Feeling Like a Dirty Secret
Dear Patrick: I have been part of a triad for three years now. My other lovers are a “straight” couple, a man and a woman, who were together for eight years before I met them. She wanted to explore sex with another woman so he gave her permission to date outside of the relationship. I am bisexual, but she is my main focus and the reason that I stay in the relationship.
My problem is that she still has not introduced me to her parents or to anybody in her family as one of her lovers. They only know about her boyfriend. On holidays, I wind up having to entertain myself because she takes her boyfriend home with her, and they play straight, enduring the usual questions like, “When are you going to get married?”
I like being part of a triad. It means that there is always somebody here for me emotionally. I have become close friends with her other lover, and I like our household and our circle of friends in the queer community. I don’t want to leave, but I do want to be acknowledged as a part of her life who is as important as the boyfriend. After three years of being kept on the back burner, what are my chances of being taken out of the bisexual closet? I am tired of feeling like a Dirty Secret
Dear Dirty Secret: Nobody likes to feel that they are being kept in the closet and hidden from view, unacknowledged as an important or valid part of somebody else’s life. But I don’t have any magic spell to get your lover to change her ways. It’s also not clear to me if the decision to keep you out of the picture as far as her parents are concerned was made by your girlfriend, her boyfriend, or both of them.
This situation is extra complicated, let’s acknowledge, because it isn’t a simple matter of telling someone’s parents that they are in a same-sex relationship. This is a triad, which confuses and upsets people even more, and it is a bisexual relationship, which is even more mysterious. People of her parents’ generation might feel that if a woman is capable of being with a man, she should simply confine her sexual and romantic activities to one man, so that she can have a “normal” life. Bisexuality can actually be harder for some parents to accept than their child being gay.
A triad breaks all the rules of accepted intimacy and commitment. Virtually no one’s parents are prepared to hear that their child has two primary partners. It’s not just older people who simply don’t believe that you can love two people at the same time. A triad is something you read about in a book of risqué sexual fantasies, not a real relationship that someone in your family is enjoying. The fact that there is real trust, commitment, devotion, loyalty, intimacy, and dedication to one another goes right over most people’s heads, I am sorry to say.
So your girlfriend has a lot on her plate if she wants to introduce you to her parents as one of her partners. I think the first step is to just start bringing you to family gatherings and get her parents to meet you. They might pick up on what is going on pretty quickly if they see the three of you together. I believe it will be easier for them to understand what is going on if they can relate to you as a person they have met and someone they like rather than an abstract “somebody” who fills out the third point of a triad.
Talking to your significant others is another important opening move. They may not know how deep your feelings run about this. Go to the ones you love and tell them that you are hurting. Let them know that you feel left out and invalidated. Be sure listen when your girlfriend tells you why she has not come out to her parents yet, and listen to the man in your life and his feelings about this as well.
It’s interesting to me that you haven’t said anything about your own family. Are you “out” to them as a bisexual woman in a triad? Coming out to your own family is probably an important step to take before you pressure your lover to include you in her family’s photo album. You need the practice in finding language to reassure people and soothe their fears, or cut through the stereotypes and anger. I hope you will be met with acceptance rather than rejection—it sounds to me like you are in a very positive relationship, and if I were your parent, I would be happy my child had two strong partners to take care of them.