- As bi campaigner Lewis Oakley becomes a dad, he looks at how to stay visible with a female partner and children.
Finding out you are about to be a dad is as exciting as it is terrifying. The joy of having a child is an incredible gift. However you’re also responsible for keeping the child safe and raising them into a decent human being.
There is no off switch. There is no reset button. And that’s why, with my fiancée pregnant, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about what sort of father I’m going to be.
We aren’t used to LGBT+ people announcing they are going to become parents. It’s still pretty rare in our community.
As someone who is largely defined by the work I do in campaigning on bisexuality, one of the big questions I’ve asked myself, is will my sexuality impact my parenting style?
Stay out of the closet
One thing is clear, having a child is not going to send me back into the closet.
My opposite-sex relationship and child will add to the bi erasure. Outsiders already assume I’m straight. I’m determined to fight that.
That’s not a decision I take lightly, it’s selfish if it means my child becomes more of a target for bullying as they grow up.
One of the most surprising things about being bisexual isn’t the way people treat me but the way they treat my fiancée.
Strangers who’ve never met me have told her to leave me before I cheat, that she’ll never be enough for me, that I’ll give her STIs. My fiancée became a target for dating me, I don’t want that for my child.
Luckily, I do have hope this won’t be the case. That hope comes in the guise of my 11-year-old stepson.
Since I came in to his life four years ago, I’ve been very honest about being bisexual and that I had a boyfriend before meeting his mummy. He doesn’t think it’s weird. And to my knowledge he’s never been picked-on because of it.
If we can’t be honest with our kids, we’ll never end bi-erasure
It’s a blessing and a curse that I do have the option to stay quiet. Bisexuals have always faced this issue of blending in. For lesbian parents it’s quite apparent visually that they are LGBT+ parents but anyone looking at my family would think we are a straight couple.
That poses its own issues – I’ve a lifetime of coming out ahead of me.
However, deciding to tell my step-son I am bi was a challenge. He’s a kid. He should be playing, not worrying about how people are self-identifying.
I did worry that if he talked about it at school, he might become a target. But the truth is, if people like myself can’t even be honest with our kids, we will never end bi-erasure.
When I was growing up everyone believed everyone was default straight. That’s why people have to come out. Being honest with my child allows him to see LGBT+ people, that we are just living our lives and to judge us on who we are not what sad people think of us.
Not straight by default
As a bisexual becoming a dad, I probably am giving my attitude to sexuality more thought than your average parent.
My experience with my sexuality growing up ensures that I certainly won’t assume my child is straight by default.
There are some struggles from my childhood I definitely don’t care to repeat with my kids. Like the unnecessary drama that I had to have a conversation and ‘come out’ because morons thought there was only one possible sexuality.
I don’t want them to believe they have to be a certain kind of person. Or that their sexuality makes them different, as I felt.
I think being bisexual makes this all the more important. If I had grown up not liking girls and only finding men hot, I would have at least know there was a word to describe that.
Sadly, I didn’t even realise bisexuality was something that I could be until I was about 19. To this day I still don’t understand what all the secrecy about sexuality was for.
There is no need to turn this into a drama
Crucially, it’s about not pressuring your child either way – letting them know that you don’t assume they are straight, gay, bi, asexual.
There is no need to turn this into a drama. It’s just about being non-gender specific when I ask my child if there is anyone they like at school. It means raising them so they aren’t shocked as adults when they find out two men love each other.
We know some people in the world think that we should leave kids out of it and not talk about sexuality. But, only fools think that someone’s sexuality can be influenced or changed. Nobody can ‘raise’ you straight or bi.
However you can be raised to understand there are lots of different people in the world and to judge them on their character not their identity.
I’m lucky enough to have many wonderful LGBT+ friends that will be involved in my kids life. That will mean that for my kids at least, LGBT+ people don’t just exist in theory but are people they know and see living their lives.
There are so many things I’m looking forward to about being a dad. And one of them is that I get to right the wrong and raise my kids to see LGBT+ people, to know it’s not a big deal and to understand that wherever they fall on the spectrum of sexuality, they will always be loved.