Coming out to your family as gay or bisexual can take a lot of courage, even if you think your parents will be supportive. There are always members of the extended family who think you’re “just doing it for attention” or that you’re “going through a phase,” especially if you’re a teenager or young adult. These are especially difficult waters for bisexual and pansexual people to navigate, as it’s possible their next relationships could be with someone of the opposite gender, and family might use that as “proof” they were straight all along. Be prepared to stand your ground if you hope to convince them otherwise.
Draw Parallels to Their Relationships
With few exceptions, virtually everyone you talk to has gone through a breakup—or at the very least knows someone else who has. Ask them if they were suddenly no longer attracted to people of their exes’ gender after a breakup. Explain that it’s the same for you and for every bisexual and gay person.
Take a Break
If family members are insistent you’re not gay because you didn’t immediately jump into a relationship with someone new, explain that it’s healthier for you to take a break from the dating scene to settle your life and emotions before you dive back into a new relationship. Plus, for all they know, you are dating. Maybe you’ll be taking things one step at a time, treating new dates casually, until you’re finally comfortable enough to commit to someone and introduce him or her to your loved ones. There’s no need for your family to be involved at every stage of your relationship.
Wear Your Pride Proudly
If wearing rainbow-colored attire or accessories is something you’ve always done, continue to do it even when you’re single. Participate in LGBTQ events and attend pride parades. Hang out in LGBTQ-friendly clubs and join social circles that promote gay rights. Share with your family positive examples of LGBTQ activists in the media, and be vocal about your support of members of the LGBTQ population who are succeeding. If you’re bisexual or pansexual and you eventually find yourself in a “straight relationship,” don’t let your activism fade. Keep it prominent to remind those you love how important this identity is to you.
The easiest way for your identity to be erased in your family is for you to let it be. Show your family that you’re proud to be just who you are. Correct any mistaken assumptions and don’t let even “jokes” slide unchecked. Though it can be tempting, remember to take the higher road and try not to resort to anger. Don’t let them speak negatively of any social minority in your presence, even if it’s not directly related to you and your identity. The best way to ensure your family members don’t think of being gay as a “phase” is to normalize your situation and make any criticism or rudeness about it unacceptable. Enlist the help of your more supportive family members if you have any—siblings and cousins who are around the same age can be especially helpful.
If you feel comfortable, continue to correct family members whenever it comes up and don’t accept any examples of homophobia that you see or hear. Stand up for yourself and others, and remember that you are doing your relatives a favor by helping them become more open-minded. Still, sometimes it’s best to just live your life and let it go. You’re in a bad enough place following a breakup; don’t let your family’s unfounded opinions further complicate things for you. Your identity is your business and sometimes, you just have to accept that not everyone will be as supportive as you hoped.
When it comes to acceptance, it can be tempting to fight the long and hard battle to get everyone you love to understand who you are. If you want them to, it’ll require a lot of patience, repetition, and stubbornness of your own. However, some people are simply too set in their ways to come around, and it’s perfectly healthy for you to live your own life without worrying about family members’ approval. Sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.