The Hook Up: Coming out to dad and is “partner” too clinical?



So I know there are like a million other people who struggle with coming out, but I need to tell my dad I’m bisexual. He’s the only important person in my life left to tell, and his is the reaction I’m most worried about. I wanted to wait until I knew for sure if I was gay or bi (actually this article of yours helped me figure it out). I know people say not to worry about labels, but he wouldn’t understand without one, so I wanted to be sure. Now that I know, there’s nothing stopping me from telling him. My mom knows and is 100% supportive (I knew she would be cuz she has two gay siblings), but I feel bad making her keep this secret from my dad. He’s asked her a couple of times if I’m gay and she had to lie. She said she didn’t know and if I was would it matter, and he ignored her question completely. Just didn’t answer her. He asked me once if “I was thinking about going that way” but that was months ago when I was still confused. I’ve been waiting for another opportunity like that but none have come, so I guess what I want to know is how to bring this up to him on my own?—Daddy’s Girl

Anna says: The good news, Daddy’s Girl, is that your dad already knows you’re not 100 percent straight. Those who are in the know tend to ask questions like “Are you going that way?” and the odds that your mom has actually been able to keep your bisexual secret from her spouse are slim to none, with a heavy leaning toward the none side. Not that your mom is a terrible secret-keeper or anything, it’s just, well, it’s hard to lie to one’s partner, especially when it concerns your genetic offspring. And it’s not like your parents have never encountered teh gheys before. You have two gay aunts or uncles, after all. So. He most likely knows already. Whether you find this a source of relief or panic, I’m not sure, but I think your coming out to him now is really just a matter of when.

In my opinion, it’s a good thing that he knows (or at least suspects) you might be into girls because this means he’s worked through some of the early stages of denial, and has had time to ponder the possibility of having a bisexual daughter. He’s most likely waiting for you to come to him with the information. That’s how my dad was (and my mom, come to think of it). Even though my parents didn’t give me much inclination to think they would react negatively to my bisexuality, hearing other people’s horrible coming out stories made me think mine would be that way too. But that’s not always the case. I would give your dad the benefit of the doubt here.

This isn’t to say your coming out will be all rainbows and unicorn sunshine, but you’ve already got your mom on your side, and her siblings, which are a huge leg up. Ask your dad if you can talk to him (you can invite your mom if you want too, for extra support, it’s up to you) about something important that’s been weighing on your mind. Do it in a place where you feel comfortable and be prepared to answer any questions he may have that might be invasive or frustrating, like “Are you sure?” “What did I do wrong?” or “Maybe it’s a phase.” Reiterate how much your relationship with your dad means to you, how much you respect his opinion, etc. Some sources, like this one, suggest you go all boy scouts on your parents and be prepared with books from PFLAG, research on homosexuality, links to unbiased therapists they might want to talk to, a network of support for yourself if things go not as planned, and other precautions. If you feel like such research would help you feel more comfortable having the talk with your dad, then by all means, Google the night away! But I don’t think you need all that. You seem ready to tell this important person in your life that you like guys and girls. You seem ready to take the next step toward the direction of your truest self. So, will you do it now or will you do it later?

We are rooting for you either way. AfterEllen readers, do you have additional advice for Daddy’s Girl? Let’s have it.

Calling my girlfriend my “partner” makes me feel 80 years old. Are there any suitable alternatives when you’re in a serious, long-term relationship?—What’s In A Name

Anna says: We covered a similar topic a little while ago in this Hook Up: What do I call my civil union partnership? Alternatives from that post include the following:

Here’s a shortlist of potential terms, of which about half are terrible—girlfriend with benefits (the legal kind), civilian, companion, life partner, mate, gayte, consort, significant other, pardner (for my cowgirl readers), and better half. Synonyms and word origins for “wife” yielded some pretty amusing results: Biddy, little woman, household mistress, helpmeet, missus, ball and chain, grande dame, and my favorite, tradeswoman of humble rank, which is how I want to be introduced at parties from henceforth.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with “girlfriend” (why reinvent the wheel?), but if it really irks your uh Significant Romantic Person, you could always come up with something funny and new. The letter writer in the afore-linked column eventually settled on “lady husband” for her civil union partner, which I love.

I once had a uh Significant Romantic Person call me her “sweetheart,” because she didn’t want to call me her girlfriend. There’s also S.O., lover, ladyfriend, boo, main squeeze, and maybe it’s time we bring back “steady” into the lezicon? I’ve also been known to refer to my girlfriend as “muffin,” “turtle,” and “Honey Bunches of Oh-Yeah.”

If you’re trying to maintain an aura of seriousness about your relationship, maybe avoid the descriptors that make you seem like you’re sexualizing your breakfast cereal. We could also make up a new word here and now. What can describe those serious but not married type of relationships? Maybe we should knight Ellen Page, in light of her recent and courageous coming out? “I’d like to introduce you to my page. We just moved in together, but we don’t have a joint checking account.” “My page and I just bought a timeshare in Dubuque, Iowa. We’d love to have you over for our annual corn cakes and cargo shorts soiree.”

But then again, maybe not.

Your thoughts/suggestions?

Hailing from the rough-and-tumble deserts of southern Arizona, where one doesn’t have to bother with such trivialities as “coats” or “daylight savings time,” Anna Pulley is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Find her at and on Twitter @annapulley. Send her your The Hook Up questions at

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