Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

 

This post is by K.

I’ve been openly bi/pan/queer since I was 17. I came out as bisexual to my parents and close friends during my senior year of high school. I’d known for a long time that I had the feels for the ladies. In 7th grade, I told my girl friends at a sleepover that I thought I might be a lesbian. DRAMA! I don’t remember what they said, but it couldn’t have been that bad…because…I don’t remember what they said. However, I developed a crush on a cisgender boy shortly after and decided that I definitely wasn’t a lesbian. Phew.

But my crushes on girls didn’t stop. I just stopped talking about them. And I got a funny feeling whenever Christina Ricci came on the screen in Now and Then. By the time I was in high school, I knew who I was–a bisexual chick.

It didn’t help that I lived in a relatively small-town area, where, back in the 90’s, there was no GSA (gay straight alliance). There were no out lesbian or bi girls. So I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to explore or think about my sexuality. There was no one to potentially date–though two of my closest girl friends from high school later came out as queer. I guess we found each other, whether we knew it consciously or not. I even found out that one of my friends had a major crush on me. And I realized, years later, that I had a bit of a crush on my other friend, though I didn’t have words for it at the time. If only we’d actually felt safe to be out…well, high school could have been so much more fun.

I came out in college 100% with rainbow lasers (PEW PEW) and I never looked back. I now identify as queer, because queer feels more true to who I am: political, unapologetic, overly analytic, glittery, & activist. I am still, at my core, bisexual, which I’d define as finding people of many genders attractive. By primarily identifying as queer, I unfortunately aid in the erasure of bisexual identities and stigma around bisexuality. I make things even more problematic when it comes to how others perceive me.

Being out as bi is a constant process of coming out. When I’m dating a guy, people usually assume I’m straight. When I’m dating a woman, people usually assume I’m a lesbian. When people don’t know who I’m dating, they assume I’m straight unless I’m in an LGBTQI space. Then, they assume I’m a lesbian. We all make assumptions. I get it. I’m guilty of mislabeling other people, too, though I actively try to turn off that part of my brain and not assume anyone else’s sexual orientation–regardless of what they look like, their gender identity, or who they are dating.

So what does this all have to do with parenting? Well, what is the most heterosexual assimilating thing you can do? Make the babies. I just know, with my cis femme looks and my (hopefully) future baby bump, that I’m going to have to deal with a lot of assumptions. Even more so because my spouse is an openly trans boi and I don’t out him as trans unnecessarily in our daily life. (“Hi. I’m K and I’m cisgender and this is my spouse and he is transgender. I’ll have the #3 meal with a large diet.”) So people will definitely assume I’m straight. Or, if they see us together, they might assume we’re both lesbians.

Similar to the lack of resources for trans parents, there are also very few resources for bi parents. I have yet to encounter an organization, book, or online resource (other than blogs) specifically for bisexual parents. If anyone knows of something, please send it in my direction.There is a growing number of resources for gay and lesbian parents.  Much that is bi-inclusive in that bisexuals get lumped in with gay and lesbian parents, but specific issues for bi parents are never addressed–and it’s assumed bi parents are in same-gender relationships.

I have three sets of couple friends who are bi/pan/queer, but are in what appears to the world as heterosexual marriages/relationships. For all these couples, both partners identify as bisexual and they have kids together–conceived the old-fashioned way. I have other friends where one partner is bisexual and the other is not, but they are in different-gender relationships that read heterosexual to rest of the world. I can’t speak for their experience, but I have to imagine it is often silencing to be sitting with other moms or dads, with other couples, letting them assume you are straight. Or uncomfortable constantly coming out and correcting people when they assume you are straight because of how your family looks. Or sad to feel left out of the pride parade…literally, when people assume you are an ally when you’re actually in the family.

Some of my queer couple friends are made up of one lesbian/gay person and one bisexual person. I know from talking to them that people, in our own LGBTQI community, typically assume they are both lesbian/gay. And then there is us, W and me, who sort of fall into the male-female couple category, but who are both actively invested in being out as queer, because we don’t want to become invisible to our own communities. But W defines queer for himself in a different way than I do for me…which is what I love about queer as an identity, but it also can add to the invisibility of my bi-ness. I fear being invisible to my own community. I was for quite a while and I don’t want to go back.

What does it mean to be an openly bisexual/queer parent? For me, it means politely correcting people when they make a verbal assumption about my sexual orientation, whether they assume I’m a lesbian or straight. I’m not going to go around with a bi flag sign around my neck, but I will kindly correct people if they mislabel me, as I do now.

W and I work opposite schedules, so we’ll have plenty of times when we are out with future kid alone. It will be interesting to see how other parents interact with us and how other queer families interact with us.

