Where do babies come from? All kind of places. From Moms and Dads, from sole parents, from two mom families, from surrogates, from IVF, from donors, from two dad families, from divorces, from trans people, from cis people, from poly families, from straight people, from queer people, from adoption.
I’m assuming most of you know know the basics of the whole sperm/egg/uterus thing by now. If not, you should probably go ahead and pick up this book and come back when that's all sorted.
Even with all that great reading out there, queer folks still find ourselves getting the questions. Endless. Invasive. Questions. Where’s the Dad? Is she adopted? Who gave birth to him?
Often well meaning and based in curiosity, these questions can sometimes ruin a person's day. The most visible of us find ourselves answering these questions for years. I’m fairly certain that my 31year old cousin is still getting these questions about her two Moms.
If I’m being honest, I’ve done it too. A lot. I work with LGBTQ families, I run a very diverse practice and I love. love. love. knowing how different families originate. So today you get to learn from the benefit of my mistakes, the questions I have been asked and the stories my friend’s and clients
have shared with me.
Don’t ask rude questions.
It is rude to publicly ask about people’s genitals and sex lives. Anyone with a curious 6 year old knows this. Adults, however, don't often realize that they are asking the same kinds of questions. Asking how a baby has been or will be conceived, or from where this child will be or has been fed is, in a way, asking about people’s genitals and sex lives. These types of questions are on a need-to-know basis. If you aren’t this person’s doctor, lactation consultant or best friend: it is likely none of your business. You may be really curious, but it isn’t worth being rude. When in doubt, use the golden rule: would you like people asking questions about how, where, when and with whom your children were conceived? Nope. That’s pretty private.
Use reflective language and honor people’s parenting roles.
If someone refers to someone as their Mom, that is definitely their Mom. Their real Mom. Maybe not their only Mom, but definitely their real Mom. Same goes for Dad, Pops, Baba or any other parenting titles. Try listening for what parenting titles people use or asking for them. Just as asking for someone’s pronouns is a polite sign of respect, asking someone’s parenting title and then using it is a wonderful way to affirm and love queer families.
If a person has more than one parent you should honor their experience and all of their parents by not asking who carried them or who is genetically related. Whether or not it is intended that way, the subtext of that question is: who is your real parent? which of them actually counts? Each of them does. And contributed to the creation and raising of that kid in their own way which deserves respect and celebration.
Use reflective language about conception, adoption and donation.
First of all, lets give it up for surrogates and donors who make all kinds of families possible. Shout out to loving birth families in closed and open adoptions. Y’all are awesome, we are grateful.
Now lets also give it up for the non-genetic parents (or intentional parents) who sometimes have their roles undercut by the existence of a donor or surrogate.
If someone refers to a person as a donor that means that that person donated some cells to the creation of that family. That is different from parenting. A donor is not a Mom or a Dad. Not in sole parent families, and not in multi parent families.
A donor, surrogate or birth parent's relationship to that family may vary, but again, this is “need-to-know” kind of information. That is the kind of information that should be volunteered and not asked for.
Just like you can honor the hard work of queer conception and parenting by using people’s parenting names back to them, you can honor and respect parents by correctly referring to donors, surrogates and birth families as such.
Use open ended questions:
Say your sibling, child or best friend is starting a family and you are close enough to ask some more personal questions: what kind of questions should you ask? Start by asking really open ended questions and then following someone’s lead and using reflective language. Try to listen openly rather than working towards your own agenda or curiosity. Let your loved one share what they are comfortable sharing and you will be in good shape.
Want some practice? Here are a few examples:
Here is an example of an open question:
Future queer solo Mom: I am starting to work on my plan to have a kid.
Best friend: Thats awesome, how do you think that looks for you?
Future queer solo Mom: I’m just looking into my options now, but I think I’ll find a donor and sole parent.
Best friend: Thats awesome, you are going to be a great parent. I’ll come over and help change diapers.
An example of a rude question deflected by a very savvy kid:
Kid with cis straight parents: Where is your Mom?
Kid with two Dads: I don’t have a Mom, I have two Dads.
Kid with cis straight parents: Then who is your real Dad?
Kid with two Dads: That’s kind of a rude question. They are both my Dads. Want to play transformers?
An example of how asking someone’s parenting titles can be polite and simple:
Pediatrician to queer poly family: It’s so nice to meet you, do you mind telling me your parenting titles before we get started?
Mama: I use Mama
Baba: I use Baba
Dad: I use Dad
Pediatrician: great, thanks. Lets talk about weight curves.
Got it? Awesome! go forth and use the powers of reflective language, open questions and basic manners to affirm queer families.