I’m a 40 year old single mom, and I’ve been out as bisexual for almost 25 years.
Out to my friends and family, out at school, and out at work. My bisexuality is an essential and immutable part of my being, as much a part of me as my size 8 feet, which didn’t change in any way during or after my pregnancy, or my unflagging love of cheese. I am bisexual to the core. I am happy to explain what it means to me to define myself as bisexual and why my bisexuality is important to my parenting. My definition of bisexuality may not be your definition of bisexuality, and that’s OK, just like it’s OK when we make differing parenting choices while each striving to be the best parents we can be.
Bisexuality, at it’s basic level, means that someone can be sexually attracted to both men and women.
The attraction isn’t some sort of evenly split mathematical relationship (50% attracted to men, 50% attracted to women) and it’s not necessarily a static attraction either (just because someone primarily dates men, or women, now doesn’t mean they’ll always be primarily attracted to men, or women.) Someone can be bisexual and date only members of the same sex, or only members of the opposite sex, or be celibate and date no one. A bisexual person, much like a straight or gay person, can date one person at a time, or multiple people at once. Bisexuality has nothing to do with monogamy or non-monogamy. ‘Bisexual” does not imply that someone must date a man and a woman at the same time.
As a single mom, I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient. I want to maximize the fun in my life, eat healthy, delicious home-cooked meals, spend quality time with my sprout, exercise regularly, sleep 8 hours a night… I barely have time to date anyone. The idea of dating more than one person at a time sounds stressful, expensive, and not appealing, unless you count the love affair I have with Netflix as an actual relationship. (We do spend an awful lot of time together these long, and increasingly dark evenings.) Jokes aside, my bisexuality is not lurid tabloid fodder. In fact, this is a pretty tame post about sexuality, isn’t it?
Despite two failed marriages to men, I still believe in trust, communication, and love. I’m just not sure if I might find this with anyone, man or woman. The tiniest sliver of my heart still hopes that someday I will meet a companion worth introducing to my daughter. My reality is that being a single mom takes up most of my time, and parenting is, unquestionably and unwaveringly, my top priority. It would seem, perhaps, that my sexuality should have no bearing on my parenting, but that is not how I see things.
Before I became a mother, I spent several years working in Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs,) Sexual Health, and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). I saw firsthand how the lack of information, inadequate sexual health education, poor communication and negotiation skills, restrictive cultural norms, and the desire for approval and affection resulted in potentially dangerous sexual choices and behaviors in people of all ages. Young people, however, are particularly vulnerable. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at higher risk for dating violence, sexual coercion, bullying, substance abuse, and suicidal tendancies than their straight peers. I firmly believe that my job as a parent includes doing everything I can to protect, support, and love my daughter, and to prepare her to live a happy and satisfying independent life.
Good parenting absolutely includes teaching my daughter about sexuality and her body in a scientific, research-based, and age-appropriate manner.
My precious daughter is 5. For her age and maturity level, I work on helping her develop a healthy relationship with her body. We talk about different family structures, and use correct anatomical terms to name the parts of our bodies. She knows about private body parts, and knows that boys and girls are built a little differently. I have told her that in our family, we do not keep secrets, and instead have surprises. We focus on good hygiene and on making healthy choices for our bodies- like eating vegetables and exercising. I allow our discussions and the topics we cover to be driven by my daughter’s questions and daily commentary. When I have questions as to what is age-appropriate sexuality education, the American Academy of Pediatrics offers helpful guidelines for sexuality education topics by age.
So, why does it matter that I’m out as bisexual?
My sexuality matters because authenticity and honesty matter. It is important that my friends and their children know that I am bisexual, because I am an LGBTQ ally, and as much as I can be, a positive role model for the children and adults in my life. Furthermore, I remember the terror of coming out, first to myself- and wondering what was wrong with me, not knowing why I was so different from my friends. There was a time when I felt scared, deeply flawed, and isolated… because I knew I was attracted to men and women, and I didn’t know anyone who felt the same way. I remember the first person I came out to, and the elation I felt when I wasn’t summarily rejected and shunned. I remember telling my mom that I was dating a woman, and having her tell me that she was glad I was happy. I am a 40 year old single mom, and my sexual identity is a crucial part of me, and it is also a way I can support my child and the children around me, so that they know that I am someone who will support them and encourage them to make safe and authentic choices.
And grow up to be whoever and whatever they choose to be, knowing they are loved.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)– LGBTQ health and support information for youth, families, and educators
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)– General information and research about sexuality and sex education
Scarleteen– Information for people in their teens and twenties
Planned Parenthood– Reproductive and sexual health information; links to health care centers; how to talk to kids about sex
Healthy Children (American Academy of Pediatrics)– How to talk to your child about sex
Burlington Vermont Moms Blog– Talking to kids about gender identity
Burlington Vermont Moms Blog– Supporting a child’s gender expression
Pride Center of Vermont– Community center dedicated to the health and safety of LGBTQ Vermonters
Outright Vermont– Support group for LGBTQ youth