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October 30, 2007

more advice

here's another dilemma sent in, please advise::

"Well, you asked for dilemmas and I could definitely use some advice right now.

I'm a 16 year old girl, and I'm bisexual...

I know what that sounds like, but I'm not "doing it to be trendy" like some of my friends think, I actually am attracted to both men and women. I've known this for quite some time but I've really only just come to terms with the label "bisexual". Nobody I've told has freaked out so far, because I live in a pretty open-minded place, but a few people have tried to tell me that I'm not really bi or that it doesn't matter that I'm bi because I'm in a relationship with a guy, but whatever. That's not my problem.

My problem is, how do I tell my parents? Should I even tell them?

It's not that my parents are homophobic. Well, my mom isn't at least. I'm sure that if I were to tell my mother she'd be just fine with it... still, it'd be an awkward conversation that I'm not sure I have the courage for at the present time. But my dad, on the other hand, is not so open minded. He's admitted to being homophobic, but not in the sense that he hates LGBT people -- just in the sense that it grosses him out. He supports gay rights and all and he has friends who are gay and such. I'm just not sure how he'd react if it was his own daughter. I positive he'd still love me and he wouldn't kick me out or anything, but I have such a great relationship with my dad that I kind of feel like straining that relationship wouldn't be worth it. Like I said before, I'm in a hetero relationship right now, so it's not like it's a pressing affair. But whenever I talk to my parents I feel like I've got some kind of horrible secrets. I don't know what to say to them.

Well even if you don't decide to post this, thanks for giving me a place to express my feelings.

PS: I miss the show a lot."

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Comments (17)

I'm in almost the same situation. im 17. im bi, but in a straight relationship with a guy. I'm totally open about it except with my parents. They wouldn't be especially upset but I think it would be awkward...and my mum would say it's just a phase (Don't you hate that?). But I pretty much figure it's none of their business who I'm attracted to...That's probably not helpful.

Posted by: benny at October 30, 2007 5:13 PM

You might be surprised at how much support your parents will give you when you share with them. This might bring you closer to them, knowing that you shared something so personal. It shows great courage and maturity. Hell, I'm impressed by you already!

Only you know how you feel about your sexuality. Don't let others project what they believe on who you are.

Heh, you're a teenager and confronting an issue similiar to something I still don't have the guts to reveal to my parents as an adult. Kind of humbling...

P.S. I miss the show too... ze I hope you are working on a sportsracer movie at the very least

Posted by: nesnora at October 30, 2007 5:23 PM

If you are in a healthy heterosexual relationship, is now really a good time to make this a major issue for your family and boyfriend?

If (and when) you move on in your dating life and decide to date a woman, perhaps that would be a better time to bring it up and ask for their support?

It is not a 'horrible secret'. But it is private. And it does not yet seem relevant information for your parents or to your current boyfriend. Besides, you are so young still. It may be best to let yourself mature in your identity before making it a big issue.

Just a few thoughts...

Posted by: Josh at October 30, 2007 5:25 PM

I'm not fond of dishing out advice, so I'll just tell you what I did in a similar situation. I started participating in the local queer community, and not making a secret of it. I dropped hints, like when watching movies with my mom I'd mention that so and so female star was attractive. Whenever I referred to the concept of a partner, I made sure I didn't use gendered pronouns. Really, it didn’t seem like a pressing issue to me, but I also didn't have a sense of keeping a big secret, either.

Eventually I was "outed" by a friend who just assumed I'd had "the talk" with my mom since I was out everywhere else. It went okay after that, though I was taken aback by her reaction. She would have had a much easier time of it if I'd come out as a lesbian, and I got the "there's no such thing as a bisexual" line from her for years.

If I had to do it differently, I probably wouldn't. Though I would have liked the warning that just because people are queer-friendly that does *not* mean they will understand what it is to be bisexual. I encountered the idea that I could only be happy with two partners, one man and one woman, or that I'd have to choose a "real" sexual orientation someday a whole lot more than I ever would have thought. Also, be prepared for your parents (and others) to react very differently than you expect. Your mom might freak out while you're dad is cool.

Good luck. You sound like you have your head squarely on your shoulders and have supportive people around you. You will be okay, however you choose to proceed.

Posted by: darusha at October 30, 2007 5:32 PM

To paraphrase Dr. Drew Pinsky of LoveLine, there is really no good reason to tell your parents that you're bisexual, especially as a teen. It's subconsciously done to seek revenge or to rebel against your parents. At 16 you are confused, you think you know who you are and how the world works. Take it easy with sex and focus on school. I mean it, make school your number one priority, you won't regret it. Drew has been answering these questions for longer than you've been alive.

