A Challenge From LGBTQ Fly Over Country

by Rev . Dr. Janet Edwards

Today is the beginning of Bisexual Awareness Week. There are courageous people, like Faith Cheltenham, Robyn Ochs, and Eliel Cruz, who are called to serve God as activists for the wellbeing of bisexual people.

I am also a bisexual person. I am the B in LGBTQ.

There have been seasons when I speak up about this and seasons when I don’t.

I speak up now out of feeling acutely—right now—how bisexual people are the marginalized of the marginalized. We live in LGBTQ fly over country. As we work this week toward increased bisexual visibility, please hear my cry!

There is enough of God’s steadfast love for us all, of course. The challenge is that God’s love often manifests itself through human compassion, which is, unlike God, finite. People have limited attention span, energy, will, and feeling. And there are so many needs.

To go down the letters in LGBTQ, there is continued discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodation against lesbian and gay people, the horrendous threat of violence toward transgender people, and the needs of those who identify as queer: mental health problems, bullying, substance abuse and risky behavior.

There are other marginalized groups in crucial need of attention: Black Lives Matter!

I confess I am sometimes tempted to fly over the B in LGBTQ myself. But not today. Please sit with me for a moment.

Please hear my cry of grief and frustration. May it be a call to action!

My sadness rises from the fact that my self-identification as bisexual often feels like an anachronism. It seems passé. Bisexuals like me—we came to ourselves in the 20th century, a time when there were only two options, straight or gay. At that time, to embrace being “both” was a wholly new idea called “bi.”

My understanding is that Dr. Fritz Klein established the word as good in 1993 when he published The Bisexual Option with the controversial claim that bisexuality is a legitimate sexual identity. It took me years of using “LGBT” as a straight (but confused) ally to realize that “bisexual” applied to me. This was the word given to me so I used it.

“Bisexual” is no longer the only option besides “straight” and “gay,” which is, of course, a good thing. Fluid is also a good description of what I am in my sexuality. “Fluid,” “pan,” “omni” and “queer” all describe identities that exist outside our traditional understanding of sexual orientation. I sometimes experiment with using them for myself.

But I was made whole by claiming “bi,” and I honor that by continuing to identify myself as bisexual.

Still, I often feel that my self-identity as bisexual marks me as old. More and more, I have to defend my embrace of bisexuality—rather than fluid or queer—even to folks in the LGBTQ community. This makes me very sad.

The best example of what triggers my frustration is the wealth of stories about evangelical Christian pastors with a wife and children who sensationally are caught in a scandalous moment with another man.

With great hullabaloo, he will be exposed as gay, removed from his post, at least for a time, and placed under some kind of reparative care.

Does it ever occur to anyone that these individuals might be bisexual or fluid?

Apparently it does not.

If it did, the conversation in light of these actions would be very different. It would be about infidelity, the breaking of marriage vows, a concern embedded in the Bible, not on the edges of it.

In these cases, adultery is the problem. To get sidetracked by questions of sexual orientation adds to the offense against the pastor’s family. The whole church structure colludes in attending to the men, leaving the women and children in the shadows. We would be so much better off if we were clear about sexual fluidity.

This is just one instance of bisexual invisibility. Do you see my frustration, as a bisexual person?

Thank you for pausing to hear my cry.

It helps, of course, to be heard. But I also need you to do some thing. Please. There are things you can do.

A great place to learn about bisexuality is the guidebook, Bisexuality: Making the Invisible Visible, published by Religious Institute. You could start with this in an adult study group or social justice taskforce in your congregation and see where it takes you. Invite your church to become a “bisexually healthy congregation.”

And this week, as we mark Bisexual Awareness Week, we can lift up the stories and experiences of the bisexual people among us. This week is a fine time for action. But the work cannot end here!

Research shows that bisexuals actually experience personal difficulties more frequently even than LGT and Q folk. The details of this horrendous and hidden situation are shared in the Religious Institute study guide.

Please, sometime, pause at the B rather than just pointing out the window and calling our name as you fly by.

Stop, pull us in from the margins and embrace us at the center. I will feel that hug for a good long time.

Photo via flickr user Peter Salanki