simple rudeness. Here are the questions I could happily go my entire life without ever hearing again:
1. Who’s the real mom? This is probably the #1 most offensive question you can ask a lesbian parent. We are both, in no uncertain terms, the real mom. We were both present at their births. We have both changed poopy diapers. We have both cleaned up puke. We have both awoken in the middle of the night to soothe a feverish kid. We have both struggled through “new” math and parent/teacher conferences and 1st grade Readathons. We have both lost hours upon hours of sleep worrying about our shy daughter or our passive son. We have both had the hard talks and made the difficult decisions. We have both sacrificed for our children. In every way imaginable, we are both the real mom. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you were not belittling my family with your insensitive question. I am going to assume that you instead meant to ask…
2. Which one of you is the biological mom? A less offensive question, but still a no-no. In my family, it is fairly obvious who gave birth to whom as my oldest son is a dead ringer for my wife and I will still occasionally wax poetic about the torturous hell that was my twin pregnancy. In other families, it may not be so obvious. But here’s the thing…it’s doesn’t matter a single iota. We do not focus on biology in my family. Biology means little to nothing. I am my oldest son’s mom just as absolutely and just as unquestionably as I am the mother of my twins. They each know who gave birth to them, but it truly doesn’t matter. It is a non-issue in our family. And because it is a non-issue in our family, it is a question we may or may not choose to answer. Really, it is none of your business.
3. Who is the dad? You would never ask a pregnant straight woman who the dad is. You would never ask an adoptive parent who the dad is. And you should never—ever—ask a lesbian couple who the dad is. “Dad” is not a biological term. It is a title that is earned in the same way that “mama” or “grandpa” or “nana” is earned. My children do not have a dad. They simply do not have one. And that is okay. They have a mom and mama who love them dearly and provide for all their needs. Somewhere out there, there is a sperm donor, but he is not a dad. He has not endured the sleep deprivation or trudged through the piles of shit. He has not stared blurry-eyes and confused at 5th grade math homework. He has not questioned his own sanity while drenched in apple juice and snot. He has not earned the title of dad. He doesn’t get to be the dad. He is a donor and nothing more.
4. Do you think your kids are missing out by not having a dad? Obviously, we do not think so, but the question implies that you do. This is a rude question. It implies inferiority. It assumes that my wife and I cannot provide for the needs of our children. It shoots straight to the heart of who we are and what our family means. Two women are perfectly capable of parenting a child without a dad in the picture. I assume you are concerned about who will teach our sons about masculine things like football and NASCAR and…umm….football. In my family, my daughter is the only one interested in any way in athletics. But were our sons to become interested in football, I guarantee you that I would learn every single thing I could about the sport and I would be his biggest cheerleader. Kids simply need people who love them and support them. I can safely assure you that my children are surrounded by numerous people—male and female—who adore them and will have their backs throughout their lives. They are not “missing out” on anything.
5. Are you worried your child will be bullied because you are gay? Yes. Simply put, yes, I am worried. Bullying is out of control these days. Kids are bullied because their parents are gay or because they are gay themselves. Kids are bullied because they are black. Or Asian. Or because their parents are disabled. Or poor. So what should we do? Not have children? Would you ask the same of black parents? Low-income parents? Disabled parents? Who would that leave? Who is “worthy” to parent the children of this world? Wouldn’t it be easier to simply focus our efforts on combatting bullying? Rather than shaming gay people about having children—as this seemingly innocuous question does—shouldn’t we be striving to make this a safer world for all our children? I think so. And I am pretty sure my three happy, intelligent, well-adjusted children would agree.
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Shannon Ralph is a writer for The Next Family and lives in Minnesota with her wife and three kids.