Posted by: TheDrake at October 30, 2007 5:32 PM

Many fathers have a hard time accepting the sexuality of his daughter. I would leave that conversation for a later date. For the time being, confide in the person whom you trust the most and might be able to understand where you are coming from. I would expect that to be your mother.

Posted by: Barry at October 30, 2007 6:00 PM

I'm not bisexual, but I have been 16 (I'm now 30). I know now that at 16, I didn't know everything (I still don't), but I also know that at 16 I was sure I was heterosexual, and I knew when I was in love (yes, it was real). You certainly don't seem confused about your situation - only whether to tell Mom and Dad.

Know that it's okay to have secrets. Being bisexual doesn't make you a bad person, and you don't need to feel guilty about keeping this secret if you want to. It's certainly not hurting anyone for you to play it close to the vest. Time might give you a different perspective on how your parents will react. It also might give you some time to reflect on how and when to tell them. Who knows, a perfect time might present itself, when you'll be confident that it's the right move. It might not be 'till you're older; maybe in college. It's easier to tell Mom and Dad difficult stuff once you've started to separate from the household a bit and establish your own life. (My big secret was that I was playing Dungeons & Dragons; my parents (fundamentalist Christians, though not hateful radicals, and accepting though disapproving of homosexuality) still don't think it's great, but they do understand that I wasn't worshiping Lucifer and at least I wasn't drinking or having sex. I was still hesitant to tell them I got a tattoo at 28. But, like being bisexual, a tattoo is permanent, and there's not much they can do about it, now is there?

I don't know your Mom, but it really helped me when my Mom told me that she knew I wasn't going to tell her everything (even some important things), and that it was okay, and she didn't expect me to. If your Mom has ever told you anything like this, then hang onto it. And if your Mom has ever told you that you could never, ever do anything to make her love you less, then believe her. Same goes for your Dad. Don't underestimate the power of parental love.

But, it's okay if you keep it secret forever, if you want. Unless, of course, you have a lesbian relationship at some point, and it becomes a necessity. I still have a secret I keep from my parents, and even some of my friends. It's the kind of thing that I'd like to share with them, but they wouldn't understand. Some things are generational. My brother knows, and all my cousins that are over 21. And if it ever becomes legal, I will tell Mom and Dad. Fortunately for you, you're not breaking any laws.

You seem to have a good support system of friends, or at least like-minded people. Lean on them for now, and tell your Mom and Dad when you feel it's the right time.

Posted by: Catherine at October 30, 2007 6:36 PM

The most I ever fought with my parents was when I was 16 and I wanted to start driving. My advice would be wait to tell them anything. They're already freaked out because you're a teenager, and any extra stress on them should be avoided until you're 18. Then you can go to college, move out of the house, let them miss you a lot, and then ease them into it if you really want to. Or never tell them.

And no, I'm not kidding.

Posted by: alan at October 30, 2007 7:18 PM

Don't tell your parents. Go do your homework. Stop worrying about relationships and put your attention on your SAT scores.

Posted by: danielmcvicar at October 30, 2007 7:29 PM

Hard to give advice when you don’t personally know the people, but in general… tell your mom, cause you need someone to talk to and then let her decide if this is something your dad can handle; who probably wouldn’t want to know his little princess is having sex with anyone (period), and being attracted to some one doesn’t mean you are having sex, right? If you’re a healthy teen your hormones are probably raging right now, but you don’t really notice this much because it’s something that’s just part of you. We are chemical beings after all, any one who does drugs can tell you how chemicals alter the mind and body. If you or your mom think telling pop would ruin your relationship, give it about 10 years when it all starts to work its way out and you're on the road to find what every father really wants for his baby doll, a good, stable, loving, relationship.

Posted by: abby at October 30, 2007 7:46 PM

I'm also 16, and bi, and in pretty much the same situation as you; the difference is, my parents would be a lot less forgiving if they knew I probably won't grow up to marry a nice religious boy and have 4.5 kids and spend the rest of my life as a housewife like they've planned.

I really don't have any advice (I'm in need of some myself), but what I *do* think? If your parents can handle it, tell them. Hiding things does work and eventually you get used to it, but what if you end up in a relationship with another female? That immediately makes the whole situation more delicate. I've wanted to tell my parents so badly, but I can't be sure they wouldn't kick me out. It sounds like you do have a good relationship with yours, and if that's really the case, letting them know that you're bi shouldn't shake them too much. Even if you only tell your mom.

What kind of relationship with them do you have, and what kind do you want? Do you want to be able to be open with them about things like this, but at the possible expense of damaging your relationship?

When we look back at our teen years in another decade, are we gonna regret not telling them? Will it still be a secret? Would they be more hurt by you *not* telling them if they find out in the future?

