At nearly five, our daughter Sabrina is old enough to realize we’re not a family that’s all the same color. It’s a given that an interracial gay couple with a child is going to stand out in most places, but kids have an amazing ability to normalize their situations, and Sabrina is no exception. It doesn’t matter to her if her family members “don’t match.”
For example, I was putting lotion on her one evening before bed when she smeared some across my face. She said she wanted ‘to make sure I have beautiful yellow skin.” When I asked her what she meant she said, “I’m brown and Papa’s brown and you’re yellow. Just like Ripley.” (At least I’m in good company, Ripley, is our beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever.)
While children may not always focus on differences, there’s obviously an awareness that those differences exist.
I rarely, if ever, think of our family in terms of race. Love has an amazing ability to distinguish between what it’s important. But we have to acknowledge that it’s one of the first things noticed by people who don’t know us.
And sometimes people are unkind. Other times they speak without thinking and sometimes they’re downright delightful! We’ve experienced all these moments at one time or another and I’m sure more are on the horizon.
Responding to Inquisitive Strangers
“Where did you get her?” This is a question we’ve been asked more than once, often in front of our daughter. When this once happened at an airport café, I casually replied that “We didn’t get her, she was born.”
While this may not be the reply you’re comfortable with, if you’re an LGBT parent and/or have a child of a different race, it’s important that you think about how you want to reply if (in reality, when) you’re asked. How will your child interpret your answer? How are you preparing him or her to respond if they’re asked directly about their family make up?
As two dads with an African American daughter, we get questions others might find surprising. For example, when walking through a hotel lobby with an extremely fussy and unhappy girl who’d made a mess of her hair, we heard an African American woman call out “Excuse me, but who is doing her hair?” Not “Hello,” or “Is she OK?” or “She’s cute!” Just “Who does her hair?”
“Uh, we do, we’re her parents,” I said.
“That child needs some good conditioner” she said, and started recommending brands and processes we should be using. My partner Gregg turned to me and quietly said “She’s got her head completely wrapped in a scarf. How do we know she even has any hair?”
While the interaction was a bit jarring (and a gift when it comes to sharing stories with friends), I suppose the upside is that there was no mention or concern about Sabrina having gay parents… as long as her hair looks good!
Another time an older woman met us and remarked how she could ‘see both of us’ in Sabrina. When we responded that this was impossible because she was adopted, her response—with a big smile—was “In her expressions, darling!”
Bobby is a contributing writer for GayFamilyTrips.com. He lives in Mesa, Arizona with his partner and adopted daughter.
How do you talk to your kids about being an interracial family? Or to inquisitive strangers? Please share your tips in the Comments area below!