GUEST POST: All the questions, all the time

This guest post whas a really important message that needs to get through to people – it’s about privacy, but more than that it’s about respect. It might be confronting for some people but I reckon it’s important to be confronted and learn when you’re doing things that are deeply upsetting to other families – even if it’s not intentional. This post is anonymous. I’m happy to post anonymous guest posts that show parenting in all of its forms – please email me at emilywritesnz @ gmail.com if you’d like to submit a guest post. Thank you again to the awesome woman who wrote this.

All the questions, all the time

I’m going to start by sharing with you the one, and only, piece of information about me that you require in order to read this.

I am a woman in a same sex relationship and I have two small children, and this post is going to be about being a lesbian parent.

Now, knowing this information, you’re likely to place yourself into one of the following categories:
• Yay! So am I! Finally, someone who gets it!
• Yay! I’m hoping to become a lesbian/queer parent, maybe this will be useful
• Interesting, another viewpoint
• So?
• Meh, I’m not, so not relevant to me

Any of these are fine because I’m not going to write about how I raise my kids, I’m not going to offer heart-warming tales of tofu-woven baby blankets or packed lunches; I’m going to tell you about my experience of being an openly gay female parent as demonstrated by some of the STUPID QUESTIONS I’VE BEEN ASKED BY OTHER ADULTS.

It started when my wife got pregnant, because being pregnant makes every woman public property. Just like that, any semblance of privacy you may have had is swept aside by everyone else’s desperate need to ask you questions. If you think that is bad when you’re in a heterosexual relationship, when you’re a lesbian all sense of interpersonal boundaries seems to disappear. I mean all of them. This manifests in all the usual ways, with all the run of the mill questions and inappropriate touching, but the main difference is that you get asked questions that no one would ask a couple in a heterosexual relationship because they know it would likely end in fisticuffs.

“How did you manage that?” This was the most common question asked by friends and family when told about the pregnancy. This question was generally asked by men, and presumably the type who find the very idea of lesbians quite alien. I’d guess that they also find things such as IVF and women’s sexual autonomy quite perplexing, but I’d prefer that they’d not ask me about it. Seriously though, have you ever EVER thought it appropriate or in any way okay to ask a woman how she got pregnant? Then why on earth would you think it okay to ask a woman just because she’s a lesbian? This is none of your fucking business, and if you think it is a legitimate question I suggest you start asking your non-lesbian pregnant friends what sex moves they were using when they conceived, because it’s got about as much to do with you. Just don’t.

“But who is the dad?” Again, the idea of female pregnancy without an active, in all the senses of the word, male figure featuring heavily seems to bother some people. Now, I know many people are simply curious, as we all realise that sperm are actually necessary for procreation. However, and you’ll start to see a theme here, it is none of your business, combined with have you actually registered that you are talking to a lesbian couple which means that there is no dad? No, I don’t mean ‘technically’ there is no dad, I mean there is a sperm donor. Every pair of gay mums that I know has a different relationship with their donor/s, (my kids have an ongoing relationship with their donor dad and he’s a massive part of their lives), but, frankly, you don’t need to know unless you are the kids’ doctor and they have some particular genetic issue. Accept it, move along, and worry about something that actually makes a difference to you.

“Are you going to have the next one?” Let me think… This question is a variation on asking any woman if she is planning to have children, but with a twist. It implies both the perception of all women having an overwhelming urge to procreate and the assumption of lesbian couples consisting of a pair of homogenous clones, with the common assumption being that we’d prefer to “have one each”. Do not assume that I want to carry a child, or that I am able to carry a child, or that there may not be 100s of other factors that my wife and I have discussed over years relating to this topic. Also, please just let us have this baby before you start concerning yourself with such matters as my personal reproductive desires and the nature of our not yet existant family.

Once the baby is born, and then when the kid starts attending playgroups, kindergarten, school, after school clubs, sports etc., in fact anything that involves your presence as a parent, you get the next round of questions. These include those mentioned previously, in reality people never tire of asking about lesbian conception as it seems to be this generation’s equivalent of “but who is the ‘man’ in your relationship?”

“Who are you? I’ve met ’s mum” This is the most common and is the easiest of all to answer. I’m the other mum. Suck on that.

“Are you going to have any more?” Now this is a reasonable question and I only mention it because if you say nope, and I swear this is true, it will sometimes be followed by “well, you can never be sure, these things aren’t always planned!” Presumably the person who thinks this either assumes my wife and I have a rather more promiscuous (and less lesbian) relationship than we’re claiming or they think a woman can get pregnant from a toilet seat. Perhaps they think that, because I’m a woman, I’m going to suddenly have a raging urge to have triplets in my mid-40s? Who knows? I can only assume that this is some knee jerk response that is hardwired into some people’s brains. Trust me, there’s going to be no surprise pregnancy, I’m not going to knock my wife up after a few too many Babychams. We’re sure.

