Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. and Wesley C. Davidson

When Your Child Is Gay

Over Half of Bisexual Youth Don't Have Family Support

How can a straight parent support a bisexual child?

Posted Oct 14, 2017

A ground-breaking 2012 survey of more than 10,000 LGBT youth in the U.S., ages 13-17, found that 40% of respondents identified as bisexual. The Human Rights Campaign, which conducted the survey, concluded that bisexuals have disproportionate levels of substance abuse, suicide, and eating disorders.

Many bisexuals, who make up more than 50% of the LGBT community, surveyed said they face more challenges coming out and gaining acceptance than their lesbian and gay peers also. A large number of the bisexual youth rejected the term "bisexuals" and chose instead "pansexual" or "queer." Only 5% described themselves as happy, compared with 21% of non-LGBT youth.

Most distressingly, 56% of bisexual youth said they don't have a supportive adult in their family. How can a straight parent support his bisexual child?

Just as you would with an LGT child when they come out, be sure to:

  • Listen. Do not try to talk him/her out of their sexual orientation or say that bisexuality does not exist.
  • Even if you don't understand his important news, consider it a compliment that he trusted you enough to reveal this important aspect of his identity.
  • You might say to your child "I hope you know that I will always love you, no matter what."
  • Don not call bisexuality a "phase." Your child is not being indecisive about his sexual orientation.
  • Do not hold out hope that they "will get off the fence" and choose heterosexuality. Your hopes may be dashed.
  • Do not believe society's myth that bisexuals are promiscuous because they have sex with both genders.
  • Understand that being bisexual is not the same as being "sexually fluid."  Sexually fluid people often feel that their attraction is situated and due to particular partners, their environments, and their time in their lives.
  • Find out if your child is being harassed at school for his orientation. If so, contact the schoolteacher, guidance counselor or principal. GLSEN (the Gay Straight Education Network).

To make your bisexual child feel as supported as his heterosexual sibling, psychiatrist Jonathan Tobkes, co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know, suggests these subtle ways:

  • Ask your child the same questions you ask your other children. Specifically, don't avoid the topic of dating and relationships. Be sure to invite the boyfriend, girlfriend to family dinners or functions in the same way you would for a partner of your straight child. From time to time, make a point of asking your child how his significant others are doing, what are new with them, and so forth.
  • Accept whatever your child tells you about his sexuality as hard fact and do not try and convince them that he must be either straight or gay. Many parents do not believe in bisexuality and it can feel belittling to convey that to your child.
  • Find out from your child how he wants to handle letting relatives and close family friends now about his sexual orientation.  It's his story so respect his privacy. Coming out to the extended family can present a challenge for your child.
  • If it is agreeable with your child, you can only then talk to other family members about being bisexual, and share the same information you would with them about his dating life as you would about your straight child.
  • The most important thing is to make it clear to your child that sexual orientation is only one part of who he is and that it has no bearing on your love for or acceptance of him.

For further tips about being an ally to your bisexual child, contact an advocacy organization specifically for bisexuals, such as binetusa.org.

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