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‘As a bisexual dad of three, it’s vital that I’m out and visible to my kids’

Lewis Oakley shares how having children has affected his identity as a bisexual man.

By Lewis Oakley

Bisexual actvist and parent Lewis Oakley
Lewis Oakley on balancing being a Bisexual actvist and a parent (Photo: Provided)

It’s Bi-Visibility Day (23 September), a chance to celebrate bisexual people and shine a light on the issues that impact them. As a leading bi-campaigner this year in particular is a little different. I’m now a proud dad of three kids. 

Amid the sleepless nights, exhaustion and never having time, I’ve been reflecting on how my bisexuality will impact my parenting style and how my parenting has impacted my work in the bisexual space. 

Bisexual actvist and parent Lewis Oakley
Lewis Oakley on balancing being a Bisexual actvist and a parent (Photo: Provided)

Most parents want to create a better life for their children, and that’s certainly my intention. Growing up in the ’90s, I don’t recall ever hearing of the word ‘bisexuality’.

It’s something that has been a huge part of my life, something about myself that I struggled to accept, and something that took a lot of work to eventually make work in my life.

Bisexuality wasn’t uniquely hidden when I was growing up. Any mention of LGBT+ people was just not really talked about. As a teen, I became aware of terms like ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ but both of these had negative connotations. Gay was an insult. Something the boys used to try and prove they were the bigger man. 

As an out and proud LGBT+ adult and father, I’m now in a position to make sure my kids don’t feel how I did and whether they end up being LGBT themselves, or just end up having queer people in their lives, the concept will be normalised for them. 

As their dad, I’ll be making sure that as they get older and when it feels appropriate that conversations around sexuality are being had, so that they know it isn’t a taboo topic.

That no matter who they are attracted to or what they are feeling they can talk about it honestly, without judgment. It’s truly important to me that there isn’t a stigma around discussing these issues with me as their father. 

It’s also really important for me to be open and visible about my own sexuality. Bisexuals suffer invisibility. When I walk down the street trying to keep my three kids content and holding my female partner’s hand, people think ‘look at that stressed out straight man’ – maybe not that exactly, but they certainly don’t suspect I’m LGBT. Some eight years ago when I held my ex-boyfriend’s hand walking down the street people saw me as gay.

Bisexuals not being visible and always being confused as gay or straight because of their partner is a big issue. It’s part of the reason why the wider society doesn’t believe bisexuality really exists. This skepticism leads to stigma, a lack of funding, and a stagnation of the bi experience.

Parenting (Photo: Pexels)

I do feel guilty a lot. Trying to juggle being the best dad I can be, a good partner, a full-time job, friends, and healthy eating is almost impossible and you always feel like you’re not doing enough.

Another big part of my life is my bisexual activism. For years, I’ve written articles, given speeches, and appeared on television shows, highlighting the issues facing bi people and advocating ways forward. But now my kids come first and I can’t do this work at the speed or volume I used to. 

As a bi person, this terrifies me, I don’t want to become part of the problem. It’s easy for others to assume I settled down with kids and ‘became’ straight. If people continue to see bisexuality as a phase nothing will change, no one will invest in bi issues and very few will advocate for improving the lives of bi people. 

I hear from many bisexual parents a similar sentiment. They would love to be more visible, and more involved in the community but there simply isn’t the time. Whilst this has no doubt played a role in holding us back, we shouldn’t get disheartened.

Bisexual parents aren’t just trying to improve the here and now, they are trying to raise the better humans of tomorrow. Yes, we might not be there at every pride or every community meeting but we are making sure that kids are more aware of different sexual orientations and how to call out discrimination. 

As they get older, I will be sure to be visible as a bisexual to my kids. It’s not that I’ll be rubbing my sexuality in their faces, it’s more that it will be a part of me that they will notice. That it will be talked about every now and again.

This Bi-Visibility Day my message is for all bisexual parents worried they aren’t doing enough to give themselves a break.

Even if you’re just posting something on social media to celebrate the day, it’s enough. We have an almost impossible task, the world will improve for bi people eventually and we will all have played a part in it. 

The Attitude September/October issue is out now.