Coming Out Bi To Parents

The coming out process for those in the LGBTQI+ community can be fraught with many challenges, both internal and external. For a bisexual individual, the process can be difficult for different reasons than coming out as lesbian and gay due to a variety of stereotypes plaguing this identity specifically.

Photo Credit: Jay Mauricio

Photo Credit: Jay Mauricio

Just over a year ago I wrote about this subject in a Huffington Post piece titled “Bisexual in a Gay/Straight World.” Within, I discuss many of the myths and misconceptions broader society still holds regarding bisexuality; here’s a short excerpt:

“We’ve all heard the stereotypes: indecisive, confused, wanting the best of both worlds, promiscuous, gay or lesbian in transition, engaging in a fad, seeking attention. If you identify as “bisexual,” you’ve likely encountered at least a few of these clichés during and after your coming out process. I know I have. Despite the slew of us out there attempting to dispel such myths on a daily basis, they continue to be perpetuated, and they continue to make life difficult for us all.”

During my own coming out process, I faced all of those aforementioned stereotypes. It took me years to become fully comfortable with the label “bisexual” for myself. Despite having had crushes on and attractions to individuals across the gender and sexuality spectrums from the age of five or six on, it wasn’t until my Junior year of college that I actually said, “I’m bisexual.” My lengthy internal coming out process can be attributed to a fear that I was actually just straight with an attraction to a handful of people the same gender as my own; or that I was actually a lesbian with an attraction to a handful of people that were differing genders from my own.

By the time I was around the age of 20, I began to realize that wasn’t the case, that I had the capacity to love multiple genders and — despite my fears — I started to embrace this.

When I first came out as bisexual to my family mere months after coming out to myself and the Gay-Straight Alliance at my college, it was my mother who had the most difficult time accepting my identity. I remember being in the kitchen with her one day while home on break and saying, “Mom, I met someone, her name is Sara.” As far as my mom knew, I had only dated boys prior to that point. This being the case, I figured my bisexual identity was implied and simply telling her the name of the person I was dating would be enough for her to understand what I was saying.

In the seconds after my admission, my mother’s eyes grew wide, she turned around and walked out of the kitchen without a word.

My heart dropped and I vowed to myself not to bring it up again. I figured this might just be a part of my life she couldn’t handle.

I didn’t broach the subject again for several months; but, I couldn’t keep it in forever like I initially thought. My mom and I have always been close – I tell her everything. So, I felt compelled to try once more. When I did, my mom told me that she thought I was going through a “phase” – a term I would hear countless more times from her over the years.

In my coming out experience with my mother, I learned that just as it had taken me many years to come to grips with my own bisexuality, the process has been similar for her. Despite the fact that coming out to my father simply elicited the response, “Whatever,” I shouldn’t have expected either of my parents to digest that information immediately.

If I could give just one piece of advice to bisexual individuals who are preparing or thinking about coming out to their own parents for the first time, it’s this – give them time. Sure, some mothers and fathers won’t bat an eye at your bisexuality, but others may need time to take in that information and perhaps rethink preconceived notions they have had about bisexual people. The coming out process with your parents may happen over and over again, like it has with my own mother.

When I initially self-published my novel Queer Greer in 2009, the following year I spoke about the book at the True Colors Conference at the University of Connecticut. To my surprise, my mom asked if she could come with me. While she seemed slightly uncomfortable at the conference, surrounded by lots and lots of rainbow flags, wigs, pins and other Pride acoutrement, she was there nevertheless, supporting me, her bisexual daughter. She’s come a long way and I couldn’t be more proud.

Have you come out to your parents as bisexual or are you preparing to? Do you have any advice to offer or seek? Please comment below!

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8 Comments

Filed under Bi the Bi, LGBT, Writing

8 responses to “Coming Out Bi To Parents

  1. I have experienced a very similar response from my dad when I told him I was bi. Though his first response was “Well the Church says same-sex activity is wrong so if you are bi, you should choose to be with a woman.” After I had been with my boyfriend for a while and I decided that I wanted to share my experience with relatives and family friends, he resisted because he thought it was a phase. In his words, “Well when he decides to be with a girl a few years down the road he is going to be embarrassed that he told everyone about this. How are you going to explain it to everyone?” To me that is his way of saying it is just a phase and something I will get over at some point.

    Imagine his surprise then when I told him that I plan on proposing to my boyfriend sometime soon. I think he needed that in order to start the process of accepting that this is a part of me and that I am serious with my boyfriend. To me it was always obvious that I was serious or I wouldn’t have introduced him to them less than a week after we met. I can understand why he would not want to see the signs though. We are still in the process of working towards acceptance. He still doesn’t want me to tell his family (who live in another state) because he thinks they will consider him a failure because of it.

