How to Deal with Biphobic Family over the Holidays

By Zachary Zane

November 19, 2018



Photo credit: Unsplash/Eugene Zhyvchik

The holidays are upon us. For the lucky ones, this season is a time of joy, family, and laughter. For others, it’s a bit less picturesque and a lot more stressful. There are the issues of expensive flights, taking off work, buying presents, cooking a feast, and dealing with your alcoholic aunt Cheryl who’s vehemently pro-Trump. If you’re queer, it can be even tougher, especially if your family doesn’t accept your sexuality or gets uncomfortable or even hostile when you bring your partner to Thanksgiving dinner.

A large multi ethnic family sits a the table all turned around looking at you and smiling.

If you’re bi, you may experience a lot of homophobia, but you may also experience some uncomfortable comments because of your bi identity. Well, I’m here to help you! Here’s how to deal with biphobic family members during the holidays.

Find the balance between engaging in arguments and self-care

Who knows what your parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, etc. may say to you at the dinner table. They may ask if you’re still bi because you’re dating a man or woman. They may question your sexuality. Or their attacks may be subtler — and seemingly innocuous — but equally hurtful. Questions like, “So do you see yourself settling down with a man or a woman?” can be frustrating to bi folks, especially if you’re like me and haven’t dated anyone for more than a few months. I can barely think about who I’m going to have a fling with next, let alone who I plan on calling my partner for years to come.

A black father scolding his teenage son who is on his phone giving the side eye.

When this happens, you have two options. One

is to engage and educate. Do this if you think it will make a difference — noting that, often, it takes multiple conversations in order to sway someone's mind. But there are people whose opinions are unmovable. Of course, you can’t always know who falls into which category, but you usually have a sense. Sometimes, it simply isn’t worth engaging, especially if you just want to have one holiday dinner without getting into a fight with someone. So please, always put yourself and your well-being first. Educate, debate, and change minds second.

Suggest things to read or watch

Okay, so I do this when people are arguing just for the sake of arguing, which for some reason, happens with bisexuality all the damn time. People claim they want to know more about bisexuality, yet already have their opinions set in stone. They want to somehow “prove” that you’re not bi or that bisexuality isn’t real. These people aren’t really interested in learning — they’re just arguing because they derive some form of perverse glee from proving to people that they’re not bi based on some arbitrary criteria that they alone decided.

If this is the case, find some articles (i.e., some of mine, or you might suggest they watch The Bisexual on Hulu) to help illuminate the bi experience. Even I do this because sometimes it’s much more difficult to argue in person than it is to just say, “Read this.” And if they are claiming they actually want to know more, then they’ll read it, or more realistically, they’ll drop it altogether.

Saying, “It’s really tough for me to describe, but these pieces do a good job at explaining”, usually ends the conversation because they’ll say, “Okay, I’ll read it later".

Have a person on your team

I don’t mean another bi person (although that would be awesome, too). I mean make sure to have a friend or sibling or someone at the dinner table who can support you through the BS one might encounter over the holidays. Having someone stick up for you, or say, “Let’s walk away for a second”, or literally anything else can be so helpful. You’ll feel less alone. You shouldn’t have to go through the stressful holiday season by yourself.

A man and woman both wearing santa hats, wrap a christmas present while infront of a tree smiling.
Unsplash/Artem Kniaz

Also, in case this isn’t clear, you should come right out and ask for help beforehand. “Hey, if mom and dad really get on my nerves over the holidays, I’ll need your help. I don't want to fly off the deep end.”

Hopefully, these tips help you get through the holiday season with biphobic relatives. If you can, try to have some fun. Lastly, as Dan Savage often says, the biggest bargaining chip you have over your family is your presence. If they really don’t accept you for being bi, and they berate you for being queer, then don’t go to Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah dinner. Do dinner with friends instead. You don’t have to go just because they’re your biological family. Remember, as queer people, we have our chosen family. Spend the holidays with them instead!

Two women sit together on a blanket at a hill overlooking their town during a sunrise.
Unsplash/Luke Bender