Blogging for #LGBTFamilies Day: Go! Athletes

LGBT parenting blog Mombian, which received a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Blog, is taking Monday, June 3rd to show the world for the 8th year in a row that LGBT families are just as loving, supportive and valuable to our communities as straight families. Mombian is asking LGBT families, straight allies and all other supporters to write and submit to mombian.com, a blog post on any topic relating to LGBT families.

Anna Aagenes is the Executive Director of Go! Athletes and Sean Smith is the organization's Communications Director. Both took a wider view of the idea of "family" on Blogging for LGBT Families Day. Anna talks about where bi people fit into the larger LGBTQ family.

As an "out" member of the LGBTQ community, I’m used to politely correcting people who assume I’m straight. It happens all the time: when I’m making small talk during a haircut, chatting with a distant relative about my love life, or even during a mundane visit the doctors office. Unless I wear a shirt or pride bracelet showing I'm a member of the LGBTQ family, I am constantly having to come out when the topic of dating comes up. 
 
In addition to the assumption that I'm straight, I also have to correct friends who assume I am a lesbian. Being bisexual in a world that usually sees sexual orientation as black and white (aka gay or straight) can be challenging. I remember when I was16 years and struggling to define myself I thought "I wish I was gay." I believed it would be much easier to be gay than to be bisexual. When I was growing up, gay people were starting to become even more accepted, yet I had heard from many people in my life (even those who were mentors to me) that they did not think bisexuals existed.
 

I promise you, we definitely do exist. Like being gay or lesbian, being bi is not something I could choose to be. Despite being pressured to "decide" and label myself as a lesbian, I learned to become comfortable with the label of bi and I'm now proud to represent the B of the LGBTQ family.  
 
To clarify a few stereotypes about what it means to be bi. Yes, I date men and women, but no, it is not a phase. Some people who are bi date mostly the opposite gender instead of the same gender (or vice versa), and others like me consider themselves more 50-50. And do I think being a B is much different than being a L or G? Yes and no. I am still considered to be a "sexual minority" and I've had to come out to my friends and family. On the other hand, there is arguable a great lack of acceptance and less visibility for those who are bi compared to being lesbian or gay.
 
Though I have found an incredible amount of support from the LGBTQ community, sometimes I feel like the younger cousin at the dinner table, where most of the conversation is dominated by our gay and lesbian family members. Many people who identify as gay don’t realize the different kind of bias for those of us who identify as bi and date both men and women. 
 
Many people are surprised to hear that much of the biphobia (yes, it’s a word) I encounter is within the LGBTQ community itself. Maybe this is because of our collective personal experiences (some people who now indentify as gay may once have come out as bisexual, thus believing it to be a phase. I have conducted bisexual workshops across the country (mostly for LGBTQ groups) that address this biphobia and bisexuality. Though I'm often speaking to a highly educated and thoughtful group of people, the conversation often sparks unknown biases for the participants such as "bisexual people are more likely to cheat on you" or "it's easier for them because they can pass" or even "I'd never date someone who is bi." 
 
If our LGBTQ community is a family, we have to make sure that we're doing our best not to leave our other family members out and understand their unique experiences. We need to acknowledge that we all have biases that we bring to the table and that stereotypes make it harder for us to see one another as full people. Being bi is now something I love and embrace about myself, and I encourage others to love themselves and embrace each other for exactly who we are.
 
Sean discusses how an athlete's team is like a family.
 
I've been an athlete my entire life and have always had a group of people that functioned as my second family. My teammates have always been there as a support system and when I left home for college they became my surrogate family. There were the teammates I fought with like my siblings and they supported me like a brother or sister would.  When we had struggles, one of those teammates was the first stop for help.

When I was struggling with accepting being a gay student-athlete, my teammates were the people that were the source of support. I confided in them well before I spoke with my biological family. They were the first ones to tell me it didn't matter. The bonds formed during the thousands of hours of suffering together in practices and sharing the challenges of being a student-athlete provide a strength in teammate relationships that can't be emulated.  

There were several factors that made my life as a gay student-athlete survivable. Having other LGBT student-athletes around me or as role models would have been great, but having my swimming family support me in my greatest time of need was something I needed to get through.  While I was at my worst, they were at their best.  That is how a team functions just like a family. 
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