Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bisexuality and Christianity

I am a Christian.
I am a bisexual.

Some may have the assumption that being both is not possible without conflict. But here I am. I love my sexuality and my religion, and I'm not at all conflicted. I understand my faith (my personal beliefs and relationship with God) and my religion (the organised collection of beliefs, practices and values that theoretically I share with other Christians) to be completely welcoming and accepting of sexuality and gender variety.

Here I will explain my reasoning about the more personal one for me - sexuality. Bisexuality itself is not often talked about when Christians argue about sexuality, but if people do have a problem with any sexuality, it is the same-sex love, to whatever degree, to which the majority of people object. A common opinion is that bisexuals should abstain from any same-sex love or sex, ignoring attractions to the same-sex and behaving like a straight person, just romantically and sexually interacting with the opposite sex. This is bisexual erasure, plain and simple, and based on ignorant, outdated views on sexuality and gender.

First, let's cover a Christian defense of same-sex attraction. I'm going to do Biblical, Positive, Intellectual, and Secular arguments, and conclude with some bisexual-specific thoughts.

To start, there is no 'One Christian View' in homosexual attraction. It is a common assumption that all Christians are ‘anti-gay', and that they all have the same reasons. In fact, there are a range of viewpoints, and they are often categorised into:

  1. Rejection – view homosexual acts and orientation as incompatible with Christianity; often hostile 
  2. Rejection-compassionate – homosexual acts are not permissible, but orientation is still welcomed 
  3. Qualified acceptance – homosexual attraction is not ideal, but acknowledge that it can’t be changed and same-sex relationships could be fulfilling. 
  4. Full acceptance – gender is immaterial in a healthy romantic and/or sexual relationship

Prejudice and hate are often more about the individual than the minority it is directed at, but putting that aside, let's have a look at the biggest arguments those people who are against LGB sexuality claim are based on their Christian faith.

Beginning with 'because it's in the Bible', a very broad statement that refers to specific verses. I will go through each verse, but I would like to say first that a recurring issue I have found with arguing for Christian acceptance is that in regards to Biblical support, disagreements ultimately come down to scriptural interpretation - how do we believe the Bible to be 'true', how exactly is it 'the Word of God'. If you disagree on that fundamental understanding, no amount of reasoning about the Bible's specific verses is going to get past that.

For example, first there is Genesis 1 and 2 – man and woman are created as a pair, and the argument goes that this is taken as the correct ordering of how humanity should pair up in love and sex. However, in my opinion, the purpose of Genesis is to tell us why the world was created, who’s in charge of it, and our relationship with the Creator; to me it is not a literal account of the history of the beginning of the world. You see here, to me Genesis is full of truth without being real, and some Christians disagree - it can only be true if it was real. So I can't argue about interpreting Genesis without diving into the nature of the truth of the Bible!

So moving on through the specifics - also in Genesis, humanity is commanded to have children, and this is sometimes interpreted as a mandatory thing, and the basic way to do that means male/female couplings. However, if it was sinful to not have children, it is not just homosexuals who are sinful – life-long singles or couples without children, and the celibate and sadly infertile all are too. So for me, that doesn't hold any water for proving homosexuality is a sin. (John Corvino, links below, covers this well).

Then there's good old Sodom (Gen 19) – men destroyed for desiring other men. This is, I feel, not how it really reads. The story’s main point is about hospitality and its importance, plus they were men desiring angels; if it were trying to make a point about improper relationships, it's not the genders that is the problem, but the desire for not-human-beings. Or it is about the sin of sexually driven attacks by a mob, which doesn't relate to safe, sane and consensual sex between adults of the same sex.

The other mention in the Old Testament (the entire Bible doesn't have many mentions) is in Leviticus – this is where the rule, and later the punishment, is set down. "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is detestable...They must be put to death." Seems pretty clear. But it uses the word ‘detestable’- it is the only rule in the long list with an adjective. This shows the influence of the culture, ie the human element of scripture, not the divine, [another sticky issue in the debate over Biblical authority] and so should not be seen as divine mandate.

