Should I tell my son I'm bisexual?
I'm a bisexual man, I'm proud of that and – I spend a significant amount of my free time campaigning to challenge misconceptions and to contribute to the national debate to help us talk more openly and honestly about men and sexuality. How many dads on this website struggle with issues concerning their own sexuality? Is it a topic to address with your children? What about if they’re your step-children? This leads me to the subject of this blog. I was recently faced with a bit of a dilemma: should I tell my eight-year-old son I'm bisexual?
I met someone
I've been in a relationship for almost two years with an incredible woman who happens to have an amazing eight-year-old boy from another relationship, so, I've found myself assuming the mantle of step-dad.
Sorry to burst your bubble but…
Being a step-dad is harder than I'd imagined it to be. First off, you're coming into the parenting role eight years in, which in itself brings its own set of challenges like figuring out what you need to know about their history, character, etc., which to some extent is helpful to know as part of your building a relationship with them. And if you think ‘step-dad’ automatically assumes a benevolent and omniscient superhero in the eyes of your new step-children – boy are you in for a bubble-bursting moment. From my experience – the kid doesn't need you; he’s survived eight years without your insight, support and love, and he remembers what life was like before you. I guess it’s going to take time to build a relationship with them. This is a struggle, I wouldn’t necessarily raise my biological children the way my step-son has been raised in my absence, so you have to compromise, you can't come in and change all the rules, it's too much of a strain on you, your relationship with your partner, and your relationship with your step-child.
Is there a rite of passage in becoming a step-parent?
When do you actually become a parent? Biologically it's pretty simple: your seed equals you are dad. However, being a step parent is different. What constitutes becoming a father figure in their life takes time, trust, and work – it happens gradually over time: first you're “mummy's friend”, then you’re the man mummy is dating, then there’s the, “he’s my step-dad”. There's also the element of love, just because you love the mother will you/ do you have to love the kid?
I've found kids are hard not to love in any situation and over time the love comes naturally. First you notice they have a cute laugh, and then you notice you've taught them something and it’s a milestone when you notice you’ve influenced them and contributing to the building of their character and personality. Then when the kid hurts him or herself, and has to be rushed to hospital – and something primal stirs within you – and you realise that DNA or not, this kid is under your protection and you'll do whatever it takes to keep them safe.
Where does my sexuality come into all of this?
Yes, being a step-parent is a minefield of tough questions, moral decisions and constant worry. So when the question of letting the little person know that this new man and father figure in his life has dated men and women – I was naturally conflicted.
On the one hand, who cares? The kid lives in 2018, so what's the big deal? He's going to encounter people from the LGBT community at some point in his life.
On the other hand, he's a kid; he should be playing, not worrying about how people are self-identifying. Here’s another consideration – what if he talks about his step-dad being bisexual it at school and becomes a target of bullying? One of the most surprising things about being bisexual isn’t the way I am treated, it’s the way my girlfriend is treated. Strangers who have never met me have told her to leave me before I cheat, that she'll never be enough for me, or that I'll give her an STI. My girlfriend became a target of some pretty difficult conversations and misconceptions for dating me; I don't want that for my son.
Having the option of staying quiet or saying something is both a blessing and a curse in that regard. Bisexuals have always been faced with this issue of blending in, for lesbian or gay parents, it's quite apparent visually that they are LGBT parents, but anyone looking at my family would think we are a conventional straight couple. That poses its own issues, and have a lifetime of ‘coming out’ ahead of me.
I told him and the world didn’t end
Ultimately, I decided to tell my son.
So, there I was, geared up to tell him. My girlfriend turned to give me one of her, ‘you’re an idiot’, faces followed by some stress-alleviating words, “babe he already knows.”
Apparently, weeks earlier he'd asked her what gay and bisexual was and when the Mrs had explained bisexuality, had asked “is that what Lewis is?” turns out I must just scream bisexual! – and even an eight-year-old noticed. It was great, he'd had known for weeks and it hadn't changed anything, he hadn't even thought to mention it.
It was lucky it got established when it did, just a week later I was marching in my full bisexual gear at London Pride when I got a call to say that the little lad had broken his arm and was in hospital. There was no time for a costume change I had to turn up in biker jeans, leather jacket and a t-shirt reading 'Bisexual.' Imagine if he didn’t know when the incident occurred during the event. Now my friends – that would have been a bad way to come out to my son. Thankfully the most awkward moment about that incident was the nurse discreetly trying to work out if I (the man wearing the bisexual t-shirt) was dating mommy or daddy.
About the author
Lewis Oakley is one of the UK's leading bisexual activists appearing across radio television and online platforms. He is interested in tackling stigma around bisexual men in particular and increasing understanding through good media representation. You can engage in conversation with Lewis on his twitter handle.
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