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I am the oldest child of two moms in a progressive town once dubbed “Lesbianville, USA,” which boasts a women’s college, a 35,000-participant annual gay pride parade, and a population of two-mom families over five times the national average. My moms, my younger twin sisters, and I are blissfully normal here. But when I tell people outside of my hometown — at Harvard, at my summer internships, near my grandparents’ house, when I travel — that I have two moms, they have a lot of questions. And that’s understandable! In fact, I welcome questions. (Well, some of them ...) It often means that people are trying to educate themselves about family structures they are unfamiliar with.
So, here are my answers to the most common questions I get — the good, the inappropriate, and everything in-between:
What’s it like to have two moms?
What’s it like to have a dad? Our perceptions of what is normal and what is abnormal are shaped by our own experiences — and because I have never known anything different, I have never been able to answer this question.
Who is your real mom?
They both feel pretty real to me when they won’t let me borrow a car or when they’re complaining about how many pairs of shoes I leave lying around the house … Should I keep going?
But really, who is your real mom?
In all seriousness, this is not an appropriate question to ask. It’s 2021. You should know (or be able to learn from Google) that biology isn’t what makes a family and that equating shared genetic material with parenthood erases many different types of families, including adoptive families.
This question assumes that biology makes a parent “real,” and it erases the role of caretaking in parenthood. If you’re asking which mom gave birth to me, that’s information I share with friends or when necessary. It’s not a secret and I personally don’t consider it private information. Anyone who knew my moms 20 years ago knows which one was pregnant. But the answer to this question is rarely relevant to the conversation, and answering it only serves to perpetuate the falsehood that biology is everything.
Who is your dad?
I don’t have a dad, remember? I have two moms … that’s what this whole article is about.
First, a clarification: Many people don’t call the men who provide sperm to lesbian couples “dads” or “biological dads,” preferring the term “donor” to reflect the amazing gift someone has given a couple to enable them to have children but also to reflect the fact that this man, this “donor,” isn’t a parent. That being said, some lesbian couples and their donors have an arrangement in which the donor is also a presence in the child’s life. In such cases, the donor may very well be seen as a dad. Other couples choose to use an anonymous donor, and even then there are myriad options — donors who want to remain anonymous, donors who are willing to be contacted by the child when they turn 18, and so on.
I assume that what you’re really asking is how my moms conceived me. Simply put, this isn’t an appropriate question to ask.
Okay, so if you don’t have a dad, which mom is the dad in the relationship?
They’re both … moms. There are two of them. That’s kind of the point. Plus, the question itself is steeped in antiquated notions of gender roles in heterosexual relationships. There are dads who cook dinner and moms who mow the lawn. Wake up, Rip Van Winkle.
Did your moms use an anonymous or known donor?
I get it. You’re curious! But just don’t ask this question. Ever. If you’re my doctor, or you need to know the answer to this question, or if the answer to this question is relevant to our conversation, or I simply want you to know it, I’ll tell you. But it’s none of your business, and no one is entitled to this information. And, if I’m being honest, you’re exponentially more likely to get the answer you seek if you don’t ask the question.
What do you call your moms?
Real talk: This is actually a really good question to ask — and it’s one that same-sex couples discuss before having children. Most children of two moms use variations of the word “Mom,” but I’ve known some who call both parents by their first names and others who call both of them “Mom.” I personally call my moms “Mommy” and “Mama” because that’s what they chose for themselves before I was born — and I’ve kept calling them those names for no other reason than the fact that it embarrasses my ultra-sophisticated, easily mortified sisters when I scream “Mommy!” down a grocery store aisle.
How is your life different because you have two moms?
Well, I’m not really sure, but I’m guessing that most families don’t see Provincetown as the only acceptable vacation spot and have the local pride parade on the family calendar months in advance, for starters.
I’ll hold the snark to say: Having two moms has given me perspective on feminism, on BGLTQ rights, on parenthood, on this country, and on life that I wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere. The answers to these questions will likely look different for every child of two moms, but one thing is true for most (if not all) of us: We wouldn’t change it for the world.
Orlee G.S. Marini-Rapoport ’23-24, a Crimson Associate Editorial editor, is a History and Literature and Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality concentrator in Adams House.
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