And Christianity simply does not apply to the OT belief in ritual purity, of which this one and many of the other Jewish rules that don't make sense. Ours is not the Jewish covenant, but a new one. Jesus came to fulfill the law, and very pointedly ended the concept of ritual purity. It was an important part in the history of the nation building of early Israel to advocate for cleanliness and differentiate themselves from other cultures, some of which included sex between men; but Jesus moved us onto a new phase, not nation building, but kingdom building! Things progress towards the kingdom of God, leaving behind what was useful at the time but is no longer needed ie outdated law.

In my mind, we have to look at it as twenty-first century Christians. The Old Testament was written by a majority heterosexual, ancient culture without the benefit of the knowledge we have gained since, and the OT is scripture that is not as important to us as the life and message of Jesus. So while it remains significant in our religion, it does not play as big a role in setting examples for us. 

The New Testament only has two mentions, both from Paul. He condemns homosexuals in both Romans and Corinthians. So again coming from the human element more than the divine, plus there have been strong disputes to the translation of the Hebrew to 'homosexuals' anyway. And we don't agree with other things he says either, like about he hasn't gotten everything right. And again, it's part of a wider message trying to motivate the first churches to be different to the cultures around them, some of which were very sexually indulgent, disrespectful and ethically problematic. It's a misinterpretation, seeing the hedonistic homosexuality as representative of all same-sex relations, which we know not to be true.

There's so much interpretation in reading the Bible - it isn't a simply how-to guide, and we much use reason and experience as well as scripture and prayer to form our beliefs.

Here are my positive arguments that Christianity supports sexuality in general. The most important this for me is it comes down to the basics - Jesus. We Christians measure all scripture by and look for answers from Jesus and his teaching, first and foremost, and we certainly measure the text for Jews by him. We are Christ-followers, we follow Christ and his message.

I don't want to sound corny, but his message was one of love. He taught about love and the expression of love, advocating its universality, and finding joy in relationship, abolishing hierarchies, ritual purity, and the gender divide. Jesus' emphasis was on the treatment of others and the quality of relationships, not who those relationships are with. He makes a point of befriending the minorities and proving how they are the equals of those in the majority, with much for the majority to learn from. He became their champion, and told the world once and for all, we're all God's children, how He made us.

Jesus does not even mention homosexuality. Romantic commitment between two people is a key part of human relationships, so he would have said something against homosexuality if it was prohibited by God. When you get right down to the cornerstone of Christianity, it is a Christ-follower's first and foremost principle to value love irrespective of differences.

Then there's intellectual arguments. What is sin? It is not a simple abstract concept, nor is it a list of mystery rules. Sin is simply that which separates us from God. Why is something a sin? Something is not a sin simply because it is a rebellion against the Bible. As I said earlier, Christians do not comply with the laws that do not make sense; and there is no sense in prohibiting love between people that helps them to grow, makes them happy, where they feel respected, trusted, and they care about each other. God is our Father, and a parent teaches a child what not to do, but also why not to do; we should be able to understand why something is a sin, not just mindlessly follow rules.

And finally my secular arguments. 

  • It feels natural to the minority – it is not automatically wrong just because the majority feel it is not for them. A previously held ‘natural’ classification was the inferiority of women and black people. (The Catholic Church once debated whether native Americans had souls! We get it wrong, we learn, we progress. Ours is a living faith).
  • Sexuality is just another variant in the human population - the application of 'correcting' principles will not stop it, there will always be a minority who aren't straight.
  • There is nothing medical or scientific that proves it is dangerous or harmful to a full, happy, healthy life. “Scientific evidence suggests that homosexuality is not a pathological or psychological disorder but a consistent sexual condition of a minority”
  • It is a common state in other species – some animals live full homosexual lives
  • How does a loving, mutually beneficial relationship harm anyone? Judge each relationship individually eg. abusive is wrong / loving and cooperative is right
There may be opposite sex relationships and same sex relationships. But ultimately they are just human relationships, of equal value, and fragility, and ability to bring joy, and potential for disaster, and worth to society.

On being bisexual specifically, there are many things in common between a Christian identity and a bisexual identity. Bisexuals are on the margins in both mainstream and queer spaces a lot of the time, and Christians are called to the margins - Matt 10 "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves...You will be hated by all because of My name." We are encouraged to be our full selves and trust in God without fear.

