Ever since my partner and I became parents 10 months ago, we’ve fielded a dizzying array of intrusive questions from casual acquaintances and total strangers. I understand why people are curious — we both look like women (my partner, who gave birth to our daughter, is actually genderqueer), so you can’t just assume you know how we wound up with a baby, like you might with a reproductively compatible couple (although if you did, you might still be wrong — people build their families in all kinds of different ways, regardless of gender or orientation.). But if you’re not a close friend, these questions are pushy at best, offensive at worst. Instead of obsessing over the details of how same-sex couples became parents, ask yourself: Do I really need to know? You probably don’t.
1. Is she yours or did you adopt her?
First of all, it’s not really any of your business whether one of us is biologically related to our daughter. If this is your idea of a conversational icebreaker, try “Did you watch the Emmys?” instead. Also, implying that you don’t think of adoptive parents as “real” parents immediately makes me doubt we’re going to be friends.
2. Which of you is the mother?
As far as her birth certificate is concerned, both of us. As far as my partner and I are concerned, I’m the mother and my partner is her gestational father. I assume what you want to know is whose vagina she came out of. If you’re a really, really, really close friend, maybe you can ask that. But honestly, unless we volunteer this information, how is it any of your business?
3. Who’s the father?
The sperm donor is someone we have never met and don’t intend to. We are grateful to him for making our daughter’s conception possible, but he is not a member of our family and we do not appreciate you referring to him as a parent. Even if you’re asking a family who knows and is willing to disclose the identity of their donor, don’t call that person a mother or father unless the legal parents do so first.
4. Did you do IVF?
This is also personal, not something to bring up casually five minutes after we were introduced! Would you ask straight parents “What position did you have sex in when you conceived your child?” No? Then please show us the same courtesy.
5. How long did it take to get pregnant?
Just like above, take a moment and imagine yourself asking a straight parent. “So, how many times did you have to have unprotected sex?” Then, instead of asking that, say literally any other combination of words in the English language (except the other questions on this list, of course).
6. How did you decide which of you would get pregnant?
I understand why people wonder. When either partner could theoretically carry a child, deciding who will do it — or who will do it first, if you each plan to take a turn — takes some doing. But be aware that this might be a much more fraught question than the asker anticipates. Maybe both partners really wanted to get pregnant, and the one who lost the argument is still sensitive about it. Maybe one partner has medical issues that would make childbirth dangerous. Maybe one partner is infertile. Unless you’re close enough to us that you can reasonably assume we’d feel comfortable discussing intimate personal details, please just skip it.
7. Do you want to have your own someday?
Asking the non-gestational parent this is so freaking hurtful. My daughter is mine. I have known her since she was a blastocyst. My partner and I decided to have her together, chose a sperm donor together, went through IVF and pregnancy together. She has been my child since the moment she first existed. It’s possible that I might try to get pregnant in the future, but a child I give birth to will not be any more “my own” than the daughter I have now.
8. Is that why you don’t dress her like a girl?
Yes, we’re using plaid onesies and dinosaur overalls to condition our pre-verbal daughter so she’ll one day join our lesbian cult of man-hating world domination. Or, wait, no, we just think gendering clothes is silly and we dress her in jeans or fluffy skirts depending on how we feel and what we’re doing that day.
9. Are you worried about her not having a male role model?
No, admiring men is a weakness that might undermine her commitment to the lesbian cult. But seriously, it’s not like we live on a tiny island with no one but a friendly starfish for company. We have lots of male family members and friends who are and will continue to be part of our daughter’s life. She’s not going to lack for role models of all kinds, be they male, female, or non-binary.
10. Shouldn’t you have been the one to get pregnant, since you’re the girl?
It turns out gender presentation doesn’t have much to do with a person’s desire or ability to carry a child to term. Just because I’m the only one who wears lipstick doesn’t mean I’m the only one with a functioning uterus.
11. That sounds so hard. Couldn’t you just adopt?
The thing about this question is it’s never adoptive parents who ask it. Anyone who has been through that arduous process knows that it’s far from an easy (or cheap) alternative to IVF, and they probably also understand that the choices people make about becoming parents are extremely complicated and personal. I promise you, we did not undergo IVF because we simply forgot that adoption exists. (Don’t ask straight couples who used assisted reproductive technologies this either, by the way. It’s really never appropriate.)
12. Who does she look like?
Come on. We know this is a sneaky way of asking which of us is her genetic parent, and it’s not actually that sneaky. Anyway, she’s a baby, and all babies mostly just look like Wallace Shawn.
13. Won’t that be confusing?
I don’t find our family’s makeup or how we became parents particularly confusing, so I don’t anticipate having a lot of trouble explaining it to my daughter. From the time she knows anything about her family, she’ll know that we wanted her and worked hard to bring her into our lives. What could be simpler than that?