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Dear Dish-It: Coming Out To My Parents

Feb 03, 2020

Dear Dish-It,

I’m bi and I’ve told my friends. They’re OK with it but my parents might not be. They’re constantly making bad comments about gays and bisexuals and I’m afraid of how they’ll react. What should I do?


Dear bi-guy,

I’m glad to hear you have found your own identity and that your friends are supportive of the person you are. Too bad your parents may not be as understanding. I’m not sure if this is the case for your mom and dad, but sometimes adults who grew up in different times than you have different opinions about certain issues, including sexuality. But you don’t seem to be asking me whether or not you should reveal your bisexuality to your parents – it seems like you’ve already decided to tell them about it, which is good. I think part of being honest with yourself is being honest with the people around you, especially those you are closest to like the members of your immediate family. So the problem now is, how exactly do you tell your parents when you fear they may not be as accepting or understanding as your friends?

Read This Before Coming Out To Your Parents

Something that may serve as good advice to you is to find out more about how parents typically react to kids who tell them they are gay or bi. The fact is, most parents will follow typical stages in terms of their reaction to what you are telling them. Remember though that every family is different and unique. Your own parents may not react in a way you or anyone else can predict or expect. Still, it’s useful for you to have some idea of what to expect, so you can prepare yourself ahead of having this very important conversation with your mom and dad.

First: Questions To Ask Yourself

Before you talk to your parents about this, you need to be very clear in your own mind about what you believe about yourself and what you want others, including your mom and dad, to know about you. Ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you sure about your sexuality? Don't raise the issue unless you're able to respond with confidence to the question "Are you sure?" Confusion on your part will increase your parents' confusion and decrease their confidence in your judgment.
  • Are you comfortable with your bisexuality? If you're wrestling with guilt and periods of depression, you'll be better off waiting to tell your parents. Coming out to them may require tremendous energy on your part; it will require a lot of stored-up positive self-image.
  • Do you have support? In the event your parents' reaction devastates you, there should be someone or a group that you can confidently turn to for emotional support and strength.
  • Are you knowledgeable about bisexuality? Your parents will probably respond based on a lifetime of information from a homophobic society. If you've done some serious reading on the subject, you'll be able to help them by sharing reliable information and research.
  • What's the emotional climate at home? If you have the choice of when to tell, consider the timing. Choose a time when they're not dealing with such matters as the death of a close friend, an upcoming surgery or the loss of a job.
  • Can you be patient? Your parents will require time to deal with this information if they haven't considered it beforehand. The process may last from six months to two years.
  • Why are you coming out now? Hopefully, it is because you love them and are uncomfortable with the distance you feel. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexuality as a weapon.
  • Do you have available resources? Bisexuality is a subject most heterosexual people know little about. Have at least one of the following resources available: a book addressed to parents, a contact for a local gay and/or bisexual organization or the name of a counselor who can deal fairly with the issue.
  • Do you depend on your mom and dad for money? If you think they may be so upset, hurt or angry that they’ll kick you out of the house or refuse to pay your bills any longer, it’s not wrong to wait until they don’t have this weapon to hold against you.
  • What is your relationship with your parents? If you've gotten along well and have always felt loved by them chances are they'll be able to deal with the issue in a positive way.
  • What is their moral or religious view? If they tend to see things in terms of good/bad or holy/sinful, they may very well have serious problems dealing with your sexuality. If they seem more flexible than that, though, they may be willing to work through with you.
  • Is this your decision? Not everyone should come out to their parents. Don't be pressured into it if you're not sure you'll be better off by doing so – no matter what their response.

Separation And Loss

When you come out to your parents, you may find your parent-child roles reversed for a while. They will need to learn from your experience. As your parents deal with your bisexuality, you may have to be the “parent” for a while by giving them enough time to express their feelings and come to terms with what you’ve told them.

This won’t be easy, and you may feel yourself becoming impatient. You'll want them to understand this important part of your life right away. But just because you've explained something once does not mean they heard it. Give them time and space. Consider your own journey: you've been working on this issue for years! Be patient.

Your parents may even take the news as a temporary loss -- almost like a death -- of the son or daughter they have known and loved. It might feel to them like the child they’ve known since birth is being replaced with someone new and strange to them. This can be really hard for moms and dads. But if you are patient and understanding, and they are, too, these feelings of loss and separation will likely only be temporary – they won’t last forever.