They're hard questions because they're entirely up to you. But you sound like you're smart, and that you'll do what's best- just don't stress over it. If things don't work out the way you hoped, it's not the end of the world (promise!).

p.s. i miss the show, too. it's what gave me confidence in this whole give-advice(?)-to-random-strangers thing. :]

Posted by: Nix at October 30, 2007 7:47 PM

Those of us who are straight are ill-equipped to advise you on this, but I think that patience is a virtue. I usually advise taking it slow with relationships when you are a teenager, as hard as that is, but only you know what your sexuality is and none of us should tell you whether you are sure about it. You should wait not because you might "change your mind" but because your parents are likely to think that you might. Many people have an easier time accepting someone as gay or lesbian than as bisexual. Your parents may well think it is just a phase. Better to wait until the time is right, but only you can know that. I expect that when the time is right you won't have to wonder whether to tell them. In the long run, though, you will almost certainly want to tell them so that it doesn't fester. You are lucky to have a good relationship with your parents. It took me until I had a child of my own to appreciate my parents and develop a good relationship with them.

Posted by: Gus at October 30, 2007 9:40 PM

While it's understandable that you're not happy with not being open with your mom and dad about your bisexuality, there's not much to be gained by having a formal "I like boys, but I like girls, too" discussion--it's probably going to be too abrupt for them, and they will react defensively.

Perhaps the best way to handle this is to relax and be yourself, and about explain your feelings or place too much emphasis on them. For example, if you're watching a movie with your parents and some cute girl comes on, go ahead and say "she's hot." Don't make a big deal of it--just say it, and then get a soda or talk about school. Acknowledging that you find girls attractive will make you feel better, because you won't feel so strongly that you're tacitly lying. Your parents probably won't confront you about it because they won't really think much of your comments at first. Be prepared for them to brush off your feelings initially as a phase or a crush or a whim. But they will notice--after all, they're your parents, and they love you, and they care about what's going on with you. When they realize your comments are significant, they'll probably ask you if you're gay. Letting them initiate the conversation may make it easier--they'll have had a chance to ponder it and, on some level, accept it. Then you can try to explain that you still like your boyfriend, but that you have feelings for girls, too.

This may seem like it would prolong your agony, rather than solve it. And if that's the case, ponder some of the great advice given here by other folks, as well as how your own instincts are telling you to handle this. Whatever you decide to do, good luck and hang in there. You're going to be OK no matter what.

Posted by: Kimmyesque at October 30, 2007 9:55 PM

this doesn't seem like an issue.
I'm sure it feels like it, but it really isn't in your situation. There doesn't seem like there is any conflict.

Posted by: Matt at October 31, 2007 1:08 AM

You sound so incredibly level headed, I don't think that you need much advice.

I'd only offer the following for consideration:
* You know your parents much better than any of us do. Consider their personalities, and also their needs as parents.
* You know yourself much better than any of us do. Consider what you need. Your honesty need for openness is very beautiful. . . I would be reticent to even suggest that you suppress that. I was never open with my parents and I really envy those who can be less guarded.
* Worst case scenario: What is the absolutely worst that will happen as a result? What is the worst/best way you could tell them? How would they respond? How could you respond in the best/worst way? If you are prepared for this, and are OK with these scenarios, go with your heart.

I wish you courage, truth and genuineness to yourself and others.


Posted by: ingrid at October 31, 2007 5:11 AM

How great can a relationship be if you don't feel free to be yourself, whatever the relationship? I understand that there are people that feel the need to hide the parts of themselves that their family or friends might not be comfortable with but it's never been something I’ve been comfortable doing. Your parents should love and respect you no matter what you do so long as it's not causing injury. If your dad is "grossed out" by your bisexuality then he's thinking about it in an inappropriate way. You shouldn't feel ashamed because your father doesn't quite grasp the concept yet... your task may be in helping him see that there isn't anything "gross" about love. I just think it would be a shame for you to be so close to someone and not be able to share all of yourself. For the record I guess I'd be considered "straight" but I wouldn't ever limit myself to being with someone that could bring me possible joy and a definite learning experience. This isn’t strictly about sex, try to make that clear whenever you share this part of yourself.

Posted by: Samara at October 31, 2007 3:23 PM

I am a 34 year old woman, married, with child, and identify in my mind as bi. Like you, it was always a part of me, but I didn't know what to call it till I was in college. I have told some friends, but have never told my family. I don't see any reason to, really. Do you? It is private. Put your family on a need to know basis. If at some point you plan to bring home a girlfriend, that might be a good time to mention it, or if it just naturally comes up in conversation.

I have always thought that "coming out" is kind of a pointless event. What do you expect from telling them? What do you want the outcome to be? If you need to tell them, you will know when. An opportunity will present itself.

Posted by: sl at November 5, 2007 2:40 PM

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