You Need Help: Do I Really Have to Go to My Biphobic Brother-in-Law’s Wedding?

Q: Two years ago I came out as bisexual to my husband’s three siblings. My husband had always known I dated women before him, and I felt it was time I wanted to share a piece of who I was with his siblings as they all voiced support of LGBTQ people. One of them took it well and showed support, one was completely ambivalent, and one brother went off on me. He called my mother-in-law, whom I did not plan to be out to anytime soon, and the whole family spent the night on the phone having secret conversations about me. My mother-in-law encouraged my husband to divorce me and try for full custody as I was “not right in the head.” After a few weeks, we came to an understanding. My mother-in-law felt sorry, but she also never wanted to speak of the episode or my bisexuality again. Our relationship continues to be awkward. My brother-in-law is not sorry to this day. He says if I didn’t want everyone to know, I should never have told him; he also blamed me, saying bisexuality was confusing and if I didn’t want him to out me and encourage my husband to leave, I should have better explained it. His other two siblings completely understood. My husband told him that what he did was wrong, but he would not accept it. He continues to bring up my coming out with my husband telling him I ruined their brotherly relationship.

My brother-in-law’s wedding is coming up in a few months. He is inviting me to the wedding out of obligation as my husband and daughter are both in the wedding, but I’d rather he didn’t. Is there any case where it would be okay not to attend? I know it may cause more family problems which I don’t want, but I also don’t know how to face him.

A: Wow, well this guy is a real asshole, huh? I want nothing more than to key his car, drink all the beer in his fridge, and start a group chat with all his exes to plot revenge.

The short answer to your question is, while I am definitely not an etiquette expert, I don’t think you have to go to this dude’s wedding. You said yourself that he only invited you out of obligation; do your really want to travel however far and make conversation with boring people while wearing uncomfortable shoes for some jerk who doesn’t even want you there? Think about how many straight people have skipped their queer friends’ and family’s beautiful weddings and family milestones out of bigotry — think about how self-righteous they feel about doing that! People are out here totally comfortable skipping weddings out of abstract homophobia, and here you are having experienced actual concrete harm from these people; I think it’s more than reasonable to not go.

It’s possible it may ’cause more family problems;’ I get that that’s a real concern. But all the ‘family problems’ so far have been out of your control and against your will — it’s neither fair nor realistic for you to feel like you can or should control how his family is feeling. It also, I would argue, isn’t your job! “Facing him” shouldn’t be on you! Here is where we segue into the longer advice that you may not actually be asking for.

You mentioned that your husband talked to his brother and let him know that what he did was wildly inappropriate, which is great! And it seems like based on the context when you mentioned him knowing you’re bi, he’s been supportive with that too (I hope). These things are solid starts, but to be honest, in terms of how a partner could be supporting you in the midst of a family situation that’s been seriously harmful to you, I think it’s more than fair for him to be doing a lot more. In general, if one person in a partnership has an identity or experience that’s marginalized within the other partner’s family, I think it’s the person’s job whose family it is to work on that and make it safe for their partner to be there — or, if that isn’t possible, to do the work of telling that family why you won’t be spending time with them. This is the work people do both as partners and as allies in general, you know?

It’s great that your husband talked to his brother about what already happened, but at the end of the day, it’s already happened — even if his brother DID accept it, that doesn’t fix things going forward. Can your husband also talk to his brother, his mom, and any other family members who participated in this clusterfuck to set explicit expectations about how they should be treating you from now on, and explaining why and educating them when necessary? Can he sit his brother down and explain not only how he fucked up, but what the consequences are going to be, why he can expect not to see you at the wedding, and what he would need to do to make amends if he wants that to change? To the extent that any of that does cause backlash, can he take on the task of dealing with it and protect and support you through it as much as possible?

I realize it’s possible that the idea of talking about this so directly, or even having your husband do it, is maybe uncomfortable or not what you want. Maybe you just want this all to go away, or to feel like it did at least as much as possible for right now. If that’s where you’re at, that’s where you’re at! But even if what you decide you want to go with is telling your brother-in-law that you have food poisoning and that’s why you’re not there, I still think that ball is squarely in your husband’s court. If that’s not something you feel comfortable with asking of him, that might be something to think about! I feel strongly that bi people dating not-bi people have the right to ask more of our partners than just “being okay with” us, you know? We deserve proactive, concrete support! What would enthusiastic, unconditional support of you look like in this situation? Just something to think about!

In the meantime, I’ll be thinking of you and hoping that your brother-in-law gets salmonella from the fish at his wedding for exactly the length of his honeymoon but that everyone else is totally fine!

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1090 articles for us.