It also means that I plan to be out to my kid. Being out to your kids, as a bisexual person, is a deeply personal choice. I want my kid, when they are old enough to understand concepts like gender and love, to know that there are many identities out there. I want them to know that a woman can love a woman, or a man, or a genderfluid person, or all of the above, or none of the above, or…something else. I want them to know who I am, all of me, and that it is perfectly fine to be bisexual or lesbian or gay or straight or asexual or some other identity. There are things I will keep from my future kid, for sure, but I don’t want my sexual orientation to be one of those things.

Lastly, it means that I plan to write and speak about my experiences as a bisexual parent, adding to the growing voices around the diversity of queer families. We need at least one Google hit for “bisexual parent” that is…actually for, by, and about bisexual parents.

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What’s in a (gender neutral) name?

 

Choosing a name for your kid is a kind of a big deal. We are both the oldest siblings of our families. Maybe that’s why we get along.

W is the oldest of three. His younger sisters both have names that are gender-neutral-friendly. His youngest sister’s name could be masculine or feminine, depending on how you spell it. His other sister’s name is easily shortened to a gender neutral version. Both W’s sisters are cisgender women and fairly gender-normative in their gender expression. Of course, W is the only one who has a very feminine name. He has one of those names that is just not gender-neutral at all, like Rose or Sarah or Penelope. There is no male name that sounds similar, even. So he has a chosen name that works for him, but mainly goes by his last name, which, as you may have guessed, begins with a “W.” W still uses both his given name and chosen name in different situations, but we both think it’s kind of funny that he is the only one out of three siblings that has a really girly name. Coincidentally, K also has a name that could be gender-neutral or easily modified to be a more masculine name.

Sometimes it’s a problem for W that his name is so feminine, but not for the reason you’d think. Anyone who looks like W, regardless of their gender identity, and has a name like W’s legal name, is going to have some awkward moments. At work, W goes by his legal name, by choice and for convenience. W hasn’t changed his first name or gender legally. He doesn’t feel like that’s something he wants to do right now…possibly ever. W could be out as trans* at work, but it hasn’t been necessary so far and it really doesn’t bother him, because he feels his gender is masculine, but somewhat fluid. He binds and wears men’s clothes at work. He presents as himself full-time, which is a little bit his legal name/identity and a lot of his chosen name/identity and living in that fluid space is comfortable for him.

Now, we should say, that for many trans* people, it is very important and very necessary to change their name and/or gender legally. Many trans* people are very uncomfortable and deeply hurt by being called their given/legal name. That is totally valid. For W, specifically, it just isn’t a big deal. His coworkers usually assume he’s a super butch lesbian and, well, at some point he did identify that way, so he doesn’t really mind.

However, getting a job with a name that doesn’t match your gender expression is another thing. When you show up for a job interview looking like W does, like a preppy 6’1″ dude, things can get awkward…and hurtful…fast. At one interview for a security job at Sears, W showed up for his interview a little early. The hiring person greeted him by his given name, looked at him for just slightly too long, and disappeared for almost an hour. He was left waiting in a hallway. Eventually, the hiring person came back out and told him the position had been miraculously filled and they were no longer hiring. OK… Any gender non-conforming person, whether cis or trans*, can tell you many stories of being treated like a freak. Or being misgendered…one way or another.

So for us, picking a name for our future human that is gender-neutral is pretty important. We don’t have a problem with gendered names and could really care less what people name their kids. But for us, our kid, we want them to have a name that is gender-neutral and unique. As we’ve started talking about names, we have found that even when talking about gender-neutral names, we have different feelings about what would make sense for a kid who is male assigned at birth (a “boy”) or a kid who is female assigned at birth (a “girl”). We like Spencer for a girl (female assigned at birth), but not as much for a boy (male assigned at birth). Those gender things just can’t stay out of our head, though ironically we tend to like names that are more masculine-associated for a girl and vice versa. One name that we just recently decided on, over dinner, that works for any gender, is Remi/Remy (spelling yet-to-be-determined).

We don’t plan to raise our future kid gender-neutral. It’s a nice idea, but it’s just not possible for us. We live in the real world. We want our future kid to live in the real world. They are going to see gender all around them, absorb gender norms whether we like it or not, but we do want them to have options.

We want them to be able to play with green plastic army men, like W did as a kid, or with pound puppies, as K did as a kid. Or, more specifically, we want them to be able to play with both, or whatever interests them. K’s heart will probably break into a million pieces if their future kids wants to be a “pink princess,” regardless of what gender they are assigned at birth, but we want it to truly be their choice.

We want them to be able to make up their mind about their gender expression or their gender identity, or change their mind. If our kid turns out to be gender non-conforming, we want them to have a name that works for their gender expression, whatever that is. Of course, if they want to change their name to match their preferred name and identity, that’s cool with us, but we want to at least try to give them a name that is not hyper-masculine or feminine. So, future kid, as of March 2014, we are calling you “Remi/Remy.” You get to decide what that means for you.