I've recently come out as bi to my wife of 25 years: it was something I identified as at university, then turned away from for various reasons (some religious
). Recently, supporting our bi daughter has made me realise I need to be more authentic and honest about my own identity, though I remain extremely committed to monogamy and faithfulness within my relationship with my wife (which I realise shouldn't even need saying).
However, I'm left with a question of how best to engage with and support the rest of the LGBTI community, given that I've passed as straight for most of my life and still have huge levels of "straight-passing privilege" — not to mention all the privilege I carry as a white, educated, professional, cisgender man.
It feels presumptuous for me to feel I have any claim to participate in solidarity with LGBTI people who face far more precarious circumstances than I've had to deal with, and I don't feel it's appropriate for me to somehow claim I'm part of a marginalised community just because I realised five minutes ago that I'm bi. I know some of this is just internalised biphobia ("do I really qualify?") but I'm also conscious of a genuine need on my part for humility and for mindfulness of my privilege.
Would very much welcome your advice for me and for anyone else in a similar position.
Thanks for sharing James.
You had to hide who you were from your wife for 25 years because society made you feel you couldn’t be accepted for who you were. That doesn’t sound that privileged to me.
I also think it might help to see the LGBTI community in a more positive light. Yes, we have problems in the world and there is work to be done. That said, it’s not a pity party competition where only the most downtrodden need apply. The LGBTI is for us all, whether you’ve had a good time or a bad time. It’s fundamentally there to lift us up, to celebrate us, and to help each and every one of us be the best and most confident versions of ourselves.
Don’t see your experience as inferior. There will be others like you that still haven’t told their wife after 25 years. So just sharing your story can help.
When it comes to your question of how best to engage with and support the rest of the LGBTI community, that is something you are going to have to work out for yourself. Start by identifying what you uniquely have to offer that might help others like you.
In my experience, the answer is usually leaning into what you’re already good at. If you’re a comic book writer — create a bi character. If you’re a doctor, see if you can’t lobby some bi specific health research. If you’re in middle management make sure the company's LGBTI policy actually has specific ways to support bi people.
The goal should be to do what you can so that you can live openly but also to make life even easier for the young bis coming up behind you.
The feelings you have are not unique. A lot of bi people in monogamous relationships wonder how their bisexuality can manifest best and what they can do to be connected to the community. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all solution to this. So, throw yourself in, don’t be apologetic about your experience, and enjoy the journey you are now on as an out bi man.
Bisexual people often have few other bi people to turn to for support or to ask questions. This means we often can’t build on the experience of other bi people and improve things for the next generation. Ask a Bi Dad is aimed at tackling this.
Lewis Oakley is one of the leading bi advocates and writers, campaigning to improve the public’s perception of bisexuality. Recognised by the Pride Power List 2021 and with various award nominations under his belt, Lewis has been successful in making bisexuality national news.
Lewis knows more than most how lonely being bisexual can feel, particularly in those early years. Now, confident in himself, his relationship, and a dad of two, Lewis recognises how rare and lucky he is. This is why he wants to help where he can by answering the questions of bi people from all around the world.
If you have a question that you would like a perspective on, email at [email protected]