It’s hard on the heart to realize you’re invisible.
That realization has fallen on me in all too many spaces: At school and work, among friends, and within the confines of the church.
I am bisexual, and I have largely been blessed with accepting people surrounding me. I have only rarely been subject to violence or discrimination because of my sexuality.
And yet, I have so rarely felt real acceptance.
I have been told by well-meaning Christian people that I would someday “get over” being bi and be able to accept that I was gay, which I apparently “truly” was. I have been denied an invitation to queer church group meetings because I was dating a woman at the time.
I have been let alone and not felt judgment or hatred when among Christians, but I have also not felt like I could be myself or that I could really let my guard down with people who didn’t believe me when I said I was bisexual, whether it was because I was “too young” to know my real sexuality or because they thought bisexuality didn’t exist at all.
Things have gotten better for me, and I dare say for many bisexual Christians, since those incidents. We’re making steady progress as a community on all the issues that affect queer people, and better visibility for bisexuals in general in recent years has certainly helped.
But my invisibility–my falling through the cracks of Christianity’s attempts to love queer people—has weighed on me.
It’s hurt my mental health, contributed to my bouts of depression, self-loathing, and disassociation. I know I would feel more like myself even during my worst dissociative fugues if I didn’t have the lingering fear that I might not be bi, after all, since so many people had said so in the back of my mind.
Some Christians, including the most tolerant ones, seem to me to be too attached to binary thinking. Even in queer-affirming churches, we hear a lot of “ors”—the sheep or the goats, the earthly way or the Godly way, gay or straight.
Not a lot of room for interpretation, ambiguity, or alternatives—and not a lot of space to breathe.
That appears to be the heart of the problem.
The Christians I’ve encountered who have denied my bisexuality haven’t been malicious about it. They’ve largely been ignorant, although perhaps willfully. They simply have not been able to conceive of how I might be attracted to people whose gender differs from mine and people whose gender matches mine at the same time.
It’s that mindset—trusting in the good-heartedness of people in whom I can sense it in other ways—that has kept me from lashing out. Spite would only distract me from taking steps that would make the world a better place to be bi in, for myself and others.
And I know I have to begin from within. I would much rather practice what I preached than just tell people the way they thought was inherently wrong, with no counterexamples to back me up. For me, that would be hypocritical, lazy, and merely angry, rather than righteously so.
So many of our innate prejudices, but especially biphobia, are based on black-and-white thinking.
I believe that, unfortunately, the tendency to say, “our way is right, their way is wrong, and ne’er the twain shall meet” is a feature of human nature. But if we take the steps to recognize it and unlearn our bigotries, we can move forward and be better, mentally, morally, culturally, and societally, and we can all benefit from the experiences of the people we never bothered to see—the ones in-between.
Photo via flickr user Tom Parnell