“Geesh, I get it, I get it," my friend's 4-year-old son scoffed, “some women love men and some love women."
Gushing with pride, his mom said, “That's right, honey! Gender doesn't matter. Love is what makes a family." Beaming, she hugged her son and gave herself a mental pat on the back.
The boy pulled back. “Just one question," he asked pensively. “Who takes out the garbage?"
This kind of culturally reinforced naiveté is understandable coming from a small child. After all, at 4 years old, your idea of family is based on little more than what you've observed within the walls of your own home. Heck, you're still learning that fire is hot and swallowing gum will not cause a gum tree to grow in your stomach.
But as a parent, and a modern family law attorney, I've heard all kinds of ill-informed comments from the mouths of grown-ups, everywhere from the playground to the courthouse. And grown-ups should know better.
Here are nine things you should never say to same-sex parents.
1. “Who's the mom and who's the dad?"
For many same-sex families there is no “mom" and “dad." Those words apply to individuals who identify as female and male respectively, which is just not the case with most same-sex families. Furthermore, such a question reinforces gender stereotypes, which damage all parents, not just same-sex couples. Really ask yourself, what are “dad" things and what are “mom" things anyway. I suspect that such notions are based on some pretty thin logic.
2. “Did you use a sperm donor?"
I don't know, did you conceive your child in missionary position? What is your social security number? How many sexual partners have you had? Oh, I thought we were exchanging inappropriately personal information.
3. “Aren't you worried that the child will grow up gay?"
Are you worried that your child will grow up to be rude? But in all seriousness, this one is a doozy. This question implies that you believe something is wrong with being gay. Same-sex parents, like all parents, worry about their children's well-being, not their sexuality.
4. “What about when he wants to meet his real dad?"
He doesn't have a real dad. He has two moms. Can't we all agree that being a “dad" requires more than an ejaculation?
5. “Who is the real mom?"
Do you mean, which mom carried the pregnancy? That is a very different question, and not really pertinent. Both moms are the “real" moms.
6. “Isn't it confusing that she has two moms?"
I don't know, how do you manage with only one mom? Children form independent bonds with each parent, regardless of those parent's genitalia. Kids care that they are safe and loved. That is all.
7. To gay dads, “Oh! That's why she's such a fabulous dresser!" Or to lesbian moms, “But what if she's a girly girl?"
Okay, do I have to explain that this reinforces stereotypes? No single attribute makes you a same-sex parent other than loving someone of the same sex.
8. “When did you tell him the truth?"
Do you mean the truth about how the world is filled with ignorant people? Thanks for helping with that lesson! But if you mean the story of his conception, well then, that seems like an odd topic at 9 a.m. on the sidelines of a Pee Wee football game.
9. “Brittany, this is my friend Katie, Katie is Henry's mom and she's married…to another woman! Isn't that great!"
News Flash: same-sex parents could just be called parents. Tokenism and exceptionalism have no place in parenting. It's hard enough just getting the kids to school.