My College:
Dear Adina

Wondering About My Student's Sexual Identity

Adina Glickman


Dear Adina,

On a phone call this fall my son really surprised me by confiding that he's bisexual. I was pretty floored because he's had relationships with girls and only recently was very sad about it not working out with a girl he'd liked for a long time.

He hasn't said anything more about this and obviously I'm curious. Can I bring it up or do I have to wait for him to?


Dear Curious Parent,

What an honor to have your son share such an intimate and important part of who he is with you. And how fantastic that the process of self-realization is progressing for him.

These are important transitions, and it’s wonderful that you’re pausing to consider what to do next. It will be a relief to both you and your son to remember that there is no hurry here. Growing takes time, and you are both doing some important growing and changing.

It’s completely fine that you’re curious. We are constantly faced with not knowing our young adults as they continue to separate from us. They go from being mysterious little beings whose needs we are continuously trying to interpret, to mysterious big beings with drivers licenses who we hope are wearing seat belts.

The mysteries of our children get bigger and scarier as they get more adult — and enduring those mysteries as parents gets harder and harder. So you have your work to do, and since becoming an adult is equally mysterious to your son, he has his.

Your curiosity is a tremendous gift that should be delivered with a light touch. But before sharing that gift, it would be worthwhile to examine what you’re curious about.

Are your questions intended to know him better or soothe some of those parental anxieties that accompany such a tender subject? Your anxieties, fears, confusion, or even disappointment are for you to take to your friends and the people who are there to support you. Since children intuitively temper themselves around our anxieties and disappointments, it’s better to share your feelings about his news with those who can offer you confidential support and a compassionate ear. But not your son. He’s got his own feelings to navigate.

If knowing him better is really what is driving your curiosity, make sure he knows he can decline any invitation you offer to listen. He may have told you all he’s ready to tell, and what his bisexuality means may still be unfolding.

Be patient as he is likely discovering the answers to his own questions day by day, and he won’t have any real answers for you yet. Remember, no hurry.

Somewhere between tight-lipped silence and TMI there is a sweet spot where you let him know that you’re open to hearing more if and when he wants to talk with you. In short, yes, it’s okay to bring it up, but as an offer to listen rather than a request for him to school you on bisexuality or reassure you of anything. If you are fully prepared for him to say that he doesn’t want to talk more about it, then it’s fine to open that door.

In allowing him to really make his own choice, you will be staying true to honoring his confidence. And he will be relieved to know that your care and love for him doesn’t prevent him from being his own separate self.

Yours,

Adina Signature

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Adina Glickman is the founder of Affinity Coaching, which offers academic, life and career coaching to young adults. She is the former director of learning strategies at Stanford University and is the co-founder and director of the Academic Resilience Consortium, an association of faculty, staff and students dedicated to understanding and promoting student resilience. Learn more at adinaglickman.com.

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