A great quote from another blog about being a bisexual Christian is that "the multiplicity of my sexuality [colours] my view of my faith [and teaches] me to appreciate multiplicity within the body of Christ". I would add that it's also a great insight into some confusing Christian concepts like Jesus being fully human and fully divine is akin to us having to explain that we're 'fully straight and fully gay' - Jesus was a different condition of humanity/divinity in the same way we're a different condition of sexuality! And the same with the Trinity being three in one -we're one person, ours is one love and different love, for more than one gender.

Because I am bisexual, I feel closer to the minorities and outcasts that I as a Christian am called to serve, especially those who are labelled as inferior because of simply who they are, how they were born, or being outside the mainstream. Living as a bisexual in this world pushes me towards following Jesus' political, rebellious way of being, to stand up for human rights and justice for the silent, ignored and erased. I thank God that I am bisexual - I get to experience God as Love in more ways than the majority - how great it that!


Phew, what a topic. Contentious, personal, confusing. I've covered it as best I can. Ask questions in the comments!

Recommended resources:

- Amazing Love
- John Corvino - /
- Eliel Cruz
- Queer Grace

My other bisexual Christian blog posts:

Bisexual Priest
The Pilling Report  - a bisexual perspective
A tricky situation with other Christians
Being a bisexual Christian
Being C of E this week: same sex marriage
'Men & Women in Marriage' by the CofE / a bisexual Anglican rants
LGBT at a Christian festival
Church Times celebrate BiVisibilityDay

My other blog following my journey exploring a vocation to priesthood (as an out bisexual!):

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Common bisexuality stereotypes, misconceptions and myths

It's A Phase - this is a common reaction most noticeable to girls coming out as bi in teenage years. Sure, it might be true, but that doesn't mean it always is. People just jump to this conclusion, and it doesn't matter - they identify as bi now, so take them at their word.

Promiscuity/monogamy - Some straights/gays/lesbians believe that to be bi is to by definition have both a girlfriend and a boyfriend at the same time. Or that bisexual is just another word for someone who sleeps around with anyone that moves. We are capable of monogamy. There are those who cheat, those who have a lot of sex, and those who are polyamorous among us, but only in the same way that there are people like that who are straight or gay. It is not the default position with the bi identity.

All about sex - Captain Jack Harkness has not done a lot to dissuade this myth. Kinda the same point as about promiscuity.

Threesomes - classic conclusion, esp. straight cismen about female bis. Bisexuals are only in it for the threesomes. Again, there are some bis who do threesomes, some who don't, just like there are gays and straights who will or won't. Sure, in some ways we're more open to them, but that does not necessarily mean we're into them just automatically because we are bi.

Doesn't exist - some people (both gays and straights) claim there is no such thing as bisexuality. They say that those that claim to be are only either confused, indecisive, or taking the 'easy option' rather than come out as fully gay - “people are either gay, straight or lying”. It's just plain factually incorrect. There is scientific proof of behaviour and physical arousal, as well as a community of people who identify as bi. If someone tells you they identify as something, you have no right to tell them they're wrong about themselves, none, no matter who you are - your parameters for what sexuality, or any other identity, is are not what counts; they identify, so you believe them. And that might change; doesn't matter - if they take on a new identity, you take them for that, without judgement on the change, or trying to know the details.

Greed - it's either said as greedy or slutty. It's kinda like saying bisexuality doesn't exist or promiscuous, bisexuals are just people who want any option. Well, no, we're as likely to be desirous of sexual or romantic involvement as anyone is likely to be - it is independent of our orientation. It's our nature to like more than one but that doesn't necessarily mean we want any more romantic or sexual activity as anyone else.

Equal attraction - this is an interesting one. I say that because I am in fact myself equally attracted to the two ends of the spectrum - within the bisexuality umbrella, I identify as bisexual. But this is not often the case, as is the misconception. A lot of straight people seem unaware that bisexuals often have a preference of one gender over the others, whilst still being attracted to all of them, or of the identity within the umbrella of pansexual, where gender has no restriction on attraction.

Two competing natures - "Bisexuality is not a combination of heterosexuality and homosexuality. We're not half formed or half committed. We're whole. We are not bi-sexual, we're bisexual!" - The Bisexual Index. The umbrella of identities that is bisexuality is the third option, because there are more than just gay and straight!

Continual alternating - when we're with the same sex, we're gay, with the opposite, straight. We aren't bi, we just go back and forth between the two. See 'two competing natures' and 'doesn't exist'.

