Assuming the Mantle of Bi Uncle

By Blaize Stewart

November 19, 2022



Photo credit: Pexels/Mabel Amber

Though my life has and continues to be affected by countless external influences, all pale in comparison to the ongoing impact of my family. I consider myself to be quite lucky to have open and honest relationships with my immediate family — as well as with many extended and chosen family members — despite having experienced just how devastating a negative family member can be. Regardless of the end result of these connections, it’s obvious from the very moment we enter this world our families begin to influence us in both positive and negative ways. To some, this may seem trivial and apparent, but to me, it is of the utmost importance to understand this concept and, subsequently, the impact I may be having on others in my family.

This effect became even more important to me after my younger sister and her fiancé welcomed their first child earlier this year, who also happens to be the first member of our family’s next generation. While I am overjoyed to have a new nephew and to see our family growing again, his arrival highlighted a personal characteristic that makes me somewhat of an anomaly among my family members: I seem to have missed whatever genetic sequence gave them natural abilities when it comes to working with and being around children.

An attractive man holds his nieces in both his arms as they kiss his cheek and laugh together.

One could simply chalk this lack of ability up to the fact that I did not pursue a career in education, as the majority of my family has, and am missing the experience they have built up over the course of their careers. However, seeing the speed with which they adjusted to the needs of our newest family member only solidified to me that some people are naturally better at anticipating and understanding the needs of a child. As a new uncle, this has filled me with some trepidation; what if I do or say something that has a negative impact on my nephew? I certainly don’t want to be the villain in someone’s origin story, and that desire led me to a dismal thought: the easiest thing would simply be to keep my distance, because at least then I would be assured I'm not having a negative influence on his life.

Of course, that approach means I’d miss out on having a positive influence on his life as well.

It made me think back to how my family has impacted my life. Without a doubt, I would not be the same person I am today without their subtle — or sometimes direct — influences on my understanding of the world and my choices within it. I can link countless traits, both large and small, good and bad, to their originators by peering through the branches of my family tree, but I’ve never thought deeply about what traits my specific branch might hold that could help my nephew as he grows up.

While I think there are likely a few worthy of mention — a passion for singing and dancing despite having little to no musical talent, a knack for cross-stitching, to name but a few — I struggled to identify what I could offer this child in terms of knowledge and experience; what can he learn from me that his parents, grandparents, cousins and other aunts and uncles may not be able to teach him? Of all the lessons I have learned in life, what do I consider to be the most important to pass on? It was a bit of a headscratcher for me, but I did eventually find a thread or two to pull on inspired by my experiences as a bi man.

An attractive man smiles while looking to his side against a pink background.

I remembered the many times in my life when I felt like I was unable to safely and confidently be myself, something that was not just limited to the queer parts of my identity. Instead of seeing people thrive as their true selves, I often saw them shoved into closets and jammed into molds that didn’t fit their unique shapes; a practice that was not just limited to those within the LGBT community.

Seeing a passion, characteristic or quirk squashed for the sake of conformity is devastating; it’s as if you’re watching the fire within the person slowly diminish, barely sputtering along until it is ultimately depleted. While this commitment to the status quo was often touted as a way to keep people focused, driven and successful, I’ve found that more often than not this practice leads to sadness, discontentment and shame.

This led me to the ultimate lesson I hope my nephew takes away from knowing me, one which he can share with his own descendants when I am long gone: there is power and joy in knowing and existing as your true self, regardless of what the outside world has to say. This extends to all aspects of life but was not something I experienced until I accepted myself as a bi man. I am not the person I was before that moment; who I am today was contained in a shell made up of all the real and imagined expectations those around me demanded I be. Breaking that shell and being myself — the good and the bad — was the best choice I ever made; my only regret was not doing it sooner.

So, to our newest family member, I hope that you never let anyone darken the flame within you; if you ever find it dwindling, know you have an entire family here who will help you build that fire up time and time again.


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