Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues
This blog post is part of an ongoing conversation between two bisexual activists. A.J. Walkley and Sarah Smith* are both monogamous, bisexual, cisgender females who are in long-term relationships. A.J. is in a relationship with a cisgender male, and Sarah is in a relationship with a cisgender female. Both A.J. and Sarah are committed to remaining visible as bisexuals in spite of society's tendency to want to label A.J. as heterosexual and Sarah as a lesbian. Together they created "Bi the Bi: Two Bi Writers on Big Bi Issues" as a way to help eliminate stereotypes and bias against people in the bisexual community.
Question: How do you come out to your parents if they have negative associations with bisexuality?
A.J.: This month's question came from a reader who has been struggling to come out to her parents as bisexual, because they view bisexuals as "cheating gross people who should only stick to either same sex or opposite sex partners." This reader wants to know the best way to come out to her parents, as well as to others who have similar misconceptions, and is looking for ways to educate them about what being bisexual truly means. I think I speak for both Sarah and myself when I say that I feel for this reader, knowing firsthand the difficulties that coming out as bisexual (as opposed to coming out as gay or lesbian) can come with.
Sarah: Absolutely, A.J., this reader's question really touched me. A huge driving factor for me to want to increase bisexual visibility is so that I can help people who are in positions similar to the one she's in. I did extensive research and thought deeply about how to best address her question. My answer is written out on my blog in great detail.
- You must evaluate whether it is truly safe for you to come out, and take steps to ensure that you will be safe should things not go well with your parents.
- There are a few key resources you should tap into so that you can learn as much as possible and get connected to the national and international bisexual community. It's also important to have resources to offer your parents so that they have places that they can go to for support and education as well.
A.J.: I would also suggest speaking to other bisexuals about their coming-out processes, to get an idea of how best to approach your parents with this information. Like Sarah, I, too, wrote in detail about this on my own blog, but I wanted to share some key pieces of my experience with you here.
When I first came out as bisexual to my family, it was my mother who had the most difficult time accepting my identity. When I told her that I was dating someone new and that "her name is Sara," her eyes grew wide, and she walked away without a word. When I broached the subject again months later, my mom told me that she thought I was going through a "phase."
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. 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. Some may need time to take in that information and perhaps rethink preconceived notions that they have had about bisexual people.
Sarah: Thank you for sharing your personal story, A.J. What is true for our parents is true for the wider society as well. When bisexual people take the risk to be visible, offer education and resources and patiently wait as the people around them process the information, we transform the culture together.
Now it's your turn, dear reader. What was coming out to your parents as bisexual like for you? What worked well about what you did? What would you do differently if you could? Do you have any words of advice for the reader who asked this question? Please leave your answers in the comments section below. The conversations we have here are an important part of the process of positive change.