Everyone is ultimately bisexual - this is the most controversial, brought to light especially by Kinsey. I'm not a huge fan of the hypothesis, but I won't rule it out entirely. Essentially, this is the theory that everyone, even if they claim to be straight or gay, is ultimately bi. Look it up and make up your own mind. Many people who identify as bisexual don't believe it, and feel it is detrimental to fighting biphobia to promote the idea.

Coming out as bisexual to my parents

This one's a tough one. Every coming out is different, so here's mine.

It was March 2010. I was one month off being 18. I had realised I was bi when I was 14. I was out to my friends at school; I'll let them know pretty soon after meeting them, just when it came up. So that wasn't really a coming out, just an establishing etiquette, just 'oh right, ok, more new information about the person I just met'.

I was looking forward to it, and dreading it. I had felt guilty about concealing a key part of who I was from two of the most important people in the world to me. I knew my father would be fine about it. However, my mother...

A few months before, I had come into the school sobbing, having been on the school run with Mum. The conversation was about gay parents adopting, based on something on the radio we were listening to, and somewhere along the line she had said the words 'But being gay isn't natural, is it?'

I managed to keep from crying right there and then but I only just made it my group of friends before blubbing.

So, when my mother had said something like that, you can see why she was the one out of the two making me nervous. And that's the reason I chose to do it the way I did.

I wanted to get some driving practice in off-road with a parent before I started lessons, so over the weeks of February, March and April, every Sunday a parent and I would go out to a bridle way out in the fields, and I would attempt to trundle along at 5mph, stalling as I tried to get from 1st to 2nd.

This particular Sunday in March, I had chosen to talk to my Dad. I saw it as my best option to talk to him first, alone. And I still think it was the best, because that's how it went, and I'm not going to let myself look back and critique how I could have done it better.

We did one circuit of this path, then I stopped the car. I had to brace myself; I was still nervous, even though Dad was the one I had confidence in. I hadn't done it for so long for many reasons, but one was simply that it felt really weird to announce it, to just blurt it out and expect a reaction. I'm not a shy person, but even for me, it was almost embarrassing. It felt like I was saying to them 'Look at me, I'm important, I'm special, make a big deal' and whilst I'm extrovert, I'm not immodest.

So I sat there for a moment, then said "Dad, I need to tell you something." Lord knows what went through his mind at that point.

Then I think I said "I'm bi," as opposed to 'bisexual'.

There was a pause, and then he said something like "Right, okay, um, do you want to continue driving?"

And I said, a little taken aback, "Oh, ok, yeah sure." I reached for the keys but he spoke again.

"I mean, do you want to talk about it or what?"

"Well, if you want to ask anything or whatever. I mean, I'm very sure about it."

And then he started saying things that, in the fragile state I was in, made me start to cry. He said all the things I had been dreading from my mother - phase, confused, don't know who you are, all that kind of thing. I think he was just trying to cover all bases, to let me know he supported me wherever I was about the whole thing.

At my tears, he realised he hadn't got it quite right, and he tried to reassure me. He even went as far as to start to tell me how much experience he had with gay men and gay clubs. That shocked me enough to calm down. I did not need to know about my dad as a young man, thank you!

So we both eventually calmed down, and decided to give up on the driving. We switched seats, and he drove home. On the way, we discussed how I had to tell my mother immediately, who we would tell in the family (ie not the grandparents), that sort of thing.

When we got back, I went through the door and called out to Mum; she was in the living room. I went in and asked her to sit down, there was something I wanted to share with her (that particular phrasing, 'share', had been my Dad's suggestion).

So I sat on the corner of one sofa, and she on the corner of the other sofa, and I think that second time, I used the word 'bisexual'. I'm a little hazy on the details, but I think my mum only really said 'are you sure?'. It was only a quick conversation, and she went back to ironing.

This sounds perfectly fine, right? But thing was, she had this disappointed, and slightly confused air about her. She didn't know how to react - I'm not sure she's ever had any gay friends, whereas obviously my dad has. It was difficult for her to comprehend. 18 months later and she's never mentioned it, so I still don't really know what she thinks of it. But again, it would feel weird to provoke her to tell me, to ask her outright, demand attention like a toddler.

