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“You don’t fancy me, do you?” and Other Questions Not to Ask a Gay Person

I’m really lucky that I’ve never experienced any negativity in my life in relation to my sexuality. Apart from the occasional comments of ‘lesbians’ or ‘dykes’ shouted at myself and partners as we’ve held hands in public (which let’s face it, isn’t insulting but just pointing out the facts), I haven’t had to deal with any homophobia.

I’m a white cis-gendered (identify as the gender I was born as) lesbian who grew up in Leeds, then lived in Brighton, and now London. I’ve always lived in relatively liberal places and my friends and family have never been anything other than accepting. Colleagues have always accepted who I am without question, and I’ve very rarely had to face questions such as “which one of you is the man in the relationship?”

But it’s questions like that which show ignorance and sometimes have homophobic undertones, and gay people sometimes face them every time someone discovers their sexuality. Here are some things not to ask/say to gay people, and what you could say instead…

When did you first decide you were gay?

We didn’t decide – in the words of Lady Gaga, we were born this way. Instead try asking when we first realised we were gay or what our experience was of growing up gay.

You don’t look/seem gay!

You might mean this as a compliment, but it’s not. It suggests that gay people are ‘less than’ or that it is negative to outwardly appear gay. Just like straight people, gay people come in all shapes and sizes. This quote from an article by Sacha Coward got it bang on: “When you spend your whole life fighting just to be you, it is incredibly painful to be told that you could happily pass as ‘normal’. It’s almost as if being gay is a terminal illness but, lucky for you, the symptoms aren’t showing yet.”

Which one of you is the man and which is the woman?

We are both men or we are both women, that’s kinda the point. It’s a bit of a silly question and to be honest, if the question is asked with the sexual aspect of a gay relationship in mind, isn’t anyone’s business. Maybe just avoid this one!

You don’t fancy me, do you?

Mate, why? Do you fancy every person of the opposite sex you are friends with? Why would we waste time trying to get with straight people when there is a whole world of fellow gays out there for us? Granted, you can’t control who you fancy, but please just don’t assume we fancy you because you are the same sex as us. Having said that, it doesn’t mean we don’t…

No offence, but…

Stop right there – you are about to cause offence. If you are already excusing something you are about to say, the chances are you shouldn’t say it.

That’s so gay!

Pleas don’t use the word ‘gay’ as an insult, even if it isn’t intended to cause offence. It makes us feel awkward and makes you look insensitive.

I know a gay man/woman who’d be perfect for you!

The thought is lovely, but just because they bat for our team doesn’t mean we are going to automatically like them. Instead try asking what our type is, or even if we are interested in meeting someone.

Don’t you want kids?

This is wrong on so many levels. Firstly, you are assuming we can’t have kids. Secondly, it is bad enough to ask any couple about their plans for children, but becomes even more insensitive to ask a same-sex couple. There are so many implications to gay couples having children – it’s extortionately priced, it can be a legal minefield, it usually involves invasive and potentially heart-breaking treatment, it has to be meticulously planned – there is just no way you aren’t going to open a myriad of thoughts and feelings for the people you are asking.

Which one of you is the Mum and which one is the Dad? Or who is the ‘real’ parent?

Again, not a valid question. We are both mums, or both dads. If you are really desperate to know our child’s genetic makeup, try asking which one of us carried, or who is the biological parent. Even that might not have a simple answer.

Who’s the Mum/Dad? (In relation to the donor/surrogate)

They are not the child’s parent, they are a donor. This is just a no-go. It might not be something that some couples feel comfortable discussing, but if you really must ask, try using the words donor or surrogate. Say it as it is.

So the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a silly question’ doesn’t really apply when you are curious about someone’s intimate life. We’re not saying don’t ask, just think about what you’re asking and why. Better still, do the research! If a friend comes out, or is gay and starting a family, there is a host of information online that you can access. Some people will be happy to answer any type of questions and others won’t – that’s fine. It is not a gay person’s obligation to teach you about their lifestyle. 

Check out our Pride 2021 page here for more stories and other pieces of useful content.