What do you say when your child tells you they’re bisexual? Well, there are a lot of things you could say and just as many that you shouldn’t. First and foremost, it’s important to remember that while this might be hard and confusing, your child’s sexuality has nothing to do with you. The fact that your child feels comfortable embracing their sexuality (especially in a world that tells them bisexuality doesn’t exist) and sharing it with you probably means that they trust you. That alone is something to celebrate.
Here are five things not to say when your kid comes out as bisexual:
1) “No you’re not” or “This is just a phase”
Trust me, your child knows their sexuality better than you do. I knew I was bisexual before I had the words for it. Your child’s sexuality isn’t something you, or they, can control–so don’t try. Listen to their feelings and experiences and help them create the best future possible for themselves.
Instead, try saying: “Tell me about how you feel.”
2) “Bisexuality isn’t real”
Please, if nothing else, acknowledge the validity of your child’s sexuality. Bisexual erasure, which is the tendency to question the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality, is a major issue both outside and within the LGBTQIA community. It leads to many problems for bisexual people, such as inadequate sexual healthcare and higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.
Instead, try saying: “Let’s find some resources together so we can both learn more.”
3) “You’re too young to know”
No, they’re not. Whether they’re 7 or 17, your child is definitely not too young to know. It’s important to remember that sexuality isn’t just about sex. You wouldn’t chastise or question your heterosexual child for fantasizing about falling in love, so why do it to your bisexual child?
Instead, try saying: “I remember being your age and having crushes. Let’s talk about it.”
4) “You’re just saying this for attention”
What kind of attention, exactly? Bisexual folks face a wide range of problems like higher risk for living in poverty, workplace harassment, and mental illnesses. Bisexual folks also face discrimination from both the LGBTQIA and straight communities because of their apparent “attention-seeking behavior” or “indecisiveness.”
Instead, try saying: “I know it’s not fair, but I’m worried about how you’ll be perceived by other people.”
5.) “Only girls can be bisexual”
Nope. Not true. According to one study, 19% of 9 million LGBTQ people in the U.S. are bisexual men. This can also be traced to bisexual erasure, as well as traditional sexism. Bisexual men face many hardships and, as their parent, you can ease some of their struggle by respecting their identity, even if you don’t understand it at first.
Instead, try saying: “I’m proud of you for confiding in me. How can I help?”
Listen to your child. Listen to their feelings, struggles, worries, and excitement. Being bisexual, in my experience, is pretty great when you’re surrounded by people who love and support you.
Amanda lives in Indiana with her growing family of felines and books. She recently earned her BA in Women’s Studies and English and hopes to use her knowledge and skills to destroy the patriarchy, or at the very least create more spaces for communication and engaged activism. Amanda’s hobbies include infrequently blogging, working with nonprofit organizations, rereading Harry Potter, and caring about things. Follow on Twitter @amandandwords
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