How can we best support our bisexual daughter?
For teens and pre-teens, understanding sexuality and sexual orientation is a journey. CareNectar expert Martha Tyler provides guidance for parents on ways to best create space for their children so they feel safe and supported.
Our 11-year-old daughter told us recently that she thinks she likes both boys and girls, having realized this after one of her favorite TikTok stars came out. She wants to buy a bisexual pride flag for her room and is putting rainbow stickers on everything. We want to support her, but we also feel like 11 is too young to fully understand what this means. She isn’t even old enough to date or be in an intimate relationship, so why is she rushing to label herself? This is all new to us and we don’t want to screw it up.
First of all, I really applaud you and your partner for your clear desire to support your daughter. It is clear how much you love her! It’s also wonderful that your daughter feels free to talk about these things with you, even at such a young age.
Sexuality is a journey. Your daughter is exploring and there’s clearly something in what she observed in the TikTok video that is speaking to her. A wonderful place to start understanding her journey is to be curious about what is connecting with her so much about this particular video and TikTok star, and what is speaking to her about bisexuality in general. I completely understand your point about being early to claim a label. She might end up not sticking with that label, but the best bet is to take her at her word.
These words from The Trevor Project might be helpful:
“Labels can be a huge source of self-understanding for some LGBTQ people. Because we live in a society where everyone is assumed and expected to be straight and cisgender, finding the words to define yourself can be an act of liberation. Labels can help connect people to one another, allowing them to feel less alone and to create community together. Labels also allow researchers to study marginalized groups, giving us important information to better understand and support these groups.”
Here is another article about why kids are starting to come out younger and younger, which states:
“Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo, co-founders of Everyone Is Gay and co-authors of This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, attribute lower coming-out ages to the power of representation. ‘The media is starting to celebrate different kinds of families and identities that didn’t use to be celebrated at all,’ Owens-Reid said.”
One of the best things you can do is to be supportive and curious. This next part, also from the Trevor Project, I share not to scare you, but to encourage your continued support.
“According to The Trevor Project’s research, almost half of bisexual youth seriously considered suicide in the past year. 66% of bisexual youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row in the past year, compared to 27% of their heterosexual peers and 49% of their gay/lesbian peers. Additionally, more than one in three bisexual youth reported being bullied at school, and one in five bisexual youth reported being forced to have sexual intercourse. These outcomes for harassment, sexual assault, and rape are particularly severe for bisexual people as compared to their straight, gay, and lesbian peers.”
Allowing your daughter to be free to express herself as she wishes, even if that changes within the next several months can do wonders for helping to make her more confident and able to weather the storms that sometimes come during an LGBTQ+ journey. Knowing that she can come to you and won’t be told that she’s wrong and her feelings aren’t valid is the best way to support her.
There’s also a wonderfully inclusive graphic novel about puberty called Wait, What? A Comic Book Guide to Relationships, Bodies, and Growing Up. This book can be amazingly helpful at explaining terminology not only to your daughter, but also to you!
Along with The Trevor Project, here is a list of more Bi Youth resources. You’re doing a wonderful job and we’re here for you if you have more questions. Thank you for holding space for your daughter. The world needs more parents like you!
Meet The Expert
Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!