The Shockingly Inappropriate Questions We're Asked At Parties

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
By Kelsey Hopson-Shiller

Shortly after we got engaged, Julie and I went to a party at a gay lady friend's house in Boulder, Colorado. The party was composed primarily of lesbians; when we walked in, there was a gaggle of gals sitting around the coffee table and some folky-lady music playing softly in the background. While we did the settling-in thing — taking off coats, handing off bottles of wine — our hostess friend began introducing us to everyone: "Kelsey and Julie, they're getting married, they live in Denver…" and so on and so forth.

As soon as we sat down, a woman we had not been directly introduced to yet addressed us. "Oh you're getting married? Do you want kids?" As women in America, we were familiar with this affliction of the newly engaged/married/coupled. Bemused by the woman's forwardness, we answered that yes, we thought we'd probably want kids someday. The woman, whose name we still did not know, smiled and asked, "Oh, who's going to carry? Are you going to use a known or unknown donor?" We laughed a little, uncomfortably, and I looked around the room, waiting for someone to announce that this whole thing was a joke. But, no help was forthcoming.

"We haven't really worked out all of the details yet," Julie finally told her. The woman looked disappointed — possibly in us for being so unprepared, possibly just in Julie's refusal to respond to her inquiries about our reproductive plans. I switched the topic to horses and topped off my wine.

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
In our experience, people are endlessly fascinated by the mechanics of LGBT child acquisition, especially if one (or both) of you plans to have some sort of physical participation in the making of your child. We have been lucky; most of the inquiries and offers we’ve received have been from people who love us and genuinely want to help us and/or to better understand where we’re coming from. We’ve seen it all — from wives offering their husbands’ sperm to us at the end of happy hour to perplexed questioners asking if one of us really couldn’t stand “being with a guy” long enough to get the job done and “save all that money” we’d be spending on reproductive intervention. Then there was the time Julie met up with a friend who simply asked, “How’s that going to work?”

Joking aside, these are questions for us as well. Really, how is this going to work? One of us feels strongly about experiencing pregnancy. One of us feels that a genetic connection to our child is important. We have indeed had several male friends offer to contribute, but what’s the etiquette on taking someone up on that? Can you call up a friend who lives across the country and, after a suitable interval of small talk, be like, “So, we’re ready to take you up on that offer to FedEx us some of your bodily fluids now…”? And, if there’s someone we know we’d like to consider, but who hasn’t offered, how do we bring that up? I’m guessing it should involve liquor? Also, for us, it’s not really a matter of being able to tolerate “being with a guy” — but that option does bring up some logistical and emotional concerns.

On the other end of the spectrum, in vitro is expensive, perhaps prohibitively so, and there are physical and emotional things to consider there, as well. There don’t seem to be any easy answers to how we plan to have a baby.

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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
The fact that this is not easy actually makes perfect sense to me, because we’re not only discussing how we’re going to get a kid; we’re discussing how we want to build onto our family, which is actually a bigger discussion in a lot of ways than asking someone for his sperm. I’m grateful that this topic has kicked off some other conversations for us — conversations about vulnerability, how we feel about our bodies, how we use those bodies and take care of them. Conversations about what makes a person “family,” about how we want to parent. We will never have an “oops” baby. Our kid (kids?) will not be a happy accident. And, just like every couple who has some conception-related struggles, gay or straight, sometimes we really wish we could wake up to an unexpected pregnancy.

One of our unwritten intentions for this year is to try to sort out some of the logistics of what having a baby will look like for us. This feels like a huge emotional leap because, while we’re (and I can honestly say "we’re," at least for now) not planning on getting pregnant this year, we are taking the necessary steps so that, when we are ready, these philosophical questions are no longer a barrier. There will be a plan, and when we decide it’s time, the plan will be executed — which will bring its own set of challenges and questions, I’m sure.

Until then, we look forward to the day when we will attend another lesbian party and the answer to "who is going to carry?" will be obvious, and we can move on to deflecting questions about water birthing, and doulas, and epidurals, and breastfeeding, and whom our kid is going to call “Daddy." And, during all of these questions, one of us will be wishing that topping off her wine were socially acceptable in her condition. Maybe we will get super-lucky, and there will be a new couple in the room onto whom we can deflect scrutiny — perhaps by asking them when they’re going to get married and who is going to propose.

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