“My 13-year-old daughter recently told us that she was bisexual. She also told her friends at school. We have been supportive, and so have her friends. I just realized that she put on her Instagram bio that she is bi. I believe that due to her age, she should not be announcing any sexual preferences. We want to be supportive of her but we are also concerned that she will be bullied in school. Are we over-thinking this?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Amelia
Parents worry about our kids. It’s what we do. Nothing is really going to stop us. Sometimes we worry about really silly things, like whether or not our children will ever be capable of using an “inside voice,” and sometimes we worry about serious stuff, like how our kid’s identity is going to affect their life.
As the mom of a young gay kid, I get it. It’s hard to know what to do. We want to be the best parents we can be, but how do we really do that? And how do we keep our own fears from making those decisions? I wish I had all the answers, but I don’t. Just like every other parent, I am stumbling along, trying to mess up my kids as little as I can. But I can tell you what I think and why.
Your daughter is out. She’s out to herself, to you, and to her friends. That is important, and good for her! And now she is telling the rest of the world (or at least her Instagram followers) in public. For you, as her parents, that probably feels like something really different and possibly even strange but I am guessing that to her, it feels about the same as telling her friends in person that she’s bi. Kids don’t feel the same away about social media as we old folks do. We see it as a proclamation and they see it as simply telling their friends, “Hey!”
I understand the desire to protect your kids online. I limit the online exposure of my own kiddos. I don’t show pics on Facebook or Twitter, and I don’t allow my kids to have public online accounts. That’s my choice, because I am the mom and I get to (with dad) make that decision. Every family has to make that decision for themselves.
The part of your question that gives me pause is this:I believe that due to her age, she should not be announcing any sexual preferences.
As adults of our generation (I am assuming you are in the 30-50 range because of the age of your kid), we look at orientation as something that is only sexual. We view it as something that is about the act of sex. But in truth, it’s not. At least that’s not all it’s about. Our orientation is about our feelings and attractions. It’s about who makes us blush and stammer. It’s about whose hand we want to hold at the movies. It’s about a lot of really, really innocent things that aren’t sex.
Your daughter didn’t put in her profile, “I am actively seeking out sex with [inset here].” It said she was bi. And that is as much a part of how she sees herself as the color of her hair and eyes. It’s something that just is. It’s not an invitation to sex.
When it comes to my kids, when something makes me uncomfortable, I try to figure out why, so I am going to ask you some questions here:
Are you worried that this will bring sexual advances she is not prepared for?
Are you worried that being out will have consequences she is not prepared for?
Are you worried that suddenly everyone will know?
I suggest a close examination of these questions and your fears.
If your fears stem from the fact that she is 13 years old and there are some creepy-ass people online, then maybe the answer is make her Instagram account private, and for you to monitor her account.
If you are worried about the consequences of her being out, then maybe it is time to have a talk with your kid about some of the truly horrible things people think and say about LGBTQ people, and what her plan should be when she is faced with someone with those ideas.
But if your reasons are that you are scared that people will know she is bisexual, then maybe it is time for you to really examine that. If your daughter being bi is something you truly support, then you need to support her in this, too. She gets to make the decision on whether or not she is out on social media. And if you tell her that she is not allowed to tell people–not matter who they are–that she is bi, then what message will that that send her? Is that sending a message of shame or a message of pride? Because she has nothing to be ashamed of.
My son has a T-shirt from the TV show Glee that says “Likes Boys.” My husband and I had lots of conversations before we bought the shirt for him (he begged us for the shirt), and we had more conversations afterwards. In the end, we decided that our fears didn’t get to be more important that his pride. We couldn’t live with ourselves if we were the ones who told him that he had to hide who he is. That doesn’t mean that I wasn’t a paranoid weirdo the first few times he wore it in public…but I kept it on the inside.
As parents, we know just how horrible people can be. We’ve had a lot of years to watch it. But I don’t want my fears for my kids to ever be translated into shame of my kid. That’s the last message I want to send my kid, and I doubt you do either.
Amelia is a mother and breadwinner. When not working she’s spending as much time as possible with her three young sons, friends, and family. In her copious free time she knits, obsesses about science fiction and cult television, and reads way too many books. She considers her most superhero worthy act finding a couple free hours now and then to read trashy novels.