As parents, we try our best to establish open, honest communication with our kids. We encourage them to tell us everything, even if they feel scared to do so.
But should we apply this same principle the other way around? If so, how can we navigate more difficult conversations, like coming out, with our kids?
I knew I identified as bisexual in my teen years, but I kept those details locked away until my late twenties. When I finally decided to “come out” as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I didn’t tell my children.
I have, however, raised my children in a way that promotes diversity and acceptance. For example, I let my kids wear any clothing that makes them feel the most comfortable, and I never promote toxic gender norms that may limit their potential. I also read them books filled with diverse characters and covering topics like race, disabilities, and sexual orientation.
In other words, my children know that it’s okay to be different — as long as you’re true to yourself and follow your heart. Yet, I still didn’t feel it necessary to “come out” to my kids as long as I stayed married to their dad.
A little over a year ago, though, that all changed.
I went through a divorce I never asked for, and my ex started dating right away. I knew that this meant I might eventually need to explain my sexual orientation to my children, but I wasn’t exactly sure how to begin such a complex conversation with two small children.
So, instead of flat out saying, “Kids, I’m bisexual,” I decided to start at a much more basic level. I decided to promote the idea that “love is love” by providing options when topics related to dating and relationships would come up. For example, when my kids would casually bring up their dad’s new girlfriend and ask if I would have a boyfriend soon, I’d respond with things like, “I don’t know, maybe I’ll get a girlfriend instead.” Although some giggling would ensue, my children would ultimately reinforce what I taught them: You can be whomever you want and love whomever you want.
Up until a few months ago, that’s all the discussion on the topic we really needed. I didn’t feel ready to jump into the dating pool, and I didn’t feel like my partner’s gender really mattered if I didn’t even have a partner to begin with.
But then, something unexpected happened: A close female friend and I decided to “take it to the next level” and go out on a date.
Because I’ve known this woman for years, my children also know her very well. Before we started dating, she would frequently come over for dinner or tag along with us to water parks or other places. My kids absolutely adore her, and I know she loves my kids too. Because of all that, I wanted her to continue spending time with us, which meant I would finally need to explain everything to my daughters.
So, I finally decided to “bite the bullet” and tell them everything. I explained that I had something important to share, and I asked them if they remembered some of the books we’d read about loving whomever you want. Then, I told them I started dating again and told them who I was seeing. I explained that I like both men and women, but right now, I just want to date a woman. I then asked them to tell me what they thought about that or ask me any questions.
Despite all the fear I felt at that moment, my kids ultimately surprised me with their responses. My youngest daughter (who is only six years old) responded with, “Mommy, you can be with whoever you want if they make you happy. Boys can marry boys if they want, and girls can marry girls. I know this.” My oldest daughter, who is typically very blunt, simply asked if this meant I may get married again because she wanted to wear a fancy dress.
At that moment, I learned something incredibly valuable: Kids don’t judge if you raise them in a way that promotes acceptance and individuality.
Obviously, every parent needs to decide what’s best for them when sharing a significant piece of information like sexual orientation. In my experience, however, coming out to my kids was actually very simple. At the end of the day, our kids love us, and they will accept us for who we are if you’ve raised them the right way.
Previously published on Moms.com.