37 Comments

  1. Bless you, Rachel, especially for the second “longer” advice section. Our bisexuality should be both respected and embraced by our partners. And bless Autostraddle for having the word “biphobia” in an article headline. And bless the writer for what sounds like an extraordinary amount of patience and grace in dealing with this whole disturbing and upsetting situation. I hope you have a lovely time at the spa or something during the wedding 🙂

  2. i went to three etiquette classes over 20 years ago but i can distinctly remember the chapter where you definitely DON’T go to your bi-phobic brother in law’s wedding (who put a cherry of a neg on top of this by saying maybe if you’d explained bisexuality better it wouldn’t be this way??) and you definitely DO cheer like you’re in the audience at a wendy william’s show taping when someone wishes they could drink all the beer in his fridge

  3. Call his fiance and tell her what an absolute butthole she’s about to marry, and if he gets mad just be like “IF YOU DIDNT WANT ME TO FLIP ABOUT ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU ARE A SHITSTAIN MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE EXPLAINED IT BETTER.”

    Legit though, don’t go to the wedding. And your husband should be the one dealing with his family on this, they’re his problem.

  4. What about if you made an excuse for the wedding (“sorry! I was sick!” of your bs, heh)) and then later during a less fraught, more neutral occasion, start the excellent work that Rachel suggested of making space and building understanding in the family? Good luck!

  5. There is not enough money in the world that could get me to go to that wedding. You should have explained it better??? THE FUCK???

    And I am also of the opinion that your husband should be the one dealing with his shitty family, not you. I don’t know what your and your husband’s situation is or what he has or hasn’t done to defend you in this mess, but he damn well SHOULD be defending you. Not because he’s a LGBT ally, but because he’s your PARTNER. Partners do not leave each other alone to defend their right to exist, especially when his brother is actively encouraging him to leave you.

    The fact that your brother-in-law is actively encouraging your husband to leave you and your husband is cool enough with him to be in his wedding is unnerving to me. Like, I understand that’s his family, but you know what? So are you. I bet if you ever encouraged him to abandon a member of his family, he’d say you were out of line and probably walk away. So, why is it more acceptable for his brother to ask him to abandon a member of his family?

    Something to think about.

  6. Do not go to that wedding. DO NOT GO TO THAT WEDDING. dO NoT Go tO ThAt WeDDiNg.

    Send a card, and an acknowledgment of the sizable donation you’ve made on their behalf to GLAAD. Sign it “best wishes” and be done with it.

    • And I very much hope that your husband has plans, after the wedding and honeymoon are over, to sit his brother down and explain what is and isn’t ok’d to come out of his mouth. What he believes honestly isn’t that important, but if his beliefs can’t evolve, then he needs to stfu and step aside so that your relationship with your mother in law can remain intact.

  7. I’ve always seen weddings as events where you celebrate the couple getting married. I realize this person is family and that family obligation exists, but it really sounds like you don’t want to attend. So why force yourself to celebrate on the behalf of someone who doesn’t support you?

    If it were my decision, I’d want to run not going by my partner first. Even though your husband was supportive, not going might cause that little bit of unnecessary conflict that could be avoided by sucking it up and going. Honestly though, I’d hope he would be understanding about not going, but if he’s not, I could see not going to the wedding as a cause for strain on your own marriage.

  8. No; of course you don’t HAVE to go, and I don’t expect you WANT to go, other than seeing your daughter participate in the wedding.

    However, I also think there’s merit in not hiding — in going, and showing him, his family, and anyone else to whom rumors have been spread that a couple with a bi partner can have a healthy, loving, committed relationship — that you can’t be scared away from participating in family functions or that you’re ashamed of who you are. Good ole fashioned exposure therapy and education — and making it clear that you’re happiest out of the closet.

  9. First of all, your BIL is a gaslighting toxic fuckwad. YOU are not at fault for any of the family drama or for the strain on their brotherly relationship – HE is. I would be ENRAGED. Actually I am, and I don’t even know you.

    Anyway. I would say that given the delicate nature of the various different relationships here, you’re the only one who can know for sure what’s going to be safest for you. If you don’t want to go to the wedding and it won’t cause you any additional problems not to, then don’t. On the other hand, if you feel that not going might damage things with your husband, daughter or MIL in such a way that it would cause you further distress, then go. And wear this:

  10. Do NOT go to the wedding, or feel guilty about staying home! IF, however, something happens and you find yourself attending, my advice is to subtly ascend to Peak Bisexuality. Wear a suit like Evan Rachel Wood in the Bi flag colors. Quote Virgina Woolf’s love letters to Vita Sackville West in your card to the happy couple. Then your husband is in charge of running point for any resistance from his family.

    • An important caveat: do this only if you want to engage with the situation. If you end up going don’t have the energy to stir anything up, that is totally valid. The point is to show that your bisexuality is part of you, and you are part of this family, and nothing that your stupid brother-in-law says can change that.

  11. Unpopular opinion: I would probably go.

    Look, I get not wanting to go. I get the boiling fury that tells you to slam the door in his face, loudly, proudly, and refusing to see him for the rest of his life, and probably refusing to go to his funeral too.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to be the drama queen who stays home with ridiculous excuses every time she’s upset with someone. I’m not saying that’s what’s going on here, but that may well be how it’s interpreted. We have a person in my family of whom that is the general perception and if that person gets legitimate food poisoning and has to stay home, you bet everyone is talking about it and attributing it to whatever situation anyone can think of has their underwear in a twist this time.

