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.
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!