The Stages: Shock, Denial, Guilt, Feelings Expressed, Making Decisions, True Acceptance

Most parents go through the same stages when their child comes out to them about his or her sexuality. The first one, shock, depends on whether or not your parents already knew or suspected that you were bisexual. If they had no idea, the shock may last minutes or weeks. Also, if you don’t think they have any idea about what you’re about to tell them, start by explaining that you haven’t been totally honest with them and you want to fill them in. Tell them you love them a lot (say this a lot) and remind them you’re the same person you’ve always been.

Denial, the second stage, protects people from a painful or threatening message. If your parents decide to deny what you told them about yourself, they may cry a lot or get angry or ignore you or say things like “it’s just a phase” – like they expect you to get over your feelings of bisexuality. Some parents may even go through denial by suggesting you go to counseling. Whatever their reaction, they eventually need to come to terms with the fact that you are who you are and you’re likely not going to change. In other words, they need to accept you. This may take time, so be prepared to be patient.

The third stage is guilt – your parents may feel like they’ve done something wrong. If this is the case, you may want to tell them it’s not their fault. It may be really helpful to have and give them a book about homosexuality or bisexuality that’s specifically for parents that can explain more about the theories and origins of human sexuality.

The fourth stage your parents may go through is to acknowledge their feelings. At this point, your mom and dad may be more willing and ready to ask you questions about your bisexuality, but it may also bring up some negative emotions that might hurt you. For example, your parents ask you not to tell anyone else in the family about your bisexuality or they may ask you what they did to deserve this, especially if they’re not willing to accept what you just told them about yourself. The only thing you can really do at this point is give them the time they need to express themselves. You need to understand that this can be a really difficult thing for them to understand and accept about you, so don’t get angry and don’t be selfish. You may feel you’re right and they’re wrong, but this kind of attitude will not help, especially if you still want and need your parents in your life.

At stage five, your parents may be ready to start making some decisions. It’s like reaching a fork in the road – your mom and dad need to choose which path they’ll take now. Remember, your parents may not react the same to your news, and they may not decide to do the same thing about it. One parent may be supportive while the other may be angry or hurt. There’s no way to predict any of this ahead of time. If you decide the time is right to come out to your parents and tell them about your bisexuality, then I guess you’re also making the decision to accept whatever reaction they may have. It’s not easy, but it’s not the end of the world, either.

If your parents do accept your bisexuality, that’s great. But it doesn’t mean the process is over. Remind them that you love them a lot and are grateful for their love and support in return. Introduce them to your chosen way of life as slowly or quickly as they are comfortable with. Make sure to keep the lines of communication open between you, your mom and your dad, and always be honest with them about yourself, your life and your decisions.

If your parents are angry or refuse to accept your news, well, in a word, that really sucks. It’s sad when families fight or break up over something that really, in the end, isn’t such a big deal after all. The first thing you need to remember if they do get react badly is that two wrongs never make a right, so don’t get mad at them for not understanding you. It won’t help. If they’re angry but willing to try and work it out with you, you may take them to a meeting for parents of gay or bi children – often having a network of other people in similar situations they can talk to will help them get over their anger toward you. Counseling might also help.

In terms of the last stage – true acceptance – you should realize ahead of time that very few parents of gay or bi children get this far. While your parents may come around and accept that you are bisexual, they may never really like it all that much or want to discuss it with you any more. They may accept that you’re their child and they’ll always love you, but they may not accept that you are different in your sexual orientation than they’d like you to be. Any form of acceptance is good – it may not be exactly what you were looking for when you told them about your bisexuality, but it’s something to be grateful for.

I hope this helps in terms of considering whether or not you are going to tell your parents you are bi. You may also want to do a search on the Internet for other resources before you make this very important decision in your life.

If you've got a burning question, need some love advice or find yourself thinking about things like sex, depression, self-esteem, boyfriends, girlfriends, best friends, bullying or peer pressure, don't hesitate to Dish-It here. Send your questions to deardish@kidzworld.com. And if you hang out in the chat rooms with other Kidzworld members who know you by your username, just send in your secret question using a different nickname if you want to stay anonymous – we promise that no one will ever know it's you. Remember: Dish-It gets a load of letters every day so it may take a while to reply to yours. Keep checking back for her reply, or watch for answered Dish-It questions that are similar to your own.

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