It is always a joy to emerge from the forty days of Lent with its emotional climax of Holy Week into the light and life of Easter. During Eastertide, my heart lifts with every greeting and response of “Christ is risen—He is risen indeed!”
As I have rested this year in the promise of new life after Easter, I made, for the first time, the connection between my experience of coming out as bisexual and my sense of Easter.
When I was a young adult, there were only two choices: heterosexual and homosexual. “Gay” and “straight” were yet to become common in our language.
One summer during college, I was a counselor at a summer camp. Another counselor who didn’t like me spread a rumor that my best friend and I were lesbians. I knew I treasured my longtime friend; I also knew I didn’t love her.
During seminary, I could have loved one of my closest women friends though I had no words for the feelings I experienced with her as I was swept up in the energy sparked by a thrilling romance with a male student whose passion flared and died one spring. Being awash in feelings like this—feelings conscious and unconscious, articulate and inarticulate—marked early adulthood for me.
These experiences planted in my mind the question, “What am I?”
Meanwhile, I married a wonderful man, we built a family together, and the words shifted to “gay” and “straight.” I served as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I knew myself as a straight ally during the on-going controversy through the 1980s in the PCUSA over the place of gay men and lesbian women. These were the only choices until the early 1990s.
When I look back on this time now, it feels like a kind of wilderness wandering. Occasionally, I would feel drawn to a woman, but still in a way that I was unable to articulate or even perceive. Through participating in pro-LGBT activity in the PCUSA, I had some good lesbian friends by this time and I listened carefully to how they spoke of their feelings.
I remember walking our dog one afternoon pondering deeply whether I might be a lesbian.
I weighed my love for my husband with what I could express then as sometimes feeling drawn to a woman. I compared myself to the experiences shared by lesbian women. As I ended my walk, I concluded that what lesbians described just did not correspond to what I was experiencing. I couldn’t figure it out. What I had to do, then, was “live the question.”
I returned to this internal conversation many times while the years passed and the language of “LGBT” became standard in church advocacy work. Then one day in 1997, I was standing in the line for lunch at Taco Bell, admiring a woman ahead of me. I suddenly named that admiration to be a feeling of attraction and the click in understanding came that I am the “B” in LGBT.
I am bisexual – in that I have the capacity to love either a man or a woman.
As a married Christian woman, I have always taken my vow of faithfulness seriously. At the same time, I knew I was no different from other faithful married women whose hearts flutter at the sight of Sean Connery or Denzel Washington.
That I found a woman attractive wasn’t a cause of alarm. If anything, it was a tremendous relief – bringing to consciousness what had been outside my range of vision for too long.
I went home and told my husband, “I finally figured it out. I’m bisexual.” And he said, “That sounds just about right as I know you.” Surely it gives a good measure of my husband and of the love that grew in our marriage that this never disturbed him or ruffled the waters of our family in any way. Step by step, I came out to our sons, to our wider family, and to my church as it seemed appropriate.
Lent had ended. In that fast food line, the wholeness of Easter had come for me.
Some years later, I participated in the writing of Ten Affirmations of GLBT Spirituality. Through these affirmations, I committed myself to “support each person’s journey of integrating spirituality and sexuality which leads to wholeness.” I knew that wholeness is what I experienced when I found the way to accurately understand my whole self as well as to describe myself to the world.
My years of confusion and questioning about my sexual orientation were very much a Lenten journey through the land of my soul. Realizing who I am—a bisexual—was as freeing and life giving as Easter.
I am very glad that the words are available now so that people are less likely to wander for as long as I did on a search for the wholeness that comes with knowing clearly what you are. I am also glad that our words continue to evolve for there is so much more of our whole selves for us to discover and share with the world.
This year I have come to see that Easter is the moment Jesus entered into His whole, eternal self.
I can now dwell in this joyous harmony of Eastertide, knowing myself to be whole in body and spirit. Thank God.