I could keep going forever, but I’m going to finish with my absolute favourite WTAF did you honestly just say that to me question. Again, this has been asked more than once and it results in my legendary death stare. You have been warned.

“Isn’t it funny that you ended up having two boys?” Why? Do you think that lesbians hate men? Do you think we can only empathise with or care for female children? Or are you secretly concerned that we may, somehow, emasculate our boy children with our double lady hormones wafting around the marital home? Or are you wondering how we’re going to raise two boys into becoming caring, strong, courageous, kind men? Perhaps you think, as a lesbian, I’m not capable of raising my children because otherwise why would you ask such a stupid, ignorant, ill-thought through and deeply insulting question? I dunno, maybe you should ask a dad of only daughters the same question because it’d be about as valid.

All of these questions have one thing in common; they make me uncomfortable and they are intrusive. So, unless you really enjoy being that arsehole who thinks it’s okay to ask people personal questions that make others uncomfortable, please ask yourself this, “is it really any of my business?”

P.S. I don’t expect the stupid questions to end, ever.
P.P.S. I am always happy to discuss specific parenting issues with genuinely interested parties, but I’m really fucking tired of being your freakshow

5 Comments on “GUEST POST: All the questions, all the time

  1. God, it’s just amazing how f***ing rude people can be eh? I can’t believe people think it’s ok to be so intrusive. When I was pregnant people were always always asking me if I was ‘sure’ I was not having twins and I was like, ‘ummm let me just think . . . how many babies am I having again? Oh and thanks for commenting on my size AGAAAAAIN!!’

    I can imagine that it’s loads worse for two mum families. Thanks for sharing this x

  2. Thanks so much for this!

    I couldn’t agree more. I cannot BELIEVE how so many people have misplaced their NONE OF MY BUSINESS filter.

    I also think, when it comes to nosiness about kid stuff, that it’s really intrusive on the privacy of the child. When people ask, for instance, if a pregnancy was planned, it’s like they expect to have that significant piece of information before the human being who was in fact created. Um, no! It’s NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

    Thank you for this extremely helpful spelling out of all the ways it is just plain rude and inappropriate to ask nosey questions about someone else’s life. Just because there’s a pregnancy doesn’t give people an exemption from basic kindness and manners.

    I hope the stupidity disappears as people wise up in coming years…

  3. Great post.

    Because of reasons, I hated it when people told me, “well, you can never be sure, these things aren’t always planned!” We knew for sure that any babies we had would be totally planned, down to charting temperatures and taking drugs and, well, too much information. And it isn’t information I want to give, at all. None of your business, sunshine.

    We have a saying in our house. “Different families do things in different ways.” Mostly deployed in response to kids who say that all the other kids have chippies and chocolate in their lunch box and go to Fiji for holidays, but as they’ve grown into their teenage years, we’ve used it to encourage openness to all the different ways that people can live and create families. Not right, not wrong, just different ways of being. There are so very many ways of being family, and it’s no one else’s business how you have formed your family. It just… is.

  4. I feel your “freakshow” pain … Though I am not in a same sex relationship, my husband is 24 years older than me (we are 35 and 59) and I am currently pregnant with our third child. Our first two children are 18 month old twin girls. People are so shocked that 1. He is so much older than me, 2. Is having any children at his age, 3. That we had twins 4. That we are having another because either the twins must have been IVF (which they weren’t, but who cares) and why would we go through that again for a third, or because only crazy young parents would have three kids, or because we had an “whoopsy” and felt too guilty to “sort it puts”, or that I never had any kids with my first husband so why would I want three now.
    I am thinking of having “yes he’s my husband and yes he is a lot older than me”, “twins don’t run in my family”, and “it was planned” tattooed on my face to save my breath! (Sorry for the rant ….)

  5. Thank you for this interesting read. I’m heterosexual but I still found myself nodding along to much of what you wrote as I could identify with the intrusive questioning. I actually wrote a rant on my own blog about it. I’m the mother of four boys which seems to make people think it’s acceptable to ask whether we had nothing better to do than breed, whether we know about birth control or – worst of all – whether we regret not having a girl or are we going to keep trying for a girl. Ridiculous questions to field even from friends and family but uncomfortably horrible questions from random strangers. If I feel this way as a heterosexual parent then I can only imagine how aggravating it is for you as a lesbian parent.