No Drama: Coming out as bi* shouldn't need special treatment

father_and_daughter_by_panda_cupcake-d32nfv3When queer parents have queer children, coming out shouldn’t be a big deal. Amy L ask why Yahoo Parenting think bisexuality deserves special treatment…

 

Let me tell you the story of how I came out to my mum. Everyone sitting comfortably?…

In my late teens I came to the conclusion that I was bi. In a moment of celebration, and in true teenage style, I customised a t-shirt to show it. On the front I wrote ‘I like girls…’, on the back ‘and boys and chocolate spread. Yum’. On a shopping trip with my sister, this t-shirt received some attention from a couple of young shop assistants who gleefully asked if I was bi (note: no biphobia or bierasure. It can happen). My sister was a little embarrassed by this and when I got home I told my Mum all about it, coming out sideways, via anecdote, rather than directly.

Her reaction? Well nothing really. She smiled, passed only a general comment and carried on folding the clothes on the bed in front of her. Perhaps she was like the proverbial swan, calm and nonchalant on the surface, frantically padding underneath, but the point is she didn’t show it. She cares more about me being a good person than who I’m kissing in the dark of the night. It doesn’t matter who I’m with, as long as they treat me right.

My mum’s always tried to be open about sex and relationships, even if it was something she wasn’t comfortable with. She always tries her best not to look shocked and not to make me feel abnormal. She’s even been known to pass the odd comment like “I sometimes look at a woman and think she’s attractive”. Nice try mum. Not quite the same, but I really appreciate you trying to show me that you don’t think I’m weird. (And by the way, I think it’s great that you think some women are attractive.)

And when I married a man? Nope, she didn’t say “Well at least that bi phase is over”.

I don’t underestimate the benefit of this. I know I’m lucky. But  it shouldn’t be a case of being lucky. It should be a case of this being the norm for everyone.

When your kid tells you “Hey. I love people”, your response should be “Oh good. It makes me happy that you love people and that you respect the people you love. I liked the last person you went out with, she was nice, you complimented each other well. Your latest partner’s nice too. It’s clear that he respects and loves you”. (I know people don’t really speak like this, but put it into your own words. Go on, have a try).

The online campaign #StillBisexual recently posted a link to an article on Yahoo Parenting in which a parent writes about his daughter coming out as bisexual. There were two things that were unusual about this article (and intentionally so if you ask me): first of all this parent was a dad, a dad writing about parenting. Secondly this dad was gay.

Yahoo Parenting are clearly trying to show that they are progressive; that they don’t dismiss Fathers as lesser parents in our patriarchal society and that they value the opinion of parents who do not fit into the heteronormative ideal. And this gay dad was clearly trying to show that straight parents shouldn’t worry so much, because gay parents find it difficult too. when their kid comes out as bi.

This is an opportunity for straight and gay parents to feel some solidarity with each other. That’s nice for them. I’m sure they feel comfort that some bridges are being built, that they have some common ground. Unfortunately this act of reaching out to other parents means that the rest of us at the bi table are left feeling like we’ve been dumped on from a great height: if you want help in being the best parent you can be to your child who is coming out as bisexual, why aren’t you asking a bisexual person?

I have questions for this well-intentioned parent: Why was this such a big deal? Why are you asking for your daughter to prove she’s bisexual by writing a list? And why would you need time to process the news?

It’s great that his ultimate goal was to let her know that he loves her, but why all the drama!?

When your child is upset at you because they feel you have ignored their sexuality, why can’t the response be “I’m sorry, let’s talk about it over pancakes”.

When your child is upset at you because they feel you have ignored their sexuality, why can’t the response be “Thanks for telling me. I’m sorry you feel I haven’t been listening. I’m glad you’re discovering who you are and that you want to share that with me. Do you want to talk about it over some pancakes?” and then get on with the rest of your lives.

Or even how about, instead of asking if there’s a boy/girl at school that they like, ask if there’s someone at school that they like or ask if they’re having relationship problems, instead of boyfriend/girlfriend problems? Then your child knows that it isn’t important who they fall in love with, that all you care about is that they are happy and safe and you don’t find yourself in the situation where they come out to you in a state of emotional upset after goodness knows how long keeping it to themselves and agonising over it.

The article is a mix of things. There are some good things in there about the author wanting to be a better parent and about how he loves his daughter, but there is also biphobia disguised as parental concern.

I can’t help but think (and I know this is a long shot) that none of this would happen if we all stopped thinking so much about gender and switched our focus onto healthy, happy, safe relationships and taught our kids that whoever they fall in love with should be chosen for the kind of person they are, not the gender they identify with.

Less drama about gender, more celebration of the fact that we have capacity to love.
Image “Father and Daughter” by PAndA-cupcakE. Shared under CC BY 3.0 via Deviant Art.

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Amy L

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