Sociology, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Marriage and Family (2015), 17 pp. DOI: 10.1111/jomf.12190


Copyright © 2015 National Council on Family Relations. Used by permission.


There are many similarities in gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals’ coming out experiences, but bisexual people face unique challenges. Despite this, an explicit focus on bisexual people is missing from family research. Using family systems and cultural sociological perspectives, the authors analyzed how social and cultural factors shape disclosure processes for bisexuals as they come out to multiple family members. After analyzing qualitative data from a diverse group of 45 individuals, they found that bisexual people navigate monosexist and heterosexist expectations in their family relationships. Cultural constructions of bisexuality shape the ways that bisexual people disclose their identities, including how they use language to influence family members’ responses in desirable ways. Relationship status also influences bisexual people’s disclosure strategies, as a romantic partner’s gender is meaningful to family members’ understandings of their sexual orientation. The findings highlight the importance of addressing cultural and social contexts in understanding sexual minority people’s coming out processes.