We know that once we are parents there will be many questions, and even more so from strangers. As a same-sex couple I expect to hear comments when I’m out with my baby like “They must look like their mother” or “How nice that you give your wife some time to herself”. These types of statements just come with the territory, and I will take these moments as opportunity to educate people. Afterall, two men have some biological challenges having a baby, so questions are natural.
The truth is that regardless, when you are out with a baby, strangers feel they can ask questions or even touch your child without asking (I’ve seen it happen).
If we adopt trans-culturally, I also expect a whole other set of questions. However, as someone who has spent a career educating individuals about diversity, cultural awareness and biases, I’m equipped to handle these questions. Most come from a place of good intentions, curiosity or just not knowing what to say. The best approach is to tactfully address the questions, or in the case of strangers it is ok to say that the question is not appropriate or not something I’m willing to discuss.
People are shocked when they hear about things people will say, and I have heard some of them myself already and we haven’t been matched yet;
“How much did you pay for your baby?”- I am not buying shoes, or a new car. Inappropriate question.
“Who are his ‘real’ parents?”– We are our child’s real parents. The term is birth parents, or biological parents not “real parents”.
“Aren’t you wonderful to adopt this child?”- This assumes that all adopted children are coming from negative circumstances, and it also assumes I am adopting because I am Sally Struthers or something.
“How could his ‘real’ mother give away an adorable baby?”- So many things wrong with this statement.. I don’t even know where to start.
“Why was she given up for adoption?”– Just not appropriate to ask. It is not something I’m going to share, let alone with a stranger. Our child’s birth mother chose adoption, she did not give up her child.
Yes, these are all common questions and statements that are asked. There is an article I came across in the Huffington Post that talks about this very issue, and gives even more examples.
Language is so important and if not made aware, people can’t make changes. I experience this when educating people on positive language in relation to persons with disabilities. The acronym I have seen used to reference this in adoption is PAL (Positive Adoption Language). Here are just some examples;
Use terms such as:
- “Birth parent,” “birth mother,” and “birth father” to describe the man and woman who conceived and gave birth to the child. All of us have birth parents. However, not all of us live in their custody.
- “Parent,” “mother,” “father,” “mommy,” “daddy,” and “child” to describe the members of the adoptive family. It is not necessary to say “adopted child” or “adoptive parent” unless the situation specifically centers on adoption.
Avoid terms such as:
- “Real parent,” “real mother,” “real father,” and “real family” — these terms imply that adoptive relationships are artificial and temporary.
- “Natural parent,” “natural child,” and “one of your own” — these terms imply that because they are not blood-related, the relationships in an adoptive family are not as strong or lasting as relationships by birth.
When describing the adoption process
Use terms such as:
- “Make an adoption plan” or “choose adoption” — these terms acknowledge that the birth parents were responsible and in control of their decision.
- “Parent her child” — when a birth parent decides not to choose adoption.
Avoid terms such as:
- “Abandoned,” “surrendered,” “released,” “relinquished,” “gave up for adoption,” “adopted out,” or “put up for adoption.”
- “Keep her child” — this implies the child is a possession and ignores the responsibilities of parenting.
It is natural for people to have questions, and language is evolving. Rather than looking at it as being “Politically correct”, think of it as being positive and respectful. There are great sources out on the internet to learn more about Positive Adoption Language.