According to national data, bisexuals make up the lion’s share of the LGB population. Yet, we are also the most invisible. This is because sexual orientation is usually interpreted based on relationship status and household composition, rather than on how an individual experiences their sexuality.
My wife and I have been together for 16 years, and co-parenting together for 11 years. We are both bisexual. Rarely is our family interpreted accurately by the outside world. I am Black, she is white, our kid is mixed race and presents as Black. We are also both femmes. As a result of these factors, we have been in countless interactions where my wife has been interpreted, and treated as “my friend who helps me out with my kid”. She has actually been a part of every moment of his life since he was an ultrasound image.
If she takes him to medical appointments she is asked to substantiate who she is in relation to him, or now that he is older, he has been asked to confirm her identity. This doesn’t happen when I take him to medical appointments. It is a good practice to confirm the relationship between adults and children at medical appointments. However, this seems to be happening based on race, sexual orientation, and gender-based assumptions about families, rather than as a universal safety precaution.
We’ve come a long way in terms of normalizing same-sex households, but as recently as this past school year, our kid came home with a form that had spots for “mother” and “father”. It is so easy to create a form that has two spaces for “parent/guardian”. Outdated forms such as this one exclude a lot of families that aren’t “same-sex households”.
In general, we’re not very surprised by these microaggressions as we navigate a heterosexist world. What often lands more painfully are the microaggressions from within the LGBTQ community in relation to our bisexuality.
Recently, we were at a comedy night that was heavily attended by queer and trans people. Despite the largely queer crowd, one of the comedians made a biphobic joke. We groaned and gave each other knowing eye-rolls. This reaction sparked a conversation with a lesbian couple that was seated at the same table. We got to chatting with them and when we revealed that we have been together for the better part of 2 decades and are raising a child together, they made a remark that we have heard in lesbian spaces before: “Oh, well it’s like you’re lesbians then”.
Like many microaggressions, the intention was clearly complimentary, but that’s definitely not how it landed. We are proud bisexual women. Our relationship with each other doesn’t change that. In these conversations, we find ourselves resisting the temptation to disclose being polyamorous and our relationships with men as a counterargument. No one should have to justify being Bi. That is just what some people are. We all understand that a person who’s been celibate for an extended amount of time isn’t necessarily asexual. It’s the same thing really. My sexual orientation is the one I was born with. Relationships are choices I make over time.
Not all same-sex couples are gay and lesbian. Not all different-sex couples are straight. Many of us raise children using a variety of family and community structures. Being told we are not real or that our identity is a phase hurts.
A great way to make the world less painful for bisexuals and their families is to normalize and represent different family structures. Right now, there is a culture war over when it’s okay to start talking to kids about LGBTQ+ people.
Who among us can remember receiving an explanation about marriage and families? We take for granted that there is no need to explain these concepts. We learn about these and other institutions by observing the world around us. LGBTQ+ people are part of the world. Representing queer and trans folk in a child’s world from day one is how we present an accurate portrait of reality.
There is content that affirms family diversity for all ages. Independent children’s publisher Flamingo Rampant offers an excellent selection of children’s books that show race, sexual, bodily, ability, and gender diversity with people and families doing all sorts of fun and magical things. Super Power Baby Shower by Toby Hill-Meyer and Fay Onyx tells the story of a queer, polyamorous family of superheroes preparing to have a baby!
Keira Grant (she/her) brings a wealth of experience to her EDI Co-Lead role. She is a Queer, Black woman with a twenty-year track record in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) education, projects, and community-building initiatives. As a mom and partner, she uses her lived experience to provide support and reflection for her clients and her work. Keira is the owner of Awakened Changes Perinatal Doula Services.