November 25, 2014

Dear Tiggy,

As an older bisexual woman (42) married to a man for ten years, what questions should I expect from my family when I come out to them? I have come out to several LGBTQ and straight friends and coworkers, but not to my family.



I assume when you say “family,” you don’t mean your husband because you’ve already come out to him. You didn’t mention whether you have children and, if so, what their ages are. Coming out to your kids, especially those who are still young enough to live with you, is very different from coming out to your parents or extended relatives. Luckily, people close to you tend to generally have the same questions. They probably won’t phrase them exactly like this so you’ll have to sleuth out which of these four questions they’re really getting at:

What does “bisexual” mean to you?
This is another way of asking, “What exactly are you telling me?” The beauty of a sexuality label is that it sums up a chunk of your identity in a nice, clean package. The irony that you discover once you choose the appropriate label is that you have to explain it anyway.

But it’s a gift when someone gives you a chance to customize your label! The alternative is typically to let them try to understand it through stereotypes and hearsay, which…yikes, that’s never good.

Get clear with yourself what you mean by “bisexual” so you can rattle it off with confidence once you come out. Feel free to steal — and amend to your personal taste — Robyn Ochs’s definition.

What did you know and when did you know it?
Let me be blunt: with this inquiry, folks are wondering whether you were lying to them or to yourself at some point. You can stay rather vague on this by gently informing them that coming out to oneself is a process and you’ve told them about this new self-discovery as soon as it was appropriate.

How will your behavior change?
Will you be bringing new people to family gatherings? Will you be more political with the LGBT community? Will this be common knowledge around town or will I have to keep this information under my hat in front of certain people? Answering this will manage expectations.

How will this affect me?
This is the bottom line question for everyone. Since you already have a primary partner, I suspect that your news won’t have much of a practical effect on your family. However, they’ll probably need a little time to adjust to your new reality and be able to talk about it comfortably. Meanwhile, if someone is mining for answers but your bisexuality doesn’t really affect them at all, I suggest that you cut the conversation short. You are under no obligation to satisfy anyone’s curiosity.

And now that you know more or less what inquiries you can expect when you make this fabulous family announcement, all that’s left to decide is how you’ll tell them. Perhaps this Thursday, you’ll reach past a Pilgrim and over a horn aplenty to grab the nearest good-luck-gourd, leap to your feet, and proclaim that you are ever so thankful to be an out and proud bisexual.

A question for the 42-year-olds out there: what the hell does this song mean? Will the rest of us find out when we turn 42? Or when we consciously uncouple from someone?

If you’re 42, this was probably your Thanksgiving jam at some point.

© 2014 Tiggy Upland. Tiggy Upland reserves the right to use all submitted queries anonymously, in any medium.