As a therapist, and as I parent, I have had “the” talk more times than I can count. Not being particularly shy, this has never been an issue for me. I want people to be more informed than I was growing up. We were handed a poorly done cartoon book about sex and told, “It’s not that bad – it’s over quickly – if you have questions go ask your teacher!”
At a recent dinner with friends we were talking about the variations of the “birds and bees” talks that we had growing up, and ones that we have participated in giving since. A friend of mine spoke about his experience:
My parents were divorced, and my mother had given me THE talk when I was younger, but about 30 minutes before I went to my Junior Prom, my Dad pulls me aside and gives me the ‘birds and birds’ talk. I was dumbfounded! I hadn’t come out to anyone in my family, and although I knew that I was Bi, I hadn’t had a relationship with a guy at that point. So when my Dad is done we’re sitting and looking at each other in a strange silence and finally it just comes out –“Dad, I’m Bi.” My father, trying to do his best, took a second and then began asking questions, “is this like pre-gay?” “is it a phase?” and then finally, “ I accept you no matter what – but where do we go from here?” At the time I didn’t know, and there are many times even at my age where I still feel like that high-school kid trying to figure out where I fit in if I reveal my true self to others.
Dave has always identified himself as Bi, and like so many teenagers (as he was at that time) he didn’t come out to his parents as he was in a place of contemplation and confusion. Dave’s story isn’t unique; it’s one that I have heard over and over again. Think about when you started having romantic feelings towards others… it’s pretty clear cut if you’re Jane and you want to hold Johnny’s hand. Or you’re Johnny, and you want to hold Jack’s hand – but what about Judy who wants to hold Jack and Jane’s hands? There are avenues to take if you are gay or straight, but for those who are Bi – these are not things that we talk about enough.
I have another friend, Amy, who is Bi and had spent most of her adult life in relationships with women. When she met Adam, she found her soul mate, and they married. But as she grew into this relationship with Adam, three of her friends who identified as Lesbian told her that she wasn’t “real” in her relationships with women if she was going to marry a man, and they discontinued their friendship with her stating that they felt betrayed. Some of Adam’s friends were leery around her and told Adam that he was making a mistake in this relationship because if she had been mostly with women, then she would surely cheat on him and it wouldn’t last. Both sides were devastating to her. These are just 2 stories of countless ones that I have heard where both the GLBTQ and Straight communities took a step back from those who identify as Bi.
Let’s be honest: at some point in our lives we have been rejected or outcasts, it hurts and it sucks. In this community there is a lot of love and acceptance, but it is not reaching everyone who needs it. We ask for respect and equality, but in turn we do not give these to others who also need it. This is not meant to be a blanket statement, as there are many in our community who open their arms and hearts to everyone. In a world where it’s hard to be authentic to ourselves, we need to be inclusive, rather than exclusive. Being Bi isn’t about a lack of commitment or taking the easy way out, or a phase. Each of us is simply what we are. Having gone through the same stages, through the same questions and confusion, reaching for that moment of self-acceptance of who and what we are, and looking for a place where we are accepted without hesitation, resentment, or disregard. It is time to celebrate our similarities rather than debate our differences.