Parenting While Bisexual
This essay originally appeared on the Huffington Post on June 8, 2016.
This past May I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. I got flowers, breakfast, the whole lot. No real break from parenting. Does that even exist?
Turns out parenting is hard work. Our recently-adopted 5-year-old kiddo came fully loaded with sassy comebacks, strong opinions about food, and a love of absurdist comedy.
What do you call a grizzly bear in a tree?
I don’t know, what do you call a grizzly bear in a tree?
A GRIZZLY BEAR!!!
As we slip down the slide of life with our kiddo, my partner and I are grasping at anything to help control our descent: friends, family, community resources, blogs, books, Wikipedia, WebMD, Facebook groups, strangers in the street. (Hilarious aside: last week our kiddo was screaming so loudly in the car that a passing parent on the sidewalk yelled “Solidarity!” It was a moment.) Despite the plethora of parenting resources, I’ve struggled to find information or support for bisexual parents like myself.
Research shows that bisexual parents face particular challenges unique from those faced by gay, lesbian, and heterosexual parents, like erasure, invisibility, and discrimination. Yet when you Google “bisexual parents,” the majority of links are resources for coming out as bisexual to your parents, not how to parent as a bisexual person. Similar searches reveal even less... parental results.
And, the data shows that lots of bisexual people are parents. According to the Williams Institute, 59 percent of bisexual women and 32 percent of bisexual men have had kids, compared to 31 percent of lesbians and 16 percent of gay men. Because bisexual people make up the largest portion of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) community, this means more than two-thirds of LGB parents are bisexual.
A 2014 survey by the Pew Research Center found that over 80 percent of bisexual people in committed relationships are in relationships with people of a different gender. (If you’re wondering why, check out this terrific article on the math.) So, the growing number of resources for same-sex parents won’t feel relevant for the majority of bisexual people. For example, bisexual parents in different-sex relationships may be able to more easily create legal ties to their children, but may struggle to find family or community who support bisexual people being parents, and thus feel isolated in their parenting. Bisexual parents may feel they have to hide their sexual orientation, leading to poorer health outcomes.
In fact, bisexual people need targeted resources to help overcome the many disparities facing them. Bisexual people are low-income: 29.4 percent of bisexual women and 25.9 percent of bisexual men live at or below the federal poverty line. Low income parents struggle to make ends meet for their children, to make sure there is healthy food on the table and a safe, warm place to sleep at night. A recent study found that bisexual women face disproportionately high rates of depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicidal ideation. Bisexual people face pervasive discrimination at work. Bisexual people suffer staggeringly high rates of intimate partner violence. Many of these low-income bisexual people suffering from violence, discrimination, depression, and a lack of support are parents.
Support, though scarce, does exists. BiNet USA hosts a map of support groups and meetups across the country where bisexual parents can connect. If you are bisexual and already have a network, reach out to support another bisexual parent. Maybe you were the parent that yelled “Solidarity!” to my car from the sidewalk. Thank you. Every little bit helps.