    My mother on the other hand came around pretty quick (within six months) and surprised me with a Christmas present when she came back from the mall the December after I came out to her. She pulled me aside and showed me a little paper from a LGBT organization that was asking for donations to tell me that she had donated $20 because she thought of me. Since then she supported my boyfriend and I when we marched in a rally for marriage equality by brainstorming slogans and helping with preparation of the signs. My mother is also a generation younger than my dad.

  2. Cameo

    I’ve known that I was bisexual for so very long… it was amusing, how I was an out-and-out ally, telling people not to be afraid because of what they were, when I was was cowering in the corner of my closet. After 5 years, I finally decided to start the process of “coming out”… with some awful bumps. I had my supportive friends, who thought it was great- in fact one of my friends and I came out as bi to each other at the same time, which was a comfort. But when it came time to tell my mother, whom I thought would be supportive, I was stunned. She was silent for a good 5 minutes, and then I was told it was a “phase” that “everyone can think the same gender is pretty”, and that it would pass, I was just assuming too soon. It didn’t matter that it had been so long- it was a phase. I don’t think I will ever have the lovely, supportive parents that some people have (my father is a stereotypical Southern-esque conservative, and thinks that depression is a lie, and don’t get him started on “those faggots”). I think it’s just frustrating and upseting that there is no easy way to be bisexual. Why can’t we break past the stereotypes and the prejudices?

  3. Dean

    Although my situation is different to many, coming out to my parents was not as traumatic as I had feared. I think a lot has got to do with the fact that I am older (37) and they already have grandchildren, which for many parents of queer children the parents may wish for grandkids and such a stereotypical life which gets shattered by such an announcement. In my early teens I had questioned my orientation but as I was not the hormone fueled teen that many of my peers appeared to be, I just went with the flow of life and I can recall NEVER chasing a girl, only when the playground whispers of “this person says that person likes you and wants you to ask her on a date” would I engage in any teen relationship. After leaving a long marriage and coming to terms with liking guys and girls and dating a transsexual I had figure I am so happy now I just came out straight away to my close friends and that went well so I then fugured I must now plan how to talk to the parents. The biggest thing I felt was that I wanted to do it in person I felt out of respect that is the honorable way, yet timing was important too, (I had dropped the bombshell to the ex in a heated exchange of words). So I chose tocame out to my mother over the phone and she was very accepting. Discussing it later she said it was probably better that way so she could break it to my step dad whose opinions may not be so understanding. Eventhough it was equally as laid back, when visiting recently I felt that where previously I could use almost anything as a source of sarcasm or joke with my step dad I felt there was an unease (potentially self created) thinking “no, too soon”. I did get the chance to come out face to face with my dad and step mum, and they were very accepting straight off but that I did expect as they are less traditional freethinking folk. Overall, everyone in my small world knows and it is amazing what a clear and open mind can achieve. So far the one thing I have accepted is that although the perception of bi people is that they are just greedy and maybe for the promiscuous ones its just a much bigger buffet where nothing is off the menu, but in terms of long term relationships, there is a much smaller pool of people that will accept a male as the bi party, fearing that he is secretly gay and semi-closeted, and not gay enough for a gay male. So a single life it is…

  4. Pingback: Bi the Bi: How Do You Come Out to Your Parents as Bisexual? – Huffington Post | LGBT Indonesia

  5. D.J.

    I am a male, I am 15 annd apparently I am young for this… but I know without a doubt that I am bisexual…However I am still in high school so I feel like most people will say I am just confused.
    I have come out to three of my best friends (all girls) and talked to my guidance counselor… she is great buuut she is completely naive to this subject so pretty much no help…
    So here are my issues:
    1) I live in a rural community with my mother and stepfather where there are NO out teens or adults for that matter
    2) my stepdad already pretty much hates me and he is very homophobic so I am very worried about coming out and eventually getting kicked out
    3) both of my step families are catholic, I know they will still accept me however I am still worried about their thoughts towards me
    4) as a teen I still obviously want to date as said before there are no out teens in my area… annd I am worried no girl will want to date the bi-boy
    That covers most of my worries any advice would be awesome please and thank you!!!

  6. Eden

    Luckily when I came out to my parents, they were both very supportive, but ever since, my mother’s been diminishing the importance of it. In fact when I came out, her first response was, “What was the importance of that (I came out through social media), it’s not like you go one way or the other?” The thing is, that’s exactly why I had to be public about it, because I don’t go one way, I go both ways; there’s so much bi-erasure in the LGBT community, I needed to be public to show that we do exist. And ever since I’ve been trying to do some LGBT activism, she’s been so resitive of it, even to the point of threatening to ground me, because she says I’m, “trying to hard to be different.” Well in a community where you’re considered a “myth” or just “going through a phase,” you have to be different and go out of your way to be public about it, to show people that it’s okay to be different (bisexual) and that there are others like them. I just wish she’d be supportive of my approach to things and my wish to be an activist.

    • I hear you, Kimmy. I hope your mom comes around. My own mother still doesn’t understand my need to be an activist, but I soldier on nonetheless. Keep fighting the good fight!

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