This time of year traditionally means a break from our regular lives to rest and relax. But for many LGBTQ+ parents and parents-to-be, this is also the time we brace ourselves for dealing with ignorance and intrusive questions. How can queer parents navigate the unique social stress of the holidays? We have some ideas we hope will help.
We know from experience that bringing together an extended family and friend group can yield varying results. Sometimes it’s a mix of “beliefs” that extend further than whether or not to tell your kids about Santa Claus. Sometimes, even well-meaning relatives can ask ignorant and invasive questions.
Gifts, desserts and societal norms: a tried-and-true holiday trio. There’s real pressure in responding to questions from relatives and friends with answers that conform to the hegemonic culture we’re all a part of.
Yes, I got a promotion.
Yes, we just got engaged.
Yes, we bought a house.
Yes, we're having a baby!
Answering those questions feels doable, but what happens when people start prying into your business even further?
On top of the typical pressure to fill everyone in about what happened for them in the past year, queer parents and parents-to-be usually have to deal with follow-up questions that others don’t. It’s a whole other arena of social politics.
These questions can come from a place of ignorance, nervousness or discomfort. And while most people have good intentions, there are unfortunately some who simply want to be nosy or make you feel uncomfortable.
The good news? We're here to help! Keep reading for a few great ways to respond to frequently asked questions.
2 Questions LGBTQ+ Families Have to Navigate
We’re going to look at two common questions that LGBTQ+ parents and parents-to-be often have to field during the holiday season - and some ways you can respond. Remember: there's no one right way to handle these types of questions, and in the end, it's up to you (and your partner, if you have one) to decide what feels best to you.
Each person has their own comfort level when it comes to dealing with difficult conversations, and only you know what's right for your family. It's important to note that you are always allowed to simply remove yourself from the situation if you're feeling overwhelmed or unable to respond at that moment.
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“Who’s the Dad?” or “Who’s the Mom?”
The heart of this question is deeply personal: the person is essentially asking whose sperm or egg has been used in conceiving your child. Though the question is extremely invasive, you can set firm boundaries in your response.
Greg Zola, father of two children through egg donation and surrogacy with his husband, Gay Parents To Be founder Dr. Mark Leondires, likes to respond to this question by flipping it back on the other person by responding: “Why are you asking?”
This puts the onus back on them to think about what they’re actually wanting to know. Zola explains, “If they think for a moment, they can figure it out on their own.” Sometimes a moment of reflection can help someone realize that the question they’re asking is anything but typical conversation – and not something they would ask of a heterosexual-presenting couple.
“How are you going to have kids?”
For many people or couples, it’s enough to let someone know they’re having a child – a simple “Yes!” is sufficient. But for queer parents-to-be, their options for having children are sometimes different than a “typical” (more societally accepted) couple. Anything outside the norm when it comes to conceiving children can feel up for questioning.
One way to deal with this question is to use the technique mentioned above: “Why are you asking?” Hopefully, this would cause the person to immediately reflect on why it matters to them to know how your child is being brought into your family. If they persist in asking about how you plan to have children, you can try one of the following responses:
- "We're not ready to share that yet, but appreciate that you're excited for our growing family."
- "I don't think we have enough energy to dive into that right now."
- "While we may be open to sharing one day, we're keeping that private for now."
Another is to set a more obvious boundary: “That’s a personal question.” It’s hard to give ourselves permission to set boundaries – we feel awkward that we may make the other person feel self-conscious. But embarrassment is a feeling we need to normalize more.
It’s okay for someone to feel embarrassed when they ask a question without thinking it through. Having them sit in that discomfort might help in changing their behavior moving forward. Remember: it’s not your fault if someone feels uncomfortable for how they’ve acted.
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The Bottom Line: Your Family, Your Business
The holidays are tricky for many LGBTQ+ families and families-to-be. Many queer people have complicated relationships with their families. It’s okay to feel your feels. If you need time to rest after handling ignorance, commiserating and processing events with your partner, friends or therapist can be immensely helpful in emotionally recovering.
Though these interactions might not seem like a big deal to some, experiencing microaggressions with homophobia and transphobia can really add up and weigh you down - especially as you work hard to care for or grow your family.
Finally, we’re going to give you permission to bow out. If there’s a holiday event you know will be stressful, we’re letting you know it’s okay not to go. Trans activist Dan Lavery in their former advice column, Dear Prudence with Slate, reminds everyone: “It’s not possible for you to ruin a holiday. You taking care of yourself does not ruin Christmas.”
Queer people often accept that there’s just going to be a layer of social anxiety that comes with operating in the world. But you can set boundaries, choose how you respond to invasive questions, and you can RSVP “no” – you deserve to enjoy your holiday with your children or children on the way, just like everyone else.
More Family-Building Resources
Looking for support and information as you grow your family? Check out these articles and family stories, or reach out to schedule a consultation with us today!
- Family Building and Fertility for the Transgender Community
- For Gay Dads Starting Surrogacy, How Do You Choose Whose Sperm to Use?
- 5 Things To Consider When Using a Known Donor
- IUI vs IVF Fertility Treatment Options
- Robbie & Mackenzy | A Surrogacy Story
- Navigating IVF As An LGBTQ+ Couple: Malorie & Holli's Story
Molly Horton Booth (she/they) is a queer writer and editor. Her work can be found here on Gay Parents to Be, Wayfair.com, McSweeneys.net, etc. She's also an author of YA fiction, and her work has been featured on the American Library Association's Rainbow List. Her books include: SAVING HAMLET (2016), NOTHING HAPPENED (2018), and TWELFTH GRADE NIGHT (coming Fall 2022) all published by Disney Hyperion. Molly lives on a beach outside of Boston, MA, where she spends her free time with friends and family, obsessively crafting, and doting on her pets. Find her on Instagram @mollyhortonbooth or at mollyhortonbooth.com.