The next step is if and when I next get a girlfriend, and first tell them about her, then introduce them to her.

Phew, well this has been a bit emotional. I'll stop there.


PS I don't feel like this is an inspirational blog, though in some ways I hope it is. So here is a blogpost I do think is inspirational.

Meeting another bisexual

In my life so far since I realised my bisexuality (five and a half years), I have knowingly met the bisexuals Sophie1, Sophie2, Yanqing, Jon and Vahan. I've also met Rachel and Olivia, who were both confused and experimenting with bisexuality when I knew them.

For me, discovering that they were bisexual had a unique effect on my interactions with each of them, but it almost all cases it was simply exciting. As you can see, in day to day life, I have found that I have not knowingly met almost any bisexuals, and that has made being myself a little harder I suppose. It's probably got a lot to do with why I started this blog, as an attempt to contact the bisexual community, and if not doing that successfully, just finding a vent where I can be bisexual in entirety. Even in a same-sex relationship, it is sometimes hard not to feel simply gay most of the time.

Being around LGBT+ in general is nice. But we're still really quite a misunderstood and unrepresented part of the queer group. We don't have as hard a time of it as the T's, of course, but to the general populace, who are now really getting to grips with homosexuality, to the point that it is almost a non-issue in Western society, the bisexuals are still a confusing mystery.

A straight person can cope with a gay person because they are polar opposite, so different as to be similar. Straight woman, straight man, gay woman, gay man. Likes men, women, women, men. And what's this on the end of the line? Bisexual man, bisexual woman. Likes men and women, like men and women. Huh?

Ok, so this is how I've read straight people's reactions to me and bisexuality in general, maybe they think differently, but that's how it comes across to me. They think bisexuality is bizarre and unfathomable. You can see in their eyes 'choose already!' And to you and me, the bisexuals looking back at them, it seems so simple. Why can't they get it?

We have to be nice to them. We're heading in the right direction. The gays set the precedent, here we come, and the T's are chomping at the bit behind us.

So when I meet a bisexual, we both instantly know what the other has to go through, and here is someone, finally, who sees the simplicity of it. I met Vahan last week, and only a couple of nights ago he confirmed it for me. He had blipped slightly on the gaydar but obviously I wasn't sure. When he said "You see, I'm a bisexual like you," something just eased in me, instantly. It's hard not to unconsciously watch your tongue around straight people, so they don't get confused poor dears. They often forget you're bi and it panics them when you suddenly start commenting on the hips of a girl across the bar.

But around Vahan, the gag is slipped, the brakes pulled off, you can say what you feel. You don't have to explain everything either - the other night, it happened again with a straight person; I'm a bisexual, oh really?, question question question question, answer answer mini-lecture.

I've felt a little held back here at my new college. Have only met one lezza, in the third year, and there are a couple of gays dotted around the first year. But now, I can have bi-solidarity! Someone to talk to about things that no one else can quite comprehend. It's this community feel I love about being bi. And he can come to me of course.

Oh goody. And no, I'm not going to mention if he's cute or not.

My first gay club experience

In the summer, I had an amazing time with my lesbian friend. I visited her in Aberdeen, and she took me out to my first gay bar. She, her girlfriend, her gay best friend, and I enjoyed a night of drinking, dancing, and all out gaying it up.

I don't go out clubbing a lot, but just being in a place where the point is to be LGBT was so much fun. I wasn't there to hook up, so that pressure was off, and everyone was friendly, and some of the guys were just so camp! It was so much fun.

Unsurprisingly, the best part of the night was when Born This Way came on the dance floor. Everyone in the club surged onto what was actually quite a small space, and then let loose. I felt a joyous connection to everyone in that room, totally accepted, totally understood; it was breathtaking.

Plus seeing my drunk, butch friend grind with a bloke was just plain funny.

It felt different to my limited experience with 'normal' clubs. It wasn't overexcited, or brash, or even scary for little ol' me the noobie. It was jumping, and lively, and loud sure; but in the spirit of all being a family, a minority proving its right to exist by having a damn good time just as we are - flamboyant, passionate and downright sexy!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Do my colleagues know I'm bi? Convergence of attitudes.

