Talking to your dad about your love life is never easy, but in trying to explain my bisexuality to my father, we both learned how constructive confusion can be.

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I accidentally came out to my father while trapped in an Apple store in Manhattan the weekend before Christmas. The frenetic clustered crowd around me perfectly matched every disjointed and defensive sentence that fell out of my mouth. I had just been stood up on a date with a girl from OkCupid and decided to use my newly found free time to run some errands.  I called my father to consult him on a potential laptop purchase when I casually mentioned the date fiasco. Having recently come out to my mother, I had expected her to already share the news with the family. Very confused by my pronoun choices, my father remained silent for a solid minute while the dozen holiday shoppers within a three-foot radius tried to eavesdrop on my babbling explanation of how bisexuality works. Needless to say, an Apple store in Manhattan around Christmas is hell on earth, and I was wholly unprepared to eloquently drop some queer theory 101 on my dad.

Since this first “discussion” on bisexuality, my father and I have had several other more candid and engaging conversations. However, at the end of each one, the concept of bisexuality still remains a mystery to him. But I don’t find his confusion to be that shocking, after all who isn’t confused by the nature of sexuality, especially bisexuality? Recently I mentioned going on a few dates with a lady, to which my dad responded, “So, are you just fed up with guys?” His sentiment reflected a belief that I actively choose what I find attractive, and that I’m picking one gender or another. The word “bisexual” evokes a binary between two sexual options, making it easy to think of my sexuality as an either/or type of decision-making process. In talking to others who could be called bisexual, they seem to share the same notion that there is no decision-making involved in sexuality. There is no active, conscious choosing; it’s really just a feeling.

As someone who’s watched me cry over boys for years, I can imagine the difficulty my father faced wrapping his mind around the fact that women hold just as much power over me. Bisexuality is so confusing that to this day scientists and researchers are still trying to prove its “existence.” As lawyer and American Institute for Bisexuality board member, Brad Kane put it, “[Bisexuals are] misunderstood. They’re ignored. They’re mocked. Even within the gay community, I can’t tell you how many people have told me, ‘Oh, I wouldn’t date a bisexual.’ Or, ‘Bisexuals aren’t real.’ There’s this idea, especially among gay men, that guys who say they’re bisexual are lying, on their way to being gay, or just kind of unserious and unfocused.”

Being bisexual is really amazing, but also incredibly weird. Trying to rationalize it to yourself is already a nearly impossible task, but then trying to explain it to someone who identifies as hetero or even homosexual is just borderline excruciating. I once heard someone say that bisexuality isn’t necessarily about attraction, but more about openness to the idea of being with any gender. I think there’s some truth in that, because it doesn’t prioritize sexual preference but rather suggests at sexual fluidity to explain how desire works for folks like me.

Dismissing bisexuality as a phase is an all too common reaction, and one I have certainly experienced from many people. I’ve had people try to explain to me that I am really just attracted to men deep down, that my queer tendencies are a reaction to bad hetero relationships, so on and so forth. The fact that other people need to try to explain my sexuality is the weirdest part of all of this. But I get that too, because we live in a culture where sex and sexuality are given so much importance that they supposedly reveal some inner truth about who we are.

I honestly don’t believe my sexuality has anything to do with my personality or who I am as a person, and if any of my friends actually read this (bless their hearts), they’ll probably be surprised by what I’m revealing. I don’t even really think about being queer all that often, but when I do, it’s usually after updating my dad on my love life, or lack there of. And I’m thankful for his confusion. He loves and supports me no matter who I make out with (thanks dad!), but his continued inability to really understand forces me to try to figure out what pulls me in certain directions, to try and recognize what the heart of my desires are and how to articulate them. I haven’t really been able to do that yet, but the more I sit down with my father, the more we are both forced to contemplate our relationships with those around us and what they mean and why they happen. I think his confusion is one of the best gifts my father has given me because it challenges me to really come to terms with who I am and why. It also has taught me that patience, love, and communication are the building blocks for any relationship, no matter who it is with.

[images sourced via Carly Gillham and After Ellen]