Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

biumbrella

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.

Rainbow letters: 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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14 thoughts on “Bisexual Parents are Twice as Likely to Be Invisible

  1. If you ever find or write that book… send it my way.

    It is a very interesting series of moves to dance around the issue. I don’t have very many bi friends, but I have many gay, lesbian, transgendered, etc ones (just look at the people from your table at the wedding… not sure how it all happened to be at one table….). And MJ’s godfather is a lesbian. So, we are already prepared to have conversations with her as she gets older and I am still not sure how to approach this topic. I want to be open and honest, but at the same time j know things will have to change in my life before I tell her.

    • We’re always down to chat about it IRL, as we’ll be figuring it out, too, eventually. In fact, we may learn from how you address it with MJ. 🙂 I feel like I actually have a ton of friends who are non-monosexual (queer, pan, omni, bi, etc). We should co-author a guide. LOL.

  2. Wow! Great read, and I really wish I had found this yesterday. I could have used parts of it in my Human Sexuality course.

  3. Interesting. I myself define as bisexual and have been in a relationship with a woman (now married-how heteronormative of me!). I have struggled back and forth with how to identify myself and if its worth correcting people when I feel like I circle between bisexual, queer, and lesbian. But I see what you are saying about the invisibility process that can happen for bi people and parents. While I think of myself as bisexual after 10/almost 11 years with my partner I can barely imagine what it would be like to be with a man. But yet I still don’t rule it out. For me, its a struggle of labels and the assumptions that go along with them. They simply don’t reflect the nuance and complexity of sexuality, identity and culture that go hand in hand with these names.

    Thanks.

    • I feel you! I prefer queer because it’s open enough to capture the complexity of my sexuality, but I know that queer=lesbian in many people’s minds. And I make lesbian jokes and I get to sit at the lesbian table. Ironically, my partner is more into lesbian culture than I am, in terms of pop culture and whatnots. But now he is sometimes uninvited from the lesbian table because he identifies as a dude, but he definitely isn’t straight (or welcome at the straight table, even if he wanted to be). It’s not easy. If someone explicitly refers to me as a lesbian, I’ll correct them. Otherwise, I don’t bring it up unless it comes up naturally in conversation. – K

  4. As a pregnant bisexual in a very heteronormative looking relationship with my bi partner, this post really spoke to me. We’re not totally out as bi to our families (I guess those girlfriends I’ve had were just a “phase” to many people) and you’ve given me lots to think about in terms of being a bi parent. Only just found this blog and it’s my new fave. All the other family and parenting blogs I’ve come across so far are just so heteronormative that they rub me the wrong way. I’d say they make me want to puke, but I’ve done more than my fair share of that the last couple of months that I’m officially done with puking.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, FireCat! It’s funny how people “forget” you are bi/queer. I had to come out a second time to my family when I started dating my current spouse. I’d been dating a cisgender guy for 3 years and I think they were hoping it was not going to come up again.

      If you ever want to write down your thoughts and post them here, we welcome writing from guest bloggers! Especially pregnant or parenting ones because we’re not quite there yet. 🙂

      I’m so glad you are done with puking! I’m really not looking forward to puking…

      -K

  5. Thank you for this. I’m a queer/bi femme woman-type person (I’m AFAB and I consider myself gender fluid, but as I still use she/her/hers pronouns, I’m a cis woman for all intents and purposes), and I’m married to a straight, cisgendered man. We have a four-year-old kid. It is really frustrating how I am constantly read as being a straight cis lady just because of what our family looks like. In past relationships, I was assumed to either be straight or a lesbian based on the gender presentation of my partner. (Though there was an interesting time when I was at my most boyish and dating a dude who was also queer, and a lot of randos thought we were both gay men.) Anyway, I just wanted to say that I hate when people assume anyone’s sexual orientation or gender based on appearances. And that I agree, there should be a resource for parents who are bi/pan/queer, because we face different challenges than either gay or straight parents face.

  6. I read this after reading some of your pregnancy columns on Autostraddle, and I have to say, it hits home for me. My (AMAB, male-identified) partner and I are both bisexual, and while we fence-sit on the issue of children in general, we at least know I’ll never bear them – I’m femme-looking agender but pregnancy was profoundly dysphoric for me prior to termination. We haven’t written off kids entirely, but the issue of approaching it as queer and non-binary parents is unsettling. This was a very refreshing read, as are your pregnancy articles. All the best to you, Waffle, and T-Rex.

  7. I am so grateful to have read this posting. I am bisexual and a parent, but I am already 33 and have just started to be open about it with a close friend. I was raised in such a conservative home, so even though it was obvious to me that I was attracted to both men and women, I had messages of shame from my family and community/religion that I wasn’t supposed to like women. My family still doesn’t know, although I have a feeling my family and friends kind of know. When my ex left us, I went through a hard time personally. I’ve now graduated with my B.A. and I don’t want to hide any part of me anymore. I recognize that most people assume I’m straight, and having kids, they may think so even more. Dating has been discouraging to say the least. I very much understand the feeling of invisibility. Thanks for writing this article, I needed to hear these words.

  8. This just came to my attention today! Great post, one that definitely resonates with me. I’m a pansexual/bisexual woman married to a straight man, and together we have a daughter. I get the assumptions all the time and its frustrating and … feels like a part of me is being erased.

    I’m also going to keep reading because I’d love to see what it looks like for you to be out to your kid(s)! My daughter is 7 now, and I realized that while I’ve always talked to her about how she can love anyone, I’ve never specifically talked about my orientation. So now it feels like if I want to tell her I’m going to have to “come out,” which feels odd.

    All that to say, thanks for writing a great post.

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