    To top things off, this is a wedding. Certain families will apply all kinds of importance to that and it could be considered a huge slight. Worse still, the husband might have to tell the inner circle the real reason his wife isn’t there, ruining the mood and causing more ill will towards her despite her not even being there.

    Unless the husband is also cutting off contact with the asshole brother, I say kill him with politeness and save the confrontation for another day. Let him be the one who feels uncomfortable about her being there.

    • eh. If the LW wanted the husband to be honest, he could tell them, “she didn’t feel comfortable.” If she didn’t want him to be honest, he could say she was under the weather. Weddings can be painfully awkward under the best of circumstances – this one doesn’t sound like one that I could personally tolerate.

      • I addressed the potential drama, and further blaming of the letter writer, in the case of the husband being honest with them in my post. It’s not necessarily as easy as he says something and that’s that.

        I get that people don’t want to suffer through this shit because it’s uncomfortable and the brother doesn’t remotely deserve the letter writer playing nice, but if my partner wanted to work it out and repair things with my brother-in-law I would have made the effort. I would’ve expected my partner to stand up for me and make it clear that playing nice with me is conditional for a future relationship, but I wouldn’t have risked mine and my partner’s future relationship with his entire family over this asshole.

  12. Honestly, I’m shocked and disappointed that your husband is considering attending this wedding. I’m in a similar situation with my partner and neither of us would be willing to attend a “celebration” for someone so hateful, family or not. We both have immediate family like this and we both say no to things supporting those people.

  13. I’m planning to come out as bi to my husband’s siblings and this made me so angry on your behalf (not to mention anxious on mine – omg, one more worst case scenario to plan for – at least all of my SILs and BILs are married).

    I agree with Rachel – no you don’t have to go. And whatever you do, make sure you’re really kind to yourself about it.

  14. I don’t want to go to the wedding of my wife’s best friend’s son, because he voted for Trump. Their whole family is pretty much unapologetically Trump supporters, and while they have been friends with my wife all of their lives, they sort of only tolerate our queer attendance at their family events. Now that they made a big deal out of voting for Trump and supporting him in social media, I was disgusted.

    I don’t want to attend, and asked my wife to RSVP no for me. She did so reluctantly, and wanted me to come up with a reason why – I said “Tell them I have to drive my mom somewhere that day.”

    But when she sent the RSVP, they immediately demanded to know why. “Is it because H is trans?” “Is it because of politics.” She lied and told them no, but she’s really resentful of me for not going, and for making her answer their questions. I told her she didn’t owe them an explanation, or she could refer them to me to ask why, but she didn’t.

    So that’s fun.

    • :/ That’s crappy. I’m really sorry you’re not being validated and supported in your decision. You have every reason to set that kind of a boundary, and you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about it.

  15. I’m voting with the “don’t go” folks. Or, if you do go, wear the lovely dress that Chandra posted above (or something in those colors).

    Personal story: My sister and my mom are both pretty everything-phobic. When my sister got married, she said “Sure, I want you at my wedding, but please don’t bring any of your skeazy boyfriends or girlfriends or whatever you call your dates now.” Except for 3 things, not one part of my sister’s wedding was any fun for me. And I even had a few not-so-fun arguments with both my sister and my mom while there. Yuck. Life’s really too short for all that, eh?

  16. I cannot believe the audacity of him saying that if you didn’t want him to try to actively destroy you you should have explained it better. Do not go to his wedding. This is entirely your husbands problem. Also wow the irony of him complaining to your husband about how its your fault he tried to ruin your life and now your husband hates him. Wow.

  17. “I feel strongly that bi people dating not-bi people have the right to ask more of our partners than just “being okay with” us, you know? We deserve proactive, concrete support!”

    YESSSSS

  18. Hi all, thanks for the advice. I know this is unorthodox and all, but I am the original letter writer and I have an update to the situation. I didn’t have to bring up the strained relationship or the wedding. My brother in law brought it up because he was missing his brother(my husband) whom had interacted very little with him in the past two years and it was going to ruin his wedding. He apologized for the hurt he caused and said he wanted to make things right, but this apology, for some reason, came through the third, and previously silent brother who was serving as emotional gatekeeper against the big, bad, bisexual sister-in-law. Third brother’s response included gems such as, “my problem with you is you won’t see that our intentions were good. We were protecting our brother and if you want us to see your side, you have to see ours.” And “It’s really hard for men to apologize so it’s a minor miracle you got one at all.” And “we are a clan, you’re not actually part of this family, and you are driving a wedge between the brothers and in turn the whole family.” And “You can’t expect everyone to be aware of care about your emotional issues. No one could care less that you are bisexual, we are just protecting our brother and you need to prove to me you have all encompassing love for him”. Now, I really don’t want to go to this wedding.

    • Wowowow. No. Nope. You have to “prove” to your husband’s brother that you love your husband? What in the actual fuck. Nope. You have every right and reason to stay as far away from this bullshit as possible.

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