EXCLUSIVE: A new book by Eric Rosswood explores the questions, answers and other issues involved with being a gay parent
As all gay dads know, parenthood comes with ups and downs. It will bring you indescribable joy but will also draw upon all your emotional strength.
LGBTI parents face their own challenges. Some of those faced by gay dads are explored in the excellent new book, The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads, by Eric Rosswood.
Rosswood wrote the book partly from his own experiences of being a parent. He also believes a book aimed directly at gay dads was needed.
‘For example, you won’t find information on how to hold a baby and get the perfect nipple latch during breast-feeding,’ he says. ‘Instead, the book compares donor breast milk and formula to help gay dads decide which is right for their baby.’
Besides covering childcare, there’s also a section on the awkward questions gay dads sometimes get asked. And advice on how they deal with them. Below are just a few, with some words from Rosswood.
‘How much did she cost?’
‘The most awkward question (in the beginning at least) was, “How much did she cost?” At first we just laughed uncomfortably and changed the subject, but two years in we tend to say, “As much as a Prius.”
‘That turns the table on who’s uncomfortable. Who really asks how much a human being costs?’ – Chad Scanlon
‘Which one of you is her daddy?’
‘Before our daughter could talk, we would often get, “She is so precious, which one of you is her daddy?”
‘We would then begin this eloquent and awkward dialogue of saying, “We both are,” multiple times until we finally got the tilted head stare. We refer to this as the “dog- whistle look.” You whistle, and a dog will tilt its head.’ – Trey Darnell
‘Who is the sperm donor?’
‘The awkward question that we get most frequently is about the genetic relationship we have with our children. Again, we understand it is a natural curiosity, so we try not to be offended by the question.
‘We have two sets of twins and both are mixed-race Asian and Caucasian, so it becomes a bit of a guessing game trying to figure out which half of the interracial gay couple is biologically related to each of these kids.
‘Once, when our older children were still babies, we went out to lunch and the waitress asked us almost immediately after introducing herself, “Who is the sperm donor?”
‘We were so shocked with her forward approach that I frankly don’t recall if we responded with an order for the avocado egg rolls appetizer or our standard response.
‘We usually tell people that we keep that detail private because we want to be treated equally as parents to all our kids. The waitress’ gay coworker overheard the exchange and was so mortified. He came to our rescue and took over our table for her.’ – David Hu
‘How did we get her?’
‘The most common question is, “How did we get her?” While she was born here in the US, she looks Asian, and conversations start with something along those lines. Because of this, we get compared to the gay dads on Modern Family a lot.
‘We were travelling to NYC, and the guy sitting in the seat next to me called his wife to tell her that he was sitting next to a real-life Cam and Mitchell. As I said it happens regularly—at first it was fun, but now it’s just old.’ – Chad Scanlon
‘Where are they from?’
‘Because our children are adopted and are a different race, the most common question we get is, “Where are they from?” While we do like to educate others and want to represent families that may look different well, we evade the question when it’s asked in front of them. They are from here.
‘Because they are black, there is this automatic assumption that we adopted from Africa. Sometimes I want to say, “You do know that there are black people from the United States.”
‘Of course we don’t, but it would be nice if people used the filter, “Would you want a stranger asking questions about your children in front of them?”’ – Duke Nelson
‘You guys are so great!’
‘I remember meeting a friend of mine for dinner and having my son in a stroller. As we were leaving, the hostess came up to me and patted me on the back saying, “You are such a good babysitter!”
‘That one comment has stuck with me for years. It felt like someone saying, “You obviously couldn’t be this child’s parent.” We also had a lot of people come up so they could give us their unsolicited approval. “You guys are so great,” or, “It’s so great that you’re doing this!”
‘I was never doing anything outside of what other parents would do, and I definitely wasn’t doing anything great at the time. I would just be like picking my kids up from school or something like that.’ – Rob Watson
‘We’re like unicorns to some people: they’ve heard about gay parents but haven’t really seen any’
‘While same-sex parenting isn’t a new phenomenon, “visible” same-sex parenting is,’ says Rosswood, who lives in New York state with husband, Mat, and their son, Connor.
‘Television shows like Modern Family and The Fosters may have introduced people to the concept and reality of same-sex parents, but many people still haven’t encountered LGBT families in person.
‘We’re like unicorns to some people: they’ve heard about gay parents but haven’t really seen any. Because of this, LGBTQ parents are probably going to be asked a lot of personal and invasive questions. Some people are genuinely curious and are trying to learn more about how adoption, surrogacy, and same-sex parenting works. Other people already have their heads full of negative assumptions.
‘It’s OK to have mixed emotions when you get these kinds of questions, and your answers to them may change depending on your mood at the time or how much sleep you’ve had the night before.
‘[Your child] will be observing and listening to how you answer these prying questions’
‘The challenge is finding a way to provide educational information while also protecting your child’s privacy.
‘Keep in mind that as your child gets older, they will be observing and listening to how you answer these prying questions, so you’ll want to answer in a way that doesn’t give them the assumption that something is wrong with their family unit.
‘That being said, you don’t owe anyone answers to questions about your personal life either. It’s up to you whether or not you want to engage.’
The Ultimate Guide for Gay Dads is filled with tips, tricks, and hacks from pediatricians, school educators, lawyers, and tons of other gay parents. It’s available now from Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other good online retailers.