The Adult Child

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I came out to my parents as bisexual when I was 17.  Shortly after, I started dating my girlfriend of nearly 5 years.  We are on our way to marriage and a family as soon as the money is right.  It seems that my faithfulness to a woman has made my father think that I was just confused at the time, because he has made a couple of comments over the years like "Remember when you thought you might be gay?" I tell him that I am what I said I was, and that nothing has changed.  I thought he understood until yesterday, when I received a letter from a law school (I am in the application process), talking about their LGBT support systems.  He read it and thought it was hilarious that I would get that.  "Do they think you're gay?" he laughed as I just shrugged.  He even told his friend today and they had a laugh about it.  I want him to know that I was not just a confused high school kid when I came out.  I want to convince him that bisexuality is real, because I know he does not believe in it.  I still have strong attractions to men.  I choose not to act on them for the same reason I choose not to act on my strong attractions to females - I only want to be with my girlfriend.  Part of me wants to confront my father and say, "Look, I am still bisexual - I never wasn't," but the other part of me knows that will be so stressful and awkward because I have already had this discussion.  I am essentially straight because I am only intimate with a woman and I have typically masculine behavior.  Is it really worth it to come out again, or should I just let this blow over and let my father think I was straight all along?  The easy answer is the former, but please consider how the latter would keep life simple.  I do not feel that being openly bisexual is that important to me because I generally do not really identify with the LGBT community and I am not currently considering a relationship with a man.

ANSWER

I don’t know if the real issue is that you’re bisexual and want your father to confirm his understanding of such, or if it’s that your father has a history of only hearing what he wants to hear.  Either way, I think we can both agree that the current situation is not sitting well with you.  The question is, what do you want to do about it?

I’m a huge proponent of peace, particularly within families, however, peace comes from within and it is not something which results from passivity or from oppressing one’s feelings.

Right now you’re looking at this situation as though your father is dismissing your sexual orientation.  I’m going to offer you a different way of looking at this:  What if he’s genuinely confused by what your current relationship says about your sexual orientation and this is his way of broaching the subject (albeit, provocatively and inappropriately)?  It sounds to me as though your father wants to have a conversation about this and I’m betting that this is how he approaches subjects which make him uncomfortable (by making seemingly benign yet provocative comments which result in the other person calling him out).

I think you need to have a conversation with him and it needs to come from a place of wanting to educate him.  If it’s said in a spirit of love and compassion (easier in theory than in practice) and if you’re committed to keeping your cool and not allowing yourself to become escalated, it can bring the two of you closer.  Consider this:

Dad, remember when I got that letter about the law school LGBT support services?  Well I want to clarify something:  I still identify as being bisexual.  Nothing’s changed since we last had this conversation and I'm happy to remind you, as often as necessary, that I am and always will be bisexual.  But in much the same way that I’m not acting on my attraction to other women right now, I’m also not acting on my attraction to men right now.  That’s the way bisexuals handle being in committed, monogamous, relationships.

As you continue to mature into the adult that you’re becoming, you’re going to have to relate to your father more as a man and less as a child would to his father.  I don’t think you’d ever bite your tongue if someone other than a family member made a snide remark about your sexual orientation having been a phase.  Shared chromosomes does not give someone the right to speak to you in a disrespectful way.  Your long-term challenge is to capitalize on opportunities to do more than shrug when your father says something offensive, ignorant, or a combination thereof.

Writer’s Stats: Male, Bisexual.