“Are you full blown gay yet?”
My friend, who I hadn’t seen in years, asked me this question no less than five minutes into our lunch date. I was looking forward to catching up, but the question was like a punch in the gut. No longer was I excited to see her. During our transition from teen years to young adults, she apparently hadn’t changed her misconceptions on bisexuality. Like her misconceptions, my identity hadn’t changed either.
Bisexuality is misunderstood by both the gay and straight community—and is even less understood in the Christian community where sexuality is often limited to binary straight/gay and male/female.
When you’re bisexual, gender isn’t a deciding factor in romantic attraction. Bisexual activist Robyn Ochs has a commonly used definition saying, "I call myself bisexual because I acknowledge that I have in myself the potential to be attracted – romantically and/or sexually – to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.”
I never identified as gay. I grew up thinking that you actually had to choose to be straight or gay, never realizing that sexuality and gender can be incredibly fluid. When I found the term bisexual, I’m pretty sure the heavens opened up and the angels sang. That word made sense to me. I was sexually and romantically attracted to both men and women. I came out to friends and family and began my life of being questioned for my sexuality.
We live in a world where it’s easier to deal with the black and white, one or the other, the binary. But the truth is, that’s not how God created us. We are more complex than that. God’s creation is nothing close to binary.
The Church rarely discusses bisexuality, (though we rarely touch asexuality or the transgender community either). The conversation has been centered on the gay community as a “Gay vs. Christian debate,” leaving a large portion of the LGBT community out of the conversation. That’s a huge disservice to the conversation and that disservice is perpetuated by gay and straight Christians alike. So here are 7 tips to be inclusive while discussing the LGBT community.
1. Don’t assume someone’s gay.
This has happened to me many times. I’ll be discussing someone of the same sex and assumed to be gay. Or when I write about an experience of religious homophobia, I’m labeled gay. I distinctly remember Huffington Post tweeting a piece I wrote for them and saying it was from a “gay Seventh-day Adventist.” Assuming someone who is attracted to the same sex is gay can erase someone’s identity.
2. “Gay” is not an inclusive term.
Language is important, especially for writers; it’s the foundation of our profession.“Gays” is not an inclusive term as it only refers only to people exclusively attracted to the same gender and leaves out those of us attracted to multiple genders. It also leaves out the transgender community. Gay has never been an inclusive term. Using “LGBT” or writing it out would be inclusive. If that’s too “long”, I would say our identities are worth the extra characters.
3. Stop calling it “gay marriage.”
This one is common and it leads to the erasure of bisexual identities. Bisexual people get married to people of the same sex, but they are not in a gay or straight marriage. When we use blanket terms like “gay marriage” we assume that both people in the relationship are Gay and many times that’s not the case. An alternative to “gay marriage” is “marriage equality” or “same-sex marriage.”
4. Just because someone is bisexual, doesn’t mean they can just 'choose' a gender.
Many Christians believe that bisexual people can just choose one gender over another. This is usually prescribed as the alternative to a “sinful life” of being romantically involved with someone of the same-sex. While some may think it would just be the preferable, and easier, road for bisexual people—it’s not that easy.
Like most people, I don’t merely fall in love with a gender, I fall in love with a person— a unique individual. For me, this has less to do with sex and more to do with finding a true partner in life. I may end up spending the rest of my life with a woman or a man, but either way, I am still bisexual. Because sexuality isn’t determined by the gender of your partner.
5. Bisexuals is not synonymous with polyamorous.
The usual scare I get from Christians when I say I’m bisexual is the flawed idea that I’m going to need both a male and female partner. No, bisexual people don’t necessarily need a man AND a woman to be fulfilled. There are some people, just like in the straight community, that feel the need to have more than one partner. But it is not an attribute specific to bisexuality any more than polygamy is to Mormonism.
6. If you say “LGBT,” mean it.
There are too many times the acronym LGBT is used, yet the specific needs and concerns for those of us that are “B” or “T”, or even “L”, are not as well represented. We are pushed aside, forgotten, or not even known. Our community is diverse. If you’re going to write, discuss, or interact with the LGBT community—actually include all of us.
If you’re an LGBT affirming church or organization, have specific programs for the bisexual community. If you write about LGBT people but only end up using gay and lesbians as examples, find bisexual and transgender examples.
7. Raise up bisexual Christian voices.
There are a lot of stories from gay Christians that have received significant attention in both mainstream and Christian media. But how many times have you seen stories from bisexual Christians? Or transgender Christians? While they’re definitely out there, they can be harder to find, since they’re not being published as frequently on large platforms.
Stories are agents for change. They help us humanize the topic we talk about in a theoretical fashion. They’re an important reminder that we’re talking about is people—and in this community, we’re talking about Christians. So when you look for stories for your events, platforms, or just your individual education; seek us out. We are Christians that also have stories which need to be heard.
We have to start approaching this discussion in its full diversity, and that means including the bisexual community. There’s a thriving bisexual community even within the religious community. It’s time the church began interacting with us.
This post was originally published on Rachel Held Evans blog.