There are many things you can say to lesbian moms. “Have a nice day” is one. “Your child is very cute” is another. “Would you like paper or plastic?” is yet another perfectly acceptable thing to say to a lesbian mom, especially if you’re a sales associate ringing up their groceries at the supermarket. There are also several things you should never say to lesbian moms. Unfortunately, we hear these things all the time, and really wish we didn’t. For one, most of the things on the “do not ask” list are things people would never say to a mom in a different-sex relationship. Two, they’re often incredibly invasive (sometimes offensive) questions or comments. Check out the below list of no-nos — and think twice before foisting them on a lesbian mom near you.
“Who’s the real mom?”
I hope you don’t consider the lesbian mom you’re asking this question to be a friend. Because she will no longer be your friend after you ask this question. Most often, though, this question comes from a complete stranger. I’m sure what they mean when they ask it is, “Hey, since both of you parents appear, from your outward gender presentation and visible bodies, to have uteruses, I’m wondering which one of you carried your child?” Which, even in its best-intentioned phrasing, is just plain obnoxious and invasive and presumptive. Regardless of what your intentions are here, or what you’re trying to ask, or even how you phrase it, maybe just don’t. It’s really none of your business who carried our child, and using a term like “real mom” places judgment on us and renders one of us somehow the “fake mom.” Not a nice look if you’re just curious and trying to be supportive.
“Which one of you is the dad?”
I know that most families throughout history have had a mom and a dad and it’s thus difficult to wrap your head around the fact that the mom-dad household is no longer the only model. But it’s not. There can be two moms and no dad. Two dads and no mom. One mom and no dad. A mom co-parenting with a grandma (hi, Charlize Theron!). Two non-binary parents and no moms or dads at all. Not only does there not need to be a dad in the picture at all for a family to be complete; it’s also never the case that one of two moms is secretly “the dad” or plays the role of dad. If you call yourself a mom, you have chosen to be a mom, not a dad. Neither my wife nor I am the dad. We’re both moms, and that’s enough.
“He looks just like you!”
Yes, it’s very common for a child to look like their genetic relatives, including any parents who have a biological connection. My son looks like me because he came from one of my eggs — and people often comment on that. My wife, the one who actually raises our son while I work, is not biologically related to him (though they have a much closer emotional relationship, and he takes after many of her idiosyncrasies — the “nurture” part of the equation). My wife may not admit it, but I know it makes her feel bad to have people constantly acknowledging that I’m “the mom” just because my son and I have a physical resemblance. And I know it bothers me. Also, I’ve seen people say this to parents of adopted kids, which makes it super awkward for everyone. So, find something else to comment on if you must — like how cool our kid’s sneakers are or how squeezable his cheeks are. And leave the resemblance comment in the 1950s where it belongs.
“Whose egg did you use?”
The one I made an omelet with? I prefer cage-free eggs. Oh, you were asking about the eggs inside my ovaries? That’s a pretty personal question and one you probably wouldn’t ask anyone else, so why ask me? Maybe rethink your line of questioning and ask me what I like to eat for breakfast, or what my kid likes to eat for breakfast. Ask me how I feel about global warming or the impending mass extinction of the entire animal kingdom. There’s no reason you need to know about what egg my child came from — any more than you need to know how my bowel movement went this morning.
“What does he call you?”
“Mom.” My son calls me “mom” just like most kids call their mothers “mom.” He calls my wife “mom,” too, because she’s also his mom. It’s pretty simple. He could call us “moron” or “loser,” but that wouldn’t be nice and we probably wouldn’t tolerate it. He wouldn’t call us, say, “uncle” or “Janet,” because we’re not his uncle or a woman named Janet.
“Who’s the father? Is the father around?”
Our son doesn’t have a father. He has two moms. And a cat named Leo. And a sperm donor who contributed to his genetic makeup. There is no father, no dad, and no male figure with armpit hair who tucks him into bed. A 20-something who donated some of his bodily fluids for a worthy cause (and a few bucks) makes not a father, and we appreciate if you don’t default to that incorrect term.
“Are you the aunt/grandmother/friend?”
If I had a dollar for every time someone assumed my wife was someone other than our son’s mother, I could take the whole family on a Caribbean adventure. People see two women with a little boy and assume that one of us must be a mother and the other must be someone else — an aunt, a grandmother, a friend. I understand that most people have ingrained heterosexism; you automatically organize people into boxes based on what’s most familiar to you. We don’t blame you for guessing wrong in your head, but we blame you for voicing those incorrect assumptions to us. Next time, check your assumptions at the door and think before you speak.
The best tactic when you’re pondering whether your question is appropriate to ask or whether it might offend your lesbian mom friend, family member or a perfect stranger on the street? When in doubt, leave it out. If you think you might offend, better to back down and refrain from uttering those words at all. Opt instead to offer said mom(s) your praise for that cool, trendy scarf they’re wearing or the adorable way their kid says, “wawa,” (Translation: water). Find something else to talk about, or you’ll likely put your foot in your mouth — and regret it.