On this day we were out running errands, driving home from the other side of this city. As we approached a major downtown intersection, I noticed that police were blocking traffic, and I could see the beginnings of some sort of parade. Then I heard on the radio what the parade was: pro-traditional marriage advocates had taken to the streets.
It just so happened that this faction was turning onto the street I was on and would then be proceeding right past my car. And since it was a nice day, and my window was already rolled down, I began to do all that I could to get my message to these people. And well, I’m a bit of a rabble rouser that way, so I began shouting such things as “Shame!” “Equality for all!” and “I thought God loved everyone?” And let me tell you, I am loud when I wanna be.
I kept up my hollering until the whole procession had passed. I think there were a few others in the crowd who appreciated my commentary, and others joined in. And regardless of the fact that I knew my words would not make any of the marchers defect to the pro-homo side of things, I did still consider my actions a distinct political action. I was yelling my message of equality because I wanted my daughters to hear me.
Eventually, the whole parade had passed and police let us through. As we drove away, my near six-year old asked more earnestly what that was all about. She had asked me why I was yelling earlier, but now she wanted more information. I told her that some people don’t agree that men and men and women and women should get married. I tried my best to explain that right now these marriages can’t happen, and that some people agree with this, and some people don’t. I told her I agree that anyone should be allowed to be married.
She was quiet for a bit. Then she asked the question: “Do you think you’ll ever marry a boy?” I have to admit I was a bit taken off-guard. I didn’t expect her to make that kind of leap in thinking. And this was also a defining moment. So, I told her, “Well, if Daddy finds a boy who makes him happy and he wants to marry, then yes, I would marry a boy.”
And that was that. I have no idea what else she thought on this, or even how much it registered. We arrived home shortly after and were taken over by the getting out of car and upstairs routine. And we’ve not discussed it further since. I know we will sometime, one of my parenting goals is open and effective communication at all times. They’ve been raised around queer people their all of their lives, so same sex life is not new to them. But how they’ll deal with it with their parents could be another story.
In speaking with some other bi parents, the decision to be out to children is a complicated issue with many advantages and disadvantages. But beyond these drawbacks and benefits, the primary reason some people aren’t out to their kids is rather elemental: the kids are too young. Some are just not comfortable discussing their sexuality with their kids because the kids are just too young, and, consequently would not understand the concepts. "TOCityGuy," who has a 9-year-old daughter has never explicitly stated his bisexuality to her, but he’s also not hidden it either. He’s sure that his daughter “understands that some people have relationships with the same gender. I’m not sure if she understands that somebody could have relations with either daughter.”
To others, their personal sexuality is not something they feel they need to discuss with their children. “Nik76o,” who has two sons, ages 6 and 1 month is not openly bi, and in her situation doesn’t “believe my children are in the need to know about” her sexual preferences. She does offer that “if I was openly gay then I feel that they should know at some point.” But for now, she and her boyfriend have chosen to keep their “sexual indiscretions out of the house.” Bill, father of 8 children between the ages of 2 and 22 worries that if they knew he was bisexual, “they might get confused about sexual identity. The older they are when they learn that you’re bi, the more they’d be able to understand what that means.”
On the other hand, Brooke, mother of a near-5-year-old, believes her son does have somewhat of a concept of her bisexuality “at least as good as a 4 year old can have.” Being a kid of that age, of course he’s curious, and “has started asking other female friends and family if they have a girlfriend too.” She is married to her husband and has had a girlfriend for a year and a half. Being exposed to this, her son is “starting to grasp that bi is something different.” Heather, who has a nine-year-old boy, also presents a rather practical reason to be open with her son. “It would be confusing,” she offers, “if he saw me kissing a man one week and a woman another if I hadn’t told him about it.”
Whether or not these parents are out to their kids or not, the decision to be out in the community proposes completely different questions. The most obvious reason to not be out as bisexual when you have kids is the potential discrimination the kids may face. Nancy, who has a five-year-old son, worries about kids being “at schools with narrow-minded teachers, they might be given a hard time. Also, other kids might harass them.” This is a big problem, because it is something that parents cannot resist, regardless what positive actions they might take.
However, being proudly out in the community can be an empowering example that can be presented to children. Nancy suggests that it is “good for them to learn to be open. That way, if they grow up and learn that they are not heterosexual, they don’t have to waste years and years suffering from internalized homo/biphobia.” But it isn’t just within themselves that kids will learn about acceptance. Children, when exposed to different cultures, religions and sexualities at a young age can then grow up understanding the different peoples of the world, making them less likely to be susceptible to bigots who will try to tell them otherwise.
Another advantage to being out with your kids is that it can build trust between within your family. Perhaps this concept it best left to older children, but if you can be open about yourself, then your children are more likely to trust you, and perhaps they will then grow up feeling that they can trust you in the same way that you trust them. This could lead to an open and loving relationship based on honesty and understanding. When considering this question, Julie, mother of three children aged 5, 11, and 13, referred to it to her kids! “They were adamant that if I was keeping secrets from them concerning her sexuality they would no longer be able to trust my word and wouldn’t feel safe to disclose their own concerns with me.”
When I drove away from that parade, when my daughter was asking me questions, I knew this was an important moment, mainly because most of my dealings with my daughters are important moments at this age. They are growing up fast in a rapidly changing world. So, if there is one thing I want to be to them, I want to be a rock of stability. My situation enables me to be open with them, but it is clear that others may not be in the same situation to afford that level of comfort. So, just like all those other contentious parenting issues out there, being openly bisexual with your children is a very personal decision. And as with all of those other parenting decisions, we’ll only know we’ve done the right thing when our kids are grown. Then I’m sure they’ll let us know if we’ve done right.