I can never tell how much people have picked up about my sexuality until my relationship with them reaches quite a high level of familiarity and intimacy. My close friends talk about my bisexuality as casually as I do, but the people that spring to mind are my colleagues. And I don't feel it right to just come out and ask them if they know about it.

I've worked casually part time at a theatre as a steward for almost three years now, since I was sixteen, and I think that my orientation is well established in the communal knowledge of me. However, I cannot be sure of this, for no one ever brings it up. And I don't mean in an obvious way, I mean in the way my friends do; if we're talking about relationships, referring to me about both possible genders of partner. My colleagues only talk of men, the opposite to me.

I presume that they are aware of my being not straight but they cannot be sure, for I have not used 'bi', 'bisexual', or 'bisexuality' in the presence of most of them, because it is unnecessary; I cannot be sure of their opinions of same-sex relations, plus I think it would put people on edge.

This is unfortunate, but true nevertheless. More so for bisexuals than gays and lesbians I think, because more people have come to terms with homosexuality than bisexuality, because at least they can relate to homosexuality as a polar opposite to heterosexuality, like the reverse of a coin. Bisexuals are like the coin spinning and not landing on a side. Hm, that's quite a good analogy really, in some ways at least.

So, they are afraid essentially. To step on toes, as if it's a sensitive subject, or of getting something wrong and offending me, like many people do around transgender people. And I'm not sure there's much I can do about it without being overly dramatic and coming off as egotistical.

But I don't think I do have to do anything. Because of the infrequency of my working there, and it not always being the same people, I am never going to have closer relationships with them than I do now I reckon. And it doesn't seem a problem; I have only noticed it because...well, I suppose it's almost like I myself am not quite come to terms with it.

Not that I doubt my feelings, or the reality of being bi. Just that, because I live in a heterosexist world, where I am and will always be the minority and different, I find it hard not to feel the same unease about it when talking to my colleagues, as if I agree that I am not normal.

But thinking about it, when I'm talking to my friends, or thinking about it alone now, I don't feel that unease. So I suppose it's not actually me; it's a subconscious reaction. I've studied a similar thing in language; it is human nature that when they meet someone different to them, and they want to be liked, they modify their language, accent and such, as well as behaviour, to seem more like the other person - say if a Scouse met a Cockney, and they wanted to become friends. The Scouse's accent would become less pronounced and they might use inflections and words that are more Cockney, and the Cockney's accent would be dampened, and they might use inflections and words that are more Scouse. It's called linguistic convergence.

I think that I am subconsciously taking on an artificial version of what I perceive to be other's attitudes towards my bisexuality, in a similar attempt to narrow the gap between our differences. And it is exacerbated by the fact that I don't even know how much they know.

Ah well.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Telling new people that I'm bisexual

I'm moving out in a few weeks. Leaving my parents house for the start of higher education. I'll be meeting new people, living with some, working with most, and generally starting a new phase of life.

There is a lot to be scared of, including living alone on a budget, the workload, making friends, a new city that is so big and sprawling as London is. As a bisexual, I have the added drama of being scared of abuse or rejection because of my orientation. As a Christian bisexual, I've got even more to deal with as I want to find a new church to become a regular member of the congregation on Sundays, and I have to find the right one that will have no problem with my sexuality.

The latter is easier to deal with, as I can up sticks and leave a church if I find they are against homosexuality and the like. The former however, is trickier, as the people I will be in my accommodation with and on the course with, are people that I'm stuck with.

Luckily, it is drama school, and there is likely to be a slightly better ratio of straight to not than at other small specialist schools. My biggest concern is my own conduct, how I go about telling people and maybe having to deal with bad reactions. I have no precedent or example to follow. I don't want to be known as 'The Bisexual One' or keep it a secret. I have confidence, I'll manage, but that does not stop me from being scared.

Telling new people will become less daunting. My discomfort comes from the same place all my anxiety for meeting new people comes from - I'm a young adult, still growing into the person I will one day be, so my confidence in all aspects of myself is in a state of early maturity. I'm not saying I don't accept my bisexuality, it's just...this is very hard to articulate. Anyway, as my surety in who I am as an adult solidifies, so will telling people I'm bi become less scary, and dealing with bad reactions easier.

I know that; but I'm facing my first big test, and I need it to go well, so it's scary, and daunting, and I just have to barrel through, and always be the